/

Lions DH Brown still gets thrills on Opening Day

by Jason Coskrey

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — As far as debuts go, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Seibu Lions designated hitter Dee Brown hit the go-ahead homer in the opening game of his first season in Japan, sending the Lions to a 2-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines on Saturday.

“It was real emotional for me,” Brown said. “Fifteen years of playing ball and my heart was still racing.”

Brown took Lotte ace Yoshihisa Naruse deep in the seventh inning of the Pacific League opener, breaking a 1-1 tie. He finished 1-for-3 in his first game in the NPB.

“I would like to have had two hits,” Brown said. “But I can’t beat this performance. I really can’t.”

Naruse had imposed his will on the Lions for much of the game, holding them to one hit through six innings.

“I thought if we could get one or two key hits, we could have a big inning against him,” said Brown, who struck out and flew out to right in his first two at-bats.

He was spot-on as a game-tying homer by Hiroyuki Nakajima helped set the tone for a big inning.

“I was just happy, that we finally put a run on the board,” Brown said. “Then I knew it was my turn at-bat and I knew that I didn’t want to get out again.”

Drafted in the first round (14th overall) by the Kansas City Royals in 1996, Brown played for the Royals (1998-2004) and Oakland Athletics during his major league career.

Brown spent the 2009 season with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes (Los Angeles Dodgers), hitting .295 with 19 homers and 80 RBIs.

He’s quick not to read too much into his first-game heroics, saying things are still a work in progress.

“It’s still an adjustment,” Brown said. “The big picture is, I swung at a 3-0 fastball that I knew was coming. So it wasn’t like I adjusted to anything.

“So we’re still going to have this chess match, they’re going to feel me out and I’m going to feel them out and it’s going to happen all year.”

While Brown tried to get used to things quickly during the spring, playing in a regular-season game gave him one big advantage heading into his pivotal at-bat.

“In spring training, you might face the same pitcher twice,” Brown said. “You might. The fact that I saw him three times game me confidence.”

That confidence should be a big boost as he tries to build upon a memorable first game in his new surroundings.

“I’m going to keep trying to hit the ball hard,” Brown said. “I’m not going to be trying to hit home runs, but I’m going to try to hit the ball hard.”