Anthony Brown’s baseball coaches all agreed: You didn’t want to be at the plate when Brown was pitching.
“He was a ace of a pitcher in baseball,” said Bubba Woods, who coached Brown in youth league ball. “He was a good athlete, and a good boy. I looked at him as a son back then.”
Brown, 40, died Tuesday at the Walmart in Southaven where he worked as a manager after a gunman opened fire on Walmart employees at about 6:30 a.m. According to local media, Southaven police arrested another employee, Martez Abram, 39, for the shooting. Abram and a police officer were both injured during a shootout with police, and another employee, 38-year-old Brandon Gales, was also killed.
News of Brown’s death shocked friends and family who had known him when he was growing up — not just for his talent on the baseball field, but for his quiet, humble nature and his loyalty to family and friends.
“It’s so senseless,” said Johnny Phillips, who also coached Brown in baseball and whose son was good friends with Brown growing up.
Raised in Caledonia, Brown came from a baseball-loving family, said his cousin, Andy Brown, who lives in Columbus. After graduating from Caledonia High School, Anthony pitched two years at East Mississippi Community College in the 1998 and 1999 seasons before going to Mississippi State University. He worked for the Columbus Walmart until eight years ago, moving first to Louisiana, then in 2014 to Southaven. He held management positions at Walmart, where he was well-respected by employees.
He was also a big brother, husband and the father of two sons, ages 15 and 5, Andy said.
“Family mattered greatly to him,” Andy said. ” …It wasn’t that we always saw each other on a regular basis … it could be a week go by or a month or two go by. But when I ran into him again, he was always asking about how members of my family were doing, and he was always wanting to hear good things and see how people were doing. Just really caring and putting others before himself.”
‘Ace’ and ‘Squirrel’
Both Phillips and Woods said Anthony was part of a group of boys who grew up playing baseball together — a group which included their own sons.
“They believed in having a good time,” Woods said. “They believed in doing what was right. They were very respectful. … Never a bad word that I heard come out of that young man’s mouth.
“He could pull a prank on you, but it wasn’t a bad one,” he added.
Phillips said Anthony’s father had a batting cage and that the boys would often use it to practice. Anthony took baseball seriously, playing at Propst Park as a child before playing at school.
“He was more like an extended part of our family during those baseball days,” Phillips said.
“He was down to business,” he added. “He always gave 110 percent. Never did talk a lot, but he tried to let his play on the field do the talking. Just a super kid to coach and a super kid to be around.”
Still, he believed in having a good time, his friends agreed. Matt Atkins, who was a friend and teammate of Anthony’s at CHS, recalled a story about how he and Brown used to drive around the baseball fields when they were in high school. There was a large mound of dirt they used to drive over particularly fast — faster each time they drove over it, he said. One day, they hit it particularly hard.
“We hit the mound, I don’t know, doing 50 mph probably,” Atkins said. “Jumped the mound, got airborne, hit the ground and then when he locked up the breaks, we slid all the way to the left field light pole and totaled his truck.
“It didn’t hurt either one of us,” he added, laughing. “I remember his dad was hot, too.”
New Hope High School Principal Matt Smith, who coached Brown at CHS, said he particularly remembers how Anthony had the “sweetest spirit,” how he was a great big brother to his little sister and how humble he was when it came to his talent.
“I don’t think Anthony ever knew how good he was,” Smith said. “… I always had to tell him, ‘You’re that good. … If you don’t trust your own ability, trust mine.'”
Moving to EMCC, Brown’s nickname went from “Ace” to “Squirrel.” According to EMCC sports records, he pitched 30 1/3 innings with 13 strikeouts as a freshman. As a sophomore, he racked up nine starts and 29 strikeouts.
His coaches and friends also agreed that, even though moving from Caledonia kept them from seeing him as often, he was as familiar as ever when they did see him.
“It was just like it was yesterday when we saw each other,” Smith said. “(He gave me) a great hug … great conversation.”
‘A family man’
Though they were distant cousins, Andy said he knew Anthony reasonably well and has memories of playing with him at family reunions when they were children.
“I know that may sound a little petty or may sound funny, but I that is one memory that I remember,” he said. “… It’s called the Shepherd-Pounders family reunion. Of course there were many kids, but when we were really young, we always looked forward to that once-a-year family reunion because we knew we were going to have a big whiffle game after lunch. … That was something we always looked forward to, getting that game in.”
Smith said his heart is “crushed” for Anthony’s family.
“He was loved beyond what we can put into words,” he said.
“(He was a) great guy and a great father,” he said. “It’s just so senseless for something like this to happen and take somebody’s life.”
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.