High fives and laughter echoed in the halls of Gaither Gym as Florida A&M baseball players greeted their new coach with hugs.
Seasoned players have said coach Willie Brown has brought a sense of unity among players. With his family-orientated and humane approach, it is easy to notice the new unbreakable bond.
Jarryd Reid, 22, a second-year business administration student from Tampa, said the team is more focused, disciplined and fearless.
“This year, the team seems more aggressive and competitive,” Reid said. “Coach Brown set a higher standard and, by doing so, I think he gave us higher aspirations.”
Practice starts with animated conversation and ends in hard work. The players laugh as a family as well as push one another to their full potential.
Team utility player Cory Franklin, 21, a fourth-year criminal justice student from Jacksonville, admires the change in the team‘s attitude.
“Before coach came, the team wasn’t close,” Franklin said. “Players slacked on workouts and practice. His coaching methods are the same as other coaches, but he wants us to be more of a family.”
Coach Brown said his past coaches have helped inspire and model his coaching style.
First baseman and pitcher Dylan West, 19, a second-year business administration student from Tallahassee, said the team needed a coach to lead and be a friend.
“Coach Brown promised he would lead us if we follow him, and that’s exactly what we have done this fall,” West said.
During homecoming, the team participated in “Run for Lawson,” a 5k run to honor Lawson Mayfield, an 18-year-old who died September 2009 from bacterial spinal meningitis. The team raised $1,000 in donations. They also volunteered with Tallahassee residents to provide medical care and clothing for the homeless.
Upcoming community service events include a food drive for the Salvation Army.
Brown gives all credit to the team for the increase in community service this semester, but said he wants to see his players become better men, friends and teammates.
As a family, the team is sticking together through difficult times.
This year, the team hopes to increase game attendance and gain student support. Players from the tennis and softball teams fill the empty bleachers to show their support.