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Bloomington-Normal Baseball Association

Baseball Scholarship

BNBA is pleased to announce that a baseball scholarship program has been created to encourage and allow
access to youth baseball for participants who otherwise may not have the financial means or opportunity to
participate. Program funds are available to assist families who cannot afford the fees associated with participation
in the BNBA youth baseball program.

BNBA is committed to keeping registration fees as low as possible, and is based on the cost of operating the
organization as a whole. This is where the scholarship program can help by offsetting the costs of registration
fees for those families who are experiencing hardships due to lower income, loss of income, etc....
The number and amount of registration fee scholarships may be limited based on the amount of scholarships
applied for. Families may apply for a 50% or a 100% scholarship.

The Committee will consider many factors when evaluating eligibility for financial assistance through the program.
These circumstances may include, but are not limited to, a family hardship or burden, illness, loss of
compensation or other changes in financial position.

Financial assistance applications will be available January 1, 2022. Applications must be filled out by a parent
or guardian, and will be held in strict confidence between parent/guardian and the Scholarship Committee.
The Committee consist of three members, the BNBA Director, and the Son and Daughter of whom the
Scholarship Fund is named for, Mike Brown. 

 mike brown memorial scholarship application.docx

Michael Brown Memorial

Michael Royal Brown, 51, of Bloomington, IL passed away peacefully at his home on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. His greatest accomplishment and most lasting legacy will always be his children, Thadden and Sophie, the loves of his life.
Michael was born in Normal, Illinois, on March 7, 1970. As the middle son of John and Linda (Whitman) Brown, Michael is survived by both of his parents, his older brother John (Jackie) Brown of Shumway, IL, and his younger brother William (Courtney Tomlin) Brown of Milton, GA. Uncle Mike treasured his nieces and nephews: Joslyn (Matt) Grahn (Lincoln, Addi, Callie); Alexis (Rory) Johnson; Emily (Kody) Brown-Priddle; Jordan Brown; Jillian Brown.
Growing up in Lexington, Michael was a phenomenal athlete who enjoyed all sports, but his first love was baseball. During his exceptional career as a catcher, Michael was formed and molded by countless teammates and coaches from Lexington H.S., Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington Bobcats, Twin City Stars, and the American Legion, ultimately leading to him signing and playing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His life of service included a financial advisor career, community volunteer, mentor, and baseball coach. Michael lived large, loved passionately, and wove a piece of himself into the fabric of every life he touched. Godspeed Michael.

Memorial donations may be given to “BNBA” for the Michael Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund to support youth baseball. Mailing address: BNBA, PO Box 3324, Bloomington IL 61702

Kindred: Mike Brown was tough and tender, and the best friend baseball ever had

Senior Day is coming soon for the Central College baseball team. Senior Jake Wegner is part of the program in Pella, Iowa, assisting in any way he can after a second bout with cancer ended his playing career.

Wegner can still swing a bat, and the Normal Community High School graduate hopes to do so one last time in competition. He seeks to get a final at bat on Senior Day and, for a while now, has had the moment mapped out in his mind.

His parents, Matt and Lisa, would be in the stands.

And …

“I was hoping Mike was going to be able to be there,” Wegner said. “Maybe I’ll just have to honor him … step up to the plate and get a hit and remember him.”

That’s what Mike Brown meant to Wegner and so many who have played baseball with him, for him or, in the case of Wegner, managed the Bloomington Bobcats under Brown’s guiding hand.

You want special people with you on a special day.

“He was a special man,” Wegner said.

Brown, 51, died unexpectedly Wednesday at his home in Bloomington. He was a man with a tough exterior and a tender heart. As much as he loved baseball — no one has loved it more — Brown cared as deeply for those who played it.

An example?

When Wegner was a senior at Normal Community, he was stricken with cancer. Brown’s son, Thadden, was a year younger and Wegner’s teammate on the NCHS baseball team.

During that difficult time, Wegner learned who Mike Brown truly was.

“He was a man of many hats,” Wegner said. “For me, it started out as a coach in youth leagues and travel ball, but he also was a caretaker. When I became sick, no one visited me more, was there for me more … other than my parents.

“Mike would text me all the time and say, ‘Are you feeling OK for a visitor?’ He would come visit. Then he became a boss (as Bobcats’ general manager) and mentor and just one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”

Brown was a best friend to a lot of people, likely more than he realized. Ed Moore called him “a dear friend.” Brown’s coach at Lexington High School, Moore said it is unique when you can coach a person and then become close friends.

“Mike and I had that,” Moore said. “I bet there was a stretch where we talked to each other every day for two years straight.”

The last time they spoke was Tuesday by phone for about 20 minutes. Late the next night, Moore learned Brown had died. On Friday morning, Moore was riding a stationary bike at the alma mater he and Brown shared, Illinois Wesleyan.

As his feet moved the pedals at Shirk Center, Moore’s mind drifted to Brown.

“I was tearing up a little bit, and I kind of heard his voice saying, ‘Stop it! Knock it off!’ And maybe throw a cuss word or two in there,” Moore said. “It’s going to be a struggle for a while.”

Coaching Brown was a gift, Moore said, calling him “as fierce a competitor as I ever coached.” Watching Brown coach was rewarding as well for Moore, whose son, Brett, was a senior on IWU’s 2010 Division III national championship baseball team.

Brown was a Titan assistant coach at the time.

“He was tough, but they (the players) had a lot of respect for him,” Moore said. “You didn’t cross Mike Brown. But you respected him so much. His rapport with those kids was absolutely incredible.”

That didn’t end once the Titans hoisted the championship trophy. Brown kept in touch with those players and others from IWU, as well as his former summer team players.

He would reach out, say, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ Mike Morrissey, a senior outfielder on the 2010 Titans, was on the receiving end regularly.

“We joked because every time he called I knew it was going to be a 40-minute conversation because we just couldn’t stop,” said Morrissey, who now works in sales in Chicago. “All of us grew even closer to him after baseball. He became an extension of our friend group.

“I’m telling people I lost a close family friend. That’s the kind of relationship we developed as a group with him. What we loved about Brownie was you always knew what you were getting with him. He was always straight to the point with you, good or bad.”

Morrissey’s former teammate, Kraig Ladd, called Brown “a beacon of positivity and strength” in a social media post, saying Brown would, among other things, leave former players “a voicemail singing you happy birthday.”

Illinois State baseball player Jack Butler grew up playing on Brown’s summer travel team. He posted this: “Coach Brown was family and changed my life. Coached me since the beginning and always had my back. I can’t put into words what he means to my family and the baseball community.”

Social media has been flooded with similar comments … emotional tributes to a “man’s man” who was “rough around the edges” but caring and loyal on the inside.

Few knew Brown better than Ben Alsene, who coached Brown as manager of the Bobcats. Brown later told Alsene that playing for the Bobcats “changed my life.” It was part of an ascent that saw Brown be a standout catcher at IWU and play professionally in the Dodgers organization.

In return, Alsene said, “It got me as good a friend as you could have for 32 years.”

Lexington native Mike Brown spent time as a catcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization after being a standout at Illinois Wesleyan.

“What we had in common was a true love of baseball,” Alsene said. “We weren’t doing it (the Bobcats) because our kids were playing. We were doing it because we loved baseball and those guys who played became ‘our guys.’ Thirty-two years ago, he became my guy.”

Last summer, Brown borrowed Alsene’s three-ring binder with stats from those years. He wanted the 1989 season in particular, in which Brown batted .155.

Seems some current Bobcats were struggling at the plate.

“Brownie was going to use it to make them realize it’s a long haul,” Alsene said. “He wanted to show them, ‘Here’s where I started.’ He genuinely cared for every kid he coached. He just did so many things right when it comes to being a leader.”

Brown’s leadership skills were on full display last summer. The COVID-19 pandemic had canceled the Normal CornBelters’ season in the Prospect League. Brown was the driving force behind formation of the Kernels Collegiate League (KCL), which included four teams and played games at one site, the Corn Crib.

It gave Central Illinois college-age players a place to play and many benefited greatly.

The CornBelters will play in the Prospect League this summer, but the KCL will be back, with the Bobcats again among its teams.

Matt Stembridge, CornBelters’ co-owner and president of operations, met Brown just a few days after Stembridge and Rick DeStefane purchased the team and the Corn Crib in October 2018.

“Mike sat down and said, ‘This is going to be the most important meeting you take,’” Stembridge said. “And I said, ‘OK.’”

Brown shared what he had been doing with the Bobcats, largely at his own expense, and why he was doing it … because he felt strongly about the opportunities that had been given to him when he was a young player.

The two became close friends. They have been in touch daily over the past year, with Stembridge saying, “His (Brown’s) thumbprint is all over that stadium and the KCL, certainly.”

Stembridge has seen “a tremendous outpouring” from people in the baseball community eager to help keep the KCL going in honor of Brown. Stembridge met with Brown’s brother, John, on Friday. He also has heard from Brown’s close friends, Chris Hawkins and Billy DuBois, offering to help.

Brown, who liked to call himself “The Commissioner of the KCL,” was on the phone constantly with college coaches, pro scouts and players to build rosters for the league.

“He had commitments from a lot of kids (when he died),” Stembridge said. “It’s a matter of finishing that up and making sure those kids know they still have a home and we intend to go forward.

“There are so many really cool messages that have showed up on social media. All of the messages are, ‘You taught me this’ or ‘You taught me life through baseball.’ They resonated with me … ‘Helped me be a young man’ or ‘helped me be an adult.’ Baseball was the avenue by which he did that.”

Wegner said the best way to honor Brown is to forge ahead like he would, adding, “We’ll have Mike in our hearts and our minds all summer.”

They know they would be in his. Brown had room for many inside that barrel chest. It arrived first when meeting Brown, as if to announce, “Yeah, I’m here. Let’s get on with it.”

Moore summed up Brown’s personality best in a tweet that read in part: “If Mike liked you, he loved you … if he didn’t like you, you knew it.”

There was no pretense. He was simply Mike Brown, and he was ours.

Be thankful, Bloomington-Normal.

Mike Brown (right) presents McCade Brown with the Kernels Collegiate League Pitcher of the Year award last summer at the Corn Crib in Normal. Mike Brown, 51, the driving force behind the KCL, died unexpectedly at his home on Wednesday.

"Baseball Is Not Life. It Is A Fiction, A Metaphor. And A Ballplayer Is A Man Who
Agrees To Uphold That Metaphor As Though Lives Were At Stake."


Bloomington-Normal Baseball Association

P.O. Box 3324 
Bloomington, Illinois 61702

Phone: 309-829-2129
Email: [email protected]

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