May 18, 2009
What: Lobos at Conoco MWC Tournament
When/Where: May 19-23, Lupton Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
TV: The Mtn (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Online: GameTracker, recaps on GoLobos.com
Lobo Opener: 2 p.m. Wednesday vs. TBA
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The pressure of waiting to hear who would win the 2009 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year wasn't as stressful for Lobo Mike Brownstein as let's say facing a 100 mph fastball from the hands of San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg or even maybe guessing what was for dessert at the league's annual awards banquet.
You could say Brownstein knew whose name was in the envelope before it was opened and the name read. But it wasn't because the 5-foot-10 University of New Mexico senior peeked. `Twas teammate Kevin Atkinson, who peeked and ended the tension for his Lobo teammate.
"Atkinson texted me during the banquet and said, `You got it,'" said Brownstein via a telephone call from Fort Worth, Texas. "He saw it online somewhere. I was maybe a tad skeptical at first when he texted me, but I knew I was in the running, so I pretty much believed him.
"Some of the guys were joking around earlier about me winning this, but I never thought it was possible. It came out of nowhere for me. I had no thoughts , no real intentions of going into the season and trying to win something like this."
If there was any doubt about whose name was going to be called Monday night at the Fort Worth fete, it quickly went away as the accomplishments of the 2009 Player of The Year were read off:
Led the league in batting average at .426 -- Yep, that's Brownstein of New Mexico. Led the league in runs scored at 72 -- yep, Brownstein again.
Let the league in hits at 101, doubles at 23 and triples at 11 -- Brownstein, Brownstein, Brownstein.
Actually, Brownstein made it pretty easy for the Mountain West in naming this year's top player. The feisty, Academic All-District honoree led the conference in almost every hitting category of significance. About the only thing Brownstein was lacking was power numbers, but that's not the way he's suppose to hit the ball for Ray Birmingham's Lobos.
Lobos like Brian Cavazos-Galvez are supposed to hit home runs. Brownstein is supposed to be on base when they do it.
"Brownie is up there to be one tough out," said Birmingham. "He is up there to make contact, hit the ball hard and be smart with the pitches coming at him. He is one of the best hitters I've ever coached and one of the favorite players I've coached in 30 years.
"He is a smart hitter and a smart kid and he has bought into what we've been teaching him over the past two seasons. There is no question that Mike Brownstein deserves to be the league`s Player of The Year."
Brownstein was joined on the All-MWC First Team by Lobo catcher Rafael Neda, first baseman Kevin Atkinson, outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez and pitcher John Hesketh. Outfielder Max Willett was the lone Lobo named to the second team. It is the largest group of Lobos to be named MWC First Team since the 2000 season.
SDSU's Strasburg was named the league's Pitcher of The Year and Utah's designated hitter C.J. Cron was Freshman of The Year. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle earned his fourth consecutive Coach of the Year honor.
Brownstein's numbers at the plate are just as impressive in MWC games where he led the league in hits (46), triples (5) and total bases (67). The senior from Tucson, Ariz., was second in the league in batting average at .451 behind Neda's .457 average. Brownstein is Top Ten in the league in slugging percentage (.629), on base percentage (.496), RBIs (49), stolen bases (20) and total bases (149). As of May 10 statistics, he leads the nation in triples and is sixth in hits.
He is one of five Lobos to finish the regular season hitting over .400. Earlier this month, Brownstein was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District VI second team. He is the third Lobo to receive the MWC Player of the Year honor - Aaron Sisk (2000) and Jordan Pacheco (2007).
"You get 101 hits in 55 games and we are talking Ted Williams' numbers," said Birmingham. "That is an amazing number and it tells you exactly the kind of hitter Browny is. He gets the bat on the ball."
Brownstein was on the 2008 All-MWC Second Team and went into the 2009 diamond wars with a simple goal: Make the First Team. "I thought Player of The Year was more for a power guy," he said. "I just wanted to improve on Second Team. I was happy for that. This is just the cherry on top. I wasn't even shooting for it."
Brownstein said his goal at the plate is to be a pest: hang in there, foul off the bad stuff, wait for a good pitch, see it, hit it.
"I go up there and try to be a pest," he said. "I want to put pressure on the defense and be a hard out. I try to be aggressive and maybe sometimes I'm too aggressive, but when I find a pitch I like, I really try to attack it. You only get a couple of good pitches at bat, sometimes only one, so when you get it, you have to hit it."
The cherry on top of Brownstein's individual resume might be the MWC Player of The Year award, but there is another cherry that is even more important for Brownstein and the Lobos: a MWC title and a berth in the NCAA playoffs.
"That's something we want really, really bad," said Brownstein. "We just have to go out and do it."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.