Tiffany Brooks is the first American Professional Female Baseball player to play in the Arizona Summer League, a professional instructional/ prospect league affiliated with the independent North American League. The league is based in Yuma, Arizona, and is made up of four teams and 57 players. Tiffany was drafted onto Team Canada, run by ex-MLB Pitcher, Kip Gross.
Tiffany is no stranger to Arizona, having played in the Arizona Winter League in Yuma in 2010. On those January afternoons she often walked the mile back to her hotel room in the 85 degree heat and said she loved it here in winter, but there was no way she'd ever want to be here in the middle of summer! But fate has a funny way of getting back at baseball players, and now, here she is back in Yuma playing in the Arizona Summer League where just 10 days ago it was 120 degrees. When I came out to interview Tiffany (who is known as “Brooksie” to most of her teammates) a local said “it was a cool day” with temperatures reaching “only” 103 degrees, and on Sunday the temperature climbed to 110 degrees.
Tiffany is over six feet tall, and she’s easy to spot on the field with her long, curly blonde hair pulled through the hole in the back of her ball cap. This past Saturday she had a day off from pitching and took on the duty of first base coach. It was obvious from the high fives from each of her teammates that passed her rounding first base the guys enjoyed having her out there and coaching them during the game against Long Beach Armada.
Immediately following Saturday’s game Tiffany headed directly to the bullpen for instruction from her team manager and former MLB pitcher, Kip Gross. Kip is a straight forward type of guy. “Breathe out before you pitch” and “Don’t make a step out of it…drive and glide down the hill” he told her. Tiffany took his instruction well and made immediate corrections.
Below is Tamara’s interview with Tiffany on Saturday, July 16, 2011 at Desert Sun Stadium in Yuma, Arizona. “TS” is the author, Tamara Swindler and “TB” is Tiffany Brooks.
TS: Tell me about your first day in Spring Training.
Nick Belmonte runs Spring Training. He's a scout for the Red Sox, and he knows his stuff. He is a little like I'd imagine a drill sergeant might be! He's a great guy, and has connections all throughout baseball. Spring Training is two full days, and Nick runs a tight ship! I played in scrimmage and pitched two innings, striking out two, gave up one hit, and had a few other little things happen, but we won't talk about those – haha.
TS: In Spring Training which hitter did you think would be the toughest to face while pitching in the Arizona Summer League?
In Spring Training the pitchers and position players trained separately. Then we would come together for scrimmages. I watched this one guy who was just hammering the ball. Someone said he was 11 for 11 at the plate in Spring Training or something ridiculous, so I kept a close eye on him. I wanted to face him to challenge myself but I didn’t want to go out and have him take me yard either. As it turned out I got lucky – he [Stephen Tedesco] ended up on my team, thank God!
TS: Do you study players before pitching to them?
Absolutely! Yeah, I come out early sometimes or stay a bit for the later game and sit down and watch. Today I watched third baseman #9 (Bunya Maeda) on the Long Beach Armada team. He is a Japanese player and a good hitter, and now I know how I’ll pitch him next time.
TS: Do you find as a woman you have to work just a little bit harder than the guys to prove yourself, and is there one part of your game that you have worked on to help get you there?
As a prospect first baseman one reason I’ve not been as attractive to sign as I might be is that I don't hit enough homeruns. I have solid glove work and good footwork at 1B, and I can hit for average and get doubles, but in baseball today, the corners are expected to be homerun hitters. If the wind is blowing out, the baseball gods love me that day, and someone grooves one for me, then I can go yard. Unfortunately all three of those things don't happen often enough for me! My other love has always been Pitching, and I've done both that and play first base since Little League, so I began focusing more on my pitching in the last couple of years. I’m not typically a starting pitcher. I'm most effective as a 1 to 2 inning reliever either in the middle or sometimes as a closer, and can sometimes go longer if needed. When a manager knows how to use me – usually preceded and followed by guys with some heat – I can be pretty effective messing with hitters' timing, as I have a wide range of speeds and pitches I can throw, anywhere in a range of about 50-80 mph.
TS: As a woman in baseball is it hard to find equipment or gear that fits your needs?
Oh yeah -- Baseball pants never fit properly. Jerseys aren’t cut for women, so I usually have to get a size that is way too big. If I play for a team long enough I consider getting the jersey tailored for my body. Many women’s cleats are manufactured more for comfort and not as much for function as I'd like them to be. I usually wear men's spikes, but since women's feet are generally more narrow than men's I can't usually get a full leather cleat, as to cinch them down for a good fit. I need to get ones that are at least part fabric. If the ball cap doesn’t have a hole in the back, I cut one out with scissors to pull my ponytail through.
TS: Where are your sights set on playing next after the Arizona Summer League?
Well, like any of us out here, we have dreams of playing for a Major League team, and that means the first step is to be signed into Affiliated ball. The truth of the matter is that I love the game so much, I’d play on the back side of the moon for a buck! Realistically, I'd love to play for the North American League, Yuma in particular. The Scorpions have a great organization with great players on that team, and I'd be really honored to join them or another team in the NAL.
TS: What are your hopes for Brooks Baseball and Softball Academy?
In the future, I’d like to own several academies across different locations, but the next step for me is to buy an actual building. I have all the equipment I need to give lessons, and in summer and fall it's no problem to be outside, but I have to rent space in the early spring and certainly in winter.
TS: What do you want people to know about you that hasn’t already been covered?
I think it's really important for people to know that I feel extremely honored to be able to play this great game. Every time I button up my jersey, I know I'm very, very lucky, and that many people never get to go this far in the game. I would never be able to do it without people who love me and believe in me, without my generous sponsors, and without all the women and girls who e-mail me or come out to watch me play. I would also like people to know that while I may be the first female American Professional Baseball Player in Arizona Summer League history, I surely won’t be the last! There are currently two female baseball players headed to play in college this next year, and over 1000 girls now playing at the high school level. I think you will see a lot more female ballplayers in the very near future, and I hope one day, in Major League Baseball. Play Hard and Dream Big!