Earlier this year, Brooks signed a contract with the Continental League's Big Bend Cowboys, making her the first woman inked to a professional pact in this century. She hopes to live up to the accompanying fanfare and earn a position – or two.
She will attend the Cowboys' spring training April 30–May 4 at Alpine's historic Kokernot Field, hoping to be on the opening day (May 6) roster as a first baseman, relief pitcher, or both.
"I am really, really looking forward to this opportunity," Brooks said in a recent phone interview. She was offered a contract by Cowboys general manager JR Smith after sending him an email.
"She was looking for a place to play ball and sent her credentials," said Smith. "I talked to (manager) Donnie Randell and (club president) Bob Ward and they said, ‘go ahead and sign her.' I knew somebody would (offer her a contract) and we just happened to be the first."
Randell noted that he has not seen Brooks play and could not assess her skills, but welcomed her to camp.
"It should be fun and will make history," he said.
Brooks has played collegiate and professional fastpitch softball in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Holland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, as well as women's international and semi–professional baseball n the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, and Holland.
"Between baseball and softball, I have seen a lot of the world," she said. "It presented an opportunity to travel that I could not have otherwise afforded."
This past winter, she played in the Arizona Winter League prior to signing. She was managed by longtime Triple–A skipper Brooks Carey and coached by several ex–Major Leaguers, including All–Star shortstop and 16–year veteran Garry Templeton, Ozzie Virgil, pitcher Les Lancaster, and ex–MLB slugger Cory Snyder..
"Garry Templeton spent a lot of time with me, hitting hundreds of ground balls. He was very, very supportive," she said.
After a couple of shaky relief outings, one in which she struggled with her control and the second with a slippery mound in rainy conditions, "Les Lancaster picked me up and said, ‘C'mon, let's work,'" Brooks added. (Lancaster spent seven years in the Majors with the Chicago Cubs, Detroit and St. Louis, posting a 41–28 won–lost record with 22 saves.)
Brooks later relieved a starting pitcher who had surrendered seven runs and limited the opposition to a single run in two and two–thirds innings. Her team rallied to win the game.
An eye infection hampered her effectiveness at the plate early in the AWL, but she rebounded to hit .333 in her final four games. Brooks also broke up a no–hitter with a sixth–inning double.
Playing – whether as a pitcher or position player – is her focus.
"It [the position] depends on what the team needs most," she said. "I have played all the infield spots, but first base is probably my strongest of the infield positions. As a pitcher, I'm usually most effective in relief – but I'm happy to help the team in whatever way my new skipper decides – whether as reliever, starter, position player or all three. I love going out on the mound."
As a hitter, Brooks considers herself primarily a contact hitter with singles and doubles in the gaps, and the occasional long ball. At the AWL, she consistently put the ball in play, moving runners and producing RBI's even when she reach base."At the pro level, I might hit an occasional home run, but I'll be concentrating on helping the team producing singles and doubles," she said.
As a pitcher, her fastball has been clocked at 82 mph. She uses three arm angles and brings two different pitches from each motion.
Brooks said the bulk of the feedback she has received while pursuing her career has been positive.
"When I talk to people face–to–face or over the phone, it has been almost 100 percent positive," she said. "I have sworn off reading comments on the Internet, but before I did, I would say 95 percent (of the comments) were either positive or curious.
"Of the ball players I come in contact with, 95 percent think this was the greatest thing since sliced bread. There are always that five percent that won't give you the benefit of the doubt or are resentful of you invading the ‘sacred cave' of men."
Like many players, Brooks maintains that baseball teaches the best lessons about dealing with failure, and she has prepared herself for a future both in and out of the game.
While playing is her primary goal, when her pro career is over, she may consider coaching. She also has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from the University of Montana, and a Geology background. She has supported herself by giving baseball and softball lessons through the Brooks Baseball and Softball Academy and through technical writing positions while chasing her diamond dreams.
"Baseball is not about how you handle your successes, but how you handle adversity," she said. "If this (Cowboys tryout) doesn't work out, I imagine Brooksie (Carey) will continue working with me to find contacts with other teams and other leagues. But (Big Bend) happened to be first, and I am really excited about this opportunity. I want to make this team and play in Alpine at Kokernot Field."
Brooks plans to arrive in Alpine April 27 to work out on her own before spring training begins.
"I also plan do some work on my Jeep before I drive it down there," she said. "Oh, yeah, my dad was a mechanic, so I picked up some of that, too."
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