A year ago, the Giants sent Gary Brown to the Arizona Fall League, a golden opportunity for him to showcase his talents and possibly propel his career.
There was only one hitch: Brown admits he was unable to grasp the importance of the situation. Exacerbating the problem was the fact that he fell ill; he missed a week, and the Giants shut him down.
A new season, a new chance, and Brown is taking advantage of it. Through Monday's AFL games, the multi-faceted outfielder is hitting .313 with two stolen bases, two doubles and a triple.
"I think last year -- I don't want to say that I wasn't into it, because I was -- but I feel like my focus wasn't quite there," said Brown, back for a second stint in Arizona with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
"I was kind of going through the motions. I didn't realize the opportunity I had, and then I got sick and they sent me home. This year, I just have more baseball savvy as far as what's going on around the league and what the league means, and what this means and that means, and so I feel like I really tried to focus more. And on top of focusing, just staying calm and having fun, and I think I've done that."
Brown, who is rated the Giants' No. 1 prospect
and 80th overall by MLB.com, was selected in the first round (24th overall) in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft after a standout career at Cal State-Fullerton. Now one of the older players in the AFL at 24, Brown had a good season in Double-A this past season, playing in 134 games for Richmond. He hit .279, drove in 42 runs and stole 33 bases.
It took Brown a while to adjust to Double-A.
"I think, for the first time in my career, I really, really struggled with my mechanics, and that was a very, very tough thing for me," he said. "I created some bad habits at the end of  that I carried into Spring Training, and I carried them right into the year.
"The best thing about coming back here is I got to correct those because I did a quick fix during the year, and I've kind of gotten back to where I was out there. So hopefully I can now end on a good note and carry that into Spring Training."
Scorpions manager Carlos Mendoza likes what he has seen of Brown in the AFL, and he says the fact Brown is back for a second go-round can only help.
"Definitely," he said. "the more reps you can get. That's why they're here, to get more repetition, create routines, give him some more playing time. Him being an older guy, he's been a plus for us, he's kind of been a leader on an off the field. Great guy to have around, he keeps the clubhouse loose, and he's a great addition.
"He's a gamer, a guy who knows how to get the job done. He's working out of the leadoff spot and he's doing a pretty good job, seeing pitches and getting on base, and that's what we ask. He's having some success, some center field, some left field, and you can see why he's rated No. 1."
Speed is a big part of Brown's overall game, but he knows he needs to hone his basestealing skills. He did steal 33 in Richmond, but he was thrown out 18 times.
"That I think is where my biggest area of work is right now," he said. "It's funny because I know I can run, but I ... hesitate too much on the bases when I'm basestealing. I consider myself a good base runner, but sometimes I get to tense when I'm trying to steal a base, and that split second is the difference."
Just as in hitting, he said, a basestealer has to relax and need excellent reaction time.
"That's something I need to make an adjustment [on]. I need to find that happy place, as it were, on the bases," he said.
As for his No. 1 ranking in the Giants' farm system, Brown said it's nice to be recognized for what you do, but all it comes down to is someone's opinion.
"It's much appreciated, but the goal's not to be a prospect, the goal's to be a big leaguer," he said. "I want to graduate, so that's my goal. That's why I'm here working."
No matter where Brown plays next season, he knows there is one thing that never will change. He carries a tube of lip balm in the back pocket of his uniform pants.
"I don't know if it's a superstition," he said. "It's just like I've always carried chap stick. I left it places and had to turn around and go get it because I feel naked without it. I do my phone, chap stick, wallet, keys check. I always keep it my back pocket; you never know when you're going to need it."
Giants hitters in the Arizona Fall League
will be 26 on Nov. 22, five days after the AFL concludes. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound third baseman was the Giants' third-round Draft pick (86th overall) in 2009. He split this past season between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .247 with three home runs and 25 RBIs in 43 games. He also struck out 47 times. In his first nine AFL games, he hit .324 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
hit .263 with 16 home runs and 98 RBIs in his first season in the Minors in 2012, playing for Class A San Jose. He is rated the No. 15 Giants prospect by MLB.com. His second cousin, Eddie Oropesa, played four seasons in the Major Leagues. In the Fall League, Ricky Oropesa was hitting .225 with two home runs and five RBIs early into week six.
is a shortstop who was a first-round Draft pick (29th overall) in 2011. At Class A San Jose this season, he hit .297 and had 76 RBIs. He was hitting .203 in the AFL entering Tuesday's games with eight RBIs and four stolen bases.
Giants pitchers in the Fall League
, a right-handed reliever, went undrafted and joined the Giants in the Arizona Rookie League in 2010, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.30 ERA. He has acquitted himself well the past two seasons. At Richmond in his first stint in Double-A, he made 13 appearances and had a 1.78 ERA, striking out 18 in 15 1/3 innings. He came out of the bullpen nine times in the Fall League's first five weeks with modest success, allowing seven earned runs in eight innings, recording 12 strikeouts.
is a hefty lefty at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds. He was a 21st-round selection (646th overall) in 2010. This past season at Double-A Richmond, he was used both as a starter and reliever, posting a 4-5 record and a 2.81 ERA. In six Fall League starts, he is 1-2 with a 3.24 ERA.
was an eight-round Draft pick (254th overall) in 2006. He turned pro in '10 after a collegiate career at the College of Charleston. He advanced to Triple-A this past season, recording 15 saves to go with a 1-1 record and a 4.74 ERA. He is rated the Giants' No. 7 prospect by MLB.com. He made nine relief appearances in the AFL's first five weeks, striking out 12 in nine innings with an ERA of 3.00.
also played in the Fall League last year. He was a ninth-round pick (284th overall) in the 2007 Draft. The left-hander has appeared in 87 games with the parent Giants -- including four appearances this past season -- with a 4-2 record. Used almost exclusively as a reliever since he signed, he has 22 saves at the Minor League level. The 27-year-old went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA with 11 strikeouts in eight innings through the AFL's first five weeks.