This week we bring you an interview with Cleveland Brownlee who has played baseball professionally for the past few years in London, Canada. Brownlee originally hails from Atlanta, but over the past few years has put up some very nice numbers in the Intercounty Baseball League for the London Majors.
He was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us.
First of all, can you give us a little background into your baseball career and how you wound up in Canada?
I started playing at the age of four. Played all the way through high school and college. Played varsity for three years in high school at Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Ga. thats about 15 minutes outside of downtown Atlanta. I went to Clark Atlanta to play baseball. There I played four years and hold our College record for most home runs in the 4 Years. We did not have a great college team. I played division 2 baseball in the SIAC (Southern Intercollege Athelitic Conference.) I hit over .300 all four years with a total of 46 hrs in those four years. We had a struggle program that sometimes we only played 30 game seasons. I earned All Conferece first team player and school MVP. After graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 2007, I went to a few open workouts and that was where i signed my first pro independent contract . From that I was invited to spring training workout with the phillies in Clear Water, Fla. I have bounced around from indy leagues all over and ended up in Canada after Duane heard a few good things about me and decided to give me a chance.
You have been playing for the London Majors in the Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario, Canada for the past few years. What has the experience been like playing in Canada?
My experience playing in london canada has been like no other. It has been nothing but good to me. I call it my second home. The fans love me there and I have put up great numbers for the past few seasons. I’ve been nominated as fan favorite for the past three years. There is also great baseball being played there. I was under great ownership in the league. I couldnt have asked for a better team to play on. We had the best of facilities, uniforms and just overall great environment to play baseball in.
Have you played in any other foreign countries over the years?
You briefly played in the Continental Baseball League in Alexandria a few years back. Was this your only stop in independent ball in the US? What was that experience like and how is it different than playing in another country?
This was where I received my most at-bats in indy ball. I was traded to that team from the Laredo Broncos. I came into a bad situation only because they were alredy half way into there season. I came in not hitting too well and that’s when I got released. It was a really good league but i dont think that a person can prove himself in only 20 at bats.
I read a short snip it that you were recommended to play for the Laredo Broncos of the United League in 2009 by former MLBer Cecil Fielder. How do you know Cecil and how has he helped you on the field in the past?
I met Cecil at a baseball work out in Atlanta . He saw me take batting paractice and came over and talked to me for awhile. Said that I reminded him of himself on how far the balls were leaving the field. He asked if I wanted to work out with a few more pro guys that he trained and I said yes. I went thru lessons 5 days a week with him not hitting less than 300 balls a day. Me and Cecil became great friends and he called around to help me get tryouts. He is a great teacher . I still call him to this day and mess with him or we talk about other talent around Atlanta that I send his way.
What was it like working with Teammates International and why should others looking to keep playing think about utilizing their services?
Working with Teammates International was a great experience for me. It opened up a door so that the world could really see what I could do. Duane was a straight up guy telling me that he was new to it and that I would be his first real client. I think that it is a great option for young kids wanting to go furthur in baseball to try. He has multiple contacts now and lots of opportunty for you to go places.
You have had a great career with the London Majors. I understand you are retiring after this year. What are your plans after baseball? Will you enter coaching or get out of the game entirely? Will you stay in Canada or return home to the States?
I always say that I am done playing after every season but I only seem to get better every year. I was teaching high school and doing a lilttle coaching so I might go into coaching when I’m done but not for sure yet. I would love to stay in canada and start a life there, but Atlanta has always been my home. So its still undecided on where I’ll live and start a family and career yet, all depeneds on how long I continue to play.
As a veteran of playing in another country, what is one bit of advice you could give someone who didn’t get drafted but wants to keep playing?
To me being drafted has alot to do with politics. I have played with alot of guys that have been drafed high and ended up playing indy ball or up in Canada. I have proven time after time that I was just as good but most of the time better than those guys. It all depends on how much you want to keep playing. I had something to prove and I worked hard on my craft to let the world know that yes I did deserve a a chance .. so I would tell any kid to keep playing, never give up, and sometimes it takes a little longer to get where you going..
Cleveland Brownlee has put up some great numbers in the IBL over the past few years. In 2012, he blasted 12 home runs and drove in 38 in only 32 games while hitting .326. His 12 home runs were 2nd in the league and he ranked 3rd in RBI. In 2011, he hit .387 and was named a First Team All-Star. You can follow Cleveland’s baseball pursuites on Facebook.
We’d like to thank Cleveland for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and we wish him luck in his future pursuits.
Photo courtesy Wayne Brown
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.