NASHVILLE — From the time he was five years old Rex Brothers always had a baseball and glove sitting on the kitchen table. Now he has a hall of fame plaque and a silver bat as a result of his …
NASHVILLE — From the time he was five years old Rex Brothers always had a baseball and glove sitting on the kitchen table. Now he has a hall of fame plaque and a silver bat as a result of his longtime love and dedication to the game.
Saturday night Rex was named to the Lipscomb University Athletics Hall of Fame at the annual “First Pitch” Dinner Saturday night at the George Shinn Center on campus. Brothers was inducted along with fellow former baseball teammates Caleb Joseph and Josh Smith. All three had been invited to the event to speak about their times at Lipscomb and in the Major Leagues.
Lipscomb athletic director Philip Hutcheson made the surprise announcement.
“It is the honor of my baseball playing career,” Rex said. “Just the players, the men and the guys who have gone before me and the players I have played with it makes it so special to be a part of this.
“I thought I was just going to be part of another panel discussion. But then Hutch got up there and started talking. My body was overwhelmed. I was having chills. The next thing I knew I was in tears. That is how much it meant to me.”
Hall of Fame honors are given to people not only as evidence of their accomplishments but also as a tribute to those who provided support to help the person achieve his dreams.
“Every bit of what you saw of my emotions was real,” Rex said. “I love the people. I love the place. To be honored like this is not just a testament to me but also to those who propped me up.”
The right decision
Rex, coached by Scott Hall at Shelbyville Central High School, was recruited to Lipscomb by then head coach Wynn Fletcher. When Fletcher was replaced by Jeff Forehand before Rex could put on a Bisons uniform he remained true to his commitment even though he was starting to receive interest from major programs like Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
“Coach Forehand was a big, big part of my life at a fragile time in my life,” Rex said. “I was out of my house. I was in my early 20s. I was trying to make grades. To have somebody like Coach Forehand to lean on was irreplaceable.
“What he does for his players and the impact he has it amazing. We can all attest to the fact we are better people because of playing for Coach. What he instilled in me lasted me throughout my playing career. You can’t get that many places. It is special.”
His father, Andy, was a major influence with Rex deciding to stay a Lipscomb. Later on, Rex’s younger brother Hunter would also pitch for Lipscomb and be a part of the Rockies organization. He and Hunter own and operate Brothers Excavation.
“I am so glad my dad wanted me to play for Coach Forehand,” Rex said. “My Dad said this is a great fit for me. There wasn’t a better fit for me.
“We had been going to camps at Lipscomb since Mel Brown was the coach when I was around eight years old. Hunter and Seth Brothers also went. We would get in grandma’s van and go up to Nashville. It just came full circle for me.”
In three seasons at Lipscomb Rex won 16 games. He struck out 322 batters and posted a 3.38 earned run average.
He was honored as the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year and was second team member of the ASUN All-Conference team. Also, in 2007 he was selected to the Louisville Slugger All-Freshman Team as announced by the Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
He was named to the NCAA Athens Regional All-Tournament Team in 2008.
In 2009 he was a First Team ASUN Conference selection. He won the Ken Dugan Award, named for the late Hall of Fame Lipscomb baseball coach.
Rex is also a member of the ASUN All-Decade Team for the 2000-2010 period.
While the awards have been nice, he also relishes the memory of his teammates.
“I had great teammates,” Rex said. “I tried to learn something from all my teammates and hope in turn someone learned something from me that helped them.”
A family celebration
It was a family affair for Rex. His father, Andy, and his mother, Carol, were there along with his grandmother, Janelle Brothers and his wife, Jill and their children, daughter River and twin sons Zion and Duke.
“As a young kid there were three things for Rex – baseball and hunting and fishing,” Andy said. “He started in coach-pitch. He always had a ball and glove on the kitchen table. We would go outside and throw.”
During those afternoons throwing the ball around Andy never thought about how big baseball would be for Rex.
“I grew up in Nashville,” Andy said. “I wanted to play for Lipscomb. I wasn’t good enough to play for Lipscomb.
“When Rex was a freshman and he walked on the field for his first practice I was good with it. He playing at a good school and was close to home.”
It is a mutual admiration society between Andy and Forehand.
“I learned a lot from Andy over the years,” Forehand said. “He is such a special man. The way he raised Rex and Hunter was an inspiration for me and my wife about how we raised our boys.
“He gave good advice. There was one way to do things and had the market cornered on how to do the right thing all the time. I took that to heart about how to raise my kids.”
In 2009 Rex became only the second Lipscomb player drafted in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft, the 34th selection by the Colorado Rockies. Bo McLaughlin had been picked by the Houston Astros in the first round in 1975.
Rex made his Major League debut in 2011 throwing for the Rockies in relief on the road against the San Diego Padres on June 6, as part of a 3-0 win.
“When he threw that first pitch in San Diego it was so good,” Andy said. “Being there and seeing it and knowing that was his dream come true. It is a special thing for a parent to see the dreams of their children come true.”
Rex would also play for the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees. He ended his career as a part of the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
He finished his Major League career with 374 appearances, a 23-16 record with 384 strikeouts in 322.1 innings pitched and a 4.08 ERA.
He helped lead the Bisons to their first ever Atlantic Sun Conference Championship and their first NCAA bid in 2008. He threw 5.2 innings as the Bisons won their first NCAA tournament game against Georgia, the eventual NCAA runner-up.
His 133 strikeouts in 2009 is the highest total in the NCAA era for Lipscomb. He is in the school’s career top 10 in wins, ERA, strikeouts, complete games and games started.
A power pitcher
At 6-foot-1 Rex did not have the size often associated with power pitchers. His ability to mow down batters was a pleasant surprise for his Bison teammates. He was described by his teammates as a “sheer force” on the mound.
“When you have that type of velocity and have a slider like he had, he had big league stuff as a freshman and sophomore in college,” Joseph said. “And he kind of came out of nowhere. He was from Chapel Hill and we really didn’t know he was.
“But he showed up and he was left-handed and threw hard. That type of pitcher doesn’t grow on trees. And then he started doing stuff with weights and he ballooned up and got stronger.”
Forehand agrees Rex was an unexpected talent.
“In this day and age everybody throws hard, but in his day and age he was kind of a unique find for us,” Forehand said. “At that point he threw a hard fastball and hard slider. He was so difficult to hit. He was the best of the best.”
Joseph, who caught Rex for two seasons, remembers how the ball exploded into his mitt.
“It was like a bowling ball,” Joseph said. “Rex had the hardest fastball I’ve ever caught in terms of what it felt like in the mitt. I’ve caught 100 miles per hour fastballs, but Rex throwing 97 miles per hour felt like 107.”
Rex developed a tenacity at Lipscomb that served him well on both the college and pro levels.
“When he was on the mound, he could just look at a guy and put fear into them,” Joseph said. “He was the ultimate competitor.
“It was fun to be back there when he pitched because you just knew he was going to empty his tank on every pitch, and you knew without a doubt you were getting every bit of what he had in terms of effort. He just absolutely dominated.”