Behind the scenes of Brown's electric debut

September 8th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart's Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When the Astros moved their Triple-A affiliate to the Houston suburb of Sugar Land prior to last season, it provided their players the ease of shuffling between the Minor Leagues and Major Leagues, as well as giving their front office the luxury of seeing the next wave of prospects without having to travel very far.

Another benefit appeared this week when several members of the Space Cowboys took advantage of Monday’s off-day and joined manager Mickey Storey at the Major League debut of Astros top prospect Hunter Brown. Storey and several players, including Korey Lee, Justin Dirden, Scott Manea, Joe Record, Chad Donato and Shawn Dubin cheered Brown from the stands while he threw six scoreless innings against the Rangers.

“Their support is awesome to have,” Brown said. “They came out on an off-day for the Space Cowboys, and my family came all the way from Michigan. That was just awesome. That makes me feel real good, just to have them be there and know they’re cheering for me and are there for me.”

Brown, the No. 71 ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, finished last season in Triple-A and spent all this season dominating hitters in the Pacific Coast League before the Astros called him up when rosters expanded Sept. 1.

"Hunter’s a guy that, obviously you can tell by the amount of guys that showed up on their off-day to watch him debut, it’s a testament to what kind of player and what kind of teammate he was,” Storey said. “We’re excited for him. One of my favorite guys I ever had, not just because he was a good pitcher but because he was a great kid. For me to get a chance to come here and watch his debut, I couldn’t miss it.”

Lee, who played in 12 games in the big leagues earlier this year, caught Brown frequently in Triple-A and came through the Minor League system with him. Brown was taken in the fifth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, the same Draft in which the Astros took Lee with the No. 32 overall pick.

“Every day he’s been out in Sugar Land, he’s been preparing for this moment,” Lee said. “Since he’s been drafted, he’s been preparing. Just let him do his thing today and good things are going to happen. He deserves every bit of this.”

Storey said Brown spent a good amount of time in Sugar Land in the past two seasons fine-tuning his command, which has been better. The stuff has always been there, so when he started posting eye-popping numbers this season it was only a matter of time before Brown got the call.

“I get to tell a lot of guys they’re going to the big leagues, and this one was special just because this kid is so humble,” Storey said. “He’s so talented but so humble. He’s a guy that woke up every day and read he should have been in the big leagues and on every blog and every newspaper and it never got to him. He just kept chugging away. Every start he got better at Triple-A, and for him to get an opportunity to pitch at home it’s exciting.”

The day after he got the news he was going to the big leagues, Brown drove to Sugar Land to pack up his locker. Storey helped him take his gear to his truck and felt like a proud father.

“I told him I felt like I was sending my kids off to college right now,” he said. “Likely I’m not going to see him come back that way. Hunter’s special. To have that many teammates and staff here watching it, it says a lot.”