By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. — Curve outfielder Keon Broxton got his first taste of a major league spring training camp earlier this year, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
A non-roster invitee, Broxton went to Bradenton, Fla. in February with an open mind, and he caem out with a new respect for guys who play at the next level.
“It was my second big-league camp,” Broxton was saying recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field, “but it was the first one I got to play in. I played in almost all the games I was there for.
“It was awesome,” Broxton said of the experience. “It was good to see a lot of the guys I grew up watching on TV.”
Broxton approached the camp with his eyes open and his mouth shut.
“Just watching (big leaguers) work out on a daily basis was a neat experience, for sure,” he said. “Watching how they play and interact with each other was awesome … a truly great experience for me.”
Broxton said the big leaguers were not a talkative bunch, leading more by example and offering tips about the off-the-field things.
“I think I have a good idea about what I have to do on a daily basis,” Broxton said. “So they talked about about how they travel and things that go on off the ball field.
“Actually, it was more of a growing-up experience outside of baseball.”
Broxton, who turns 25 on May 7, was drafted by the Phillies in 2008, but did not sign. After a year at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., Broxton was drafted in the third round by the Diamondbacks in 2009 and spent five years in the Arizona organization.
He was traded to the Pirates prior to the 2014 season and spent the entire year with Altoona, batting .275 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs in 127 games with the Curve. With those offensive numbers, plus only three errors in center field, many thought Broxton should be promoted to Class AAA Indianapolis.
“I thought I did enough to go to Triple-A,” he said. “but in the same boat, baseball is baseball, and there’s not much difference between Double-A and Triple-A. No matter what, I’m still learning every day and I feel I’m being challenged, so it’s not that big of a deal.
“You can get called up regardless of where you are,” Broxton continued. “It’s all about who needs you and you can’ think of where you are. Honestly, I don’t want to be in Double-A or Triple-A. I want to be in the big leagues.”
Curve manager Tom Prince thinks Broxton has the tools to be a big leaguer some day.
“I really enjoy watching him play,” Prince said. “He glides around the outfield.
“He has the speed down the line and has speed going from first to third,” Prince noted. “Any time he gets going, it’s fun to watch him run.”
Prince got his first look at Broxton in Spring Training.
“He has a lot of power potential,” Prince noted. “But he can also play the little game and drop down a bunt. He continues to impress me.”
While this is Broxton’s third year in Double-A, Broxton played 2013 with the D-Backs’ Double-A Mobile team, Prince doesn’t think it’s make or break time for the 6-foot-3, 195-pound outfielder from Lakeland, Fla.
“He’s continuing to grow,” Prince said. “If he continues to do that, the sky is the limit for him.”
Broxton always plays the game with former friend Evan Chambers on his mind. Chambers, a former outfielder with the Curve, passed away unexpectedly a couple years ago.
“We played together at Lakeland High School,” Broxton said. “I met him through a mutual friend, we hung out after school and on the weekends. We were great friends.
“I’m still shocked (about his passing), just realizing he’s not here,” Broxton said. “When you lose somebody close, it’s hard to handle for anybody. I’m not sure how his parents are doing it.”
Before every at-bat, Broxton still carves Chambers’ initials into the clay near home plate.
“I remember him every day, just to keep him on the field and know he’s there watching over me,” Broxton added.