Crew's Broxton learned lessons on skateboard

Center-field hopeful once competed on wheels

Crew's Broxton learned lessons on skateboard

PHOENIX -- Long before he was competing for the Brewers' center-field job, Keon Broxton was a competitive skateboarder.

Did he learn anything that lent itself to baseball?

"Balance," said Broxton, "and how to deal with pain."

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He was good enough on a skateboard by age 12 that he was sponsored by a local skate shop in Lakeland, Fla. They gave him discounted boards and gear.

"It was just something I enjoyed doing, go hang out with friends at the skate park all day and relax," said Broxton, who conceded it was not always relaxing. "I broke my ankle, I broke my wrist. You fall a lot. To learn a new trick, you've got to fall 100 times. There can be a lot of pain in it.

"But that's another thing I learned from it that helped in baseball: You have to learn to deal with failure."

By high school, the injury risk became too great. Broxton, 25, dreamed of making a living in baseball, and he achieved it after the D-backs made him a third-round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft.

Broxton, Phillips making strides

Twice since then, he's been traded. Broxton was sold to the Pirates at the end of 2014 Spring Training, then dealt to the Brewers in December along with pitching prospect Trey Supak for first baseman Jason Rogers.

In Brewers camp, some of the faces are familiar. Broxton played with Chase Anderson and Jake Elmore at previous stops, and against Rymer Liriano. He's part of a large group of center-field candidates.

"I didn't see [the trade] coming at all," Broxton said. "But it's been a good thing. It's an opportunity for me."

In Pittsburgh, the opportunity was fleeting. Center field there belongs to former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, and Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco have the corners. Broxton, who participated in the Pirates' big league camp last year, and with the D-backs before that, likely would have had to make the team as a fourth outfielder.

"I did feel like I was in a shadow, a little bit," Broxton said. "I would have been a fourth outfielder there, and that's not really in my plans."

What did he learn from McCutchen last spring?

"I just watched the way he went about his business," Broxton said. "Hitting-wise, and in the field. I think I learned a lot from the hitting aspect of it. He's an open book, man. You can talk to him about anything."

A breakthrough season followed, in which Broxton hit .273/.357/.438 with 49 extra-base hits and 39 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A. He briefly appeared in the Major Leagues with the Pirates.

"He's a player that, to me, I'm [keeping] a really open mind," Counsell said. "I'm trying not to have any expectations of it. It's a 'show us what you are' type of thing. The big thing that we've noticed is he's improving. The last couple of years, there has been a significant jump in his performance.

"If you watch him on the field, it looks like he's going to be a defender. But all parts of his game are changing rapidly. The arrow is going the right way."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.