Where Are They Now: Martin's Denise Brown
Sports editor's note: This is the second in a summer series on former Allegan County standout high school athletes and coaches.
MARTIN—One might think that, as Denise Brown watched daughters Jessika (20) and Andrea (18) excel in athletics at Martin the past several years, it would cause flashbacks to her own glory days with the Clippers.
That, she said, wasn’t the case.
Rather, she simply enjoyed watching her girls reach their full potential.
“I felt both of my girls passed me with their level of play in all the sports they played, but I truly enjoyed helping them reach their potentials,” Brown said. “It was fun watching Andrea try to beat my (pitching) records in softball. I like to think it helped push her to be as good as she is.”
Brown ended up hurling two no-hitters, one more than her daughter achieved.
“The one thing she didn’t get me on was speed,” Brown said. “I was clocked at 64 miles per hour. She hasn’t gotten me on that one yet, but I must say I didn’t have as many home runs as that girl has.”
Brown feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach both Jessika and Andrea in basketball through their junior high years.
“I also have been a volunteer coach in the Martin varsity softball program for the last six years,” she noted.
Brown, who recently turned 45, graduated from Martin in 1987. In addition to playing basketball and softball for four years, she was also a cheerleader for four years.
Softball was Brown’s favorite sport.
“Because it was natural for me,” she said. “I loved being a pitcher: the thrill of the strikeout, the way my catcher and I just knew each other and worked hard together.”
Brown also loved stepping into the batter’s box.
“I was a solid hitter,” said Brown, who became interested in sports—especially softball—when she was 4 years old when her mother’s church league team would practice in what she called their horse pasture. “My sister and I would shag balls for them. I have played softball ever since.”
Mike Gravier, Brown’s varsity softball coach at Martin for two years, recalled seeing something special in Brown early on.
“I could tell back in middle school that she had the competitive desire to become a very special athlete,” Gravier said. “We were ranked fifth in the state her freshman year.”
Brown liked the aggressiveness of the game of basketball.
“I was a defensive player and rebounder,” she said. “I never really had the best shot, unlike my daughters.”
Brown said cheerleading was something she did to stay in shape for softball and “to get into the boys’ games free.”
Brown, an All-Conference, All-County, All-District, All-Region and All-State player in softball, saw her prep career provided several highlights. One of those special memories was making a hook shot from the free throw line during a game.
“It totally shocked everyone, including me,” Brown said. “Other highlights included winning the SAC title and districts in basketball a couple times, pitching two no-hitters my junior year and hitting a home run to help win us a game and earning All-State honors.”
Brown, who mustered a career-high 15 strikeouts, attended KVCC on a full ride softball scholarship. She is currently engaged to Michael Anderson from Newaygo. They have been together for seven years.
“Mike is in the Michigan Hall of Fame for racquetball,” Brown said. “He played on the pro tour and still plays in his age group at the U.S. Open.”
Because of bad knees, Brown doesn’t play many sports these days.
“I’m more into coaching, but I will play recreation softball and get on the basketball court every now and then,” Brown said. “I have been the assistant softball coach (at Martin) for years where I still pitch batting practice to the girls. Mind you, I’m not as fast as I was, but I still got it.”
Brown has found golf to be an outlet to keep her competitive juices flowing.
“It’s the most frustrating game I’ve ever played, but the challenge of it keeps me getting back out there,” she said.
In addition to her daughters, Brown also has a son (Phillip, 23), a stepdaughter (Lindsay, 29), and a granddaughter (Mila).