by Annaliese Leon
PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton embraced two passions as a teenager: baseball and skateboarding.
Broken bones have forced time off the skateboard but haven’t taken away from his urge to ride. Broxton’s face glowed like a child’s in a candy shop one recent day when he walked out of the clubhouse and saw a skateboard lying on the ground.
“Every time I see a skateboard, I want to hop on it and start cruising around, but I got to be smart and can’t get hurt,” said Broxton, 26.
The love began at 14, when his cousin was riding. It was then that he picked up a board for the first time, and he couldn’t put one down for the next three to four years.
Broxton could be found at a skate park every day, using it as escape. But there was one day that was different.
“A lot of us were out there having fun and this guy randomly came up one day and just started picking like three or four guys out of the group to supply their skateboards and buy shoes and stuff like that,” Broxton said. “That stuff is really expensive when you were a kid so it was a blessing to be able to do that and it was just a lot of fun back then.”
Surf Tribe, a skate shop located in Lakeland, Fla., sponsored Broxton. It gifted him with discounts on boards and gear. Those experiences made skateboarding memorable for Broxton, but the meaning behind it is so much more.
“Whenever you try a new trick you’re going to fail like at least 50 times before you actually land it,” Broxton said. “The time that you land it, that’s like the most gratifying moment, and I like to take that into my everyday life and continue working on something before you land it.”
(Video by Sydney Cariel/Cronkite News)
He’s carried that mentality into baseball, comparing the feeling of landing a trick on the board to getting a hit on the diamond.
The dream of playing major league baseball became reality when Broxton became a third-round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. Since then, he’s been with the Pirates, who claimed him in 2014, and the Brewers, who traded for him before last season.
As a rookie last season, Broxton hit .242 with nine home runs and 19 RBIs in 207 at-bats. He stole 23 bases. Manager Craig Counsell sees the potential for much more.
“He’s got power; that’s not a secret. But squaring up the baseball is his challenge,” Counsell said. “He put together an incredible six weeks (in 2016). But it is six weeks.”
In the final 6 1/2 weeks of the season, Broxton hit six of his nine homers and had an impressive OPS of .872.
“The league gets to make an adjustment to him now,” Counsell said, “and how he handles it once we get started here is the challenge.”
Broxton figures to be the club’s everyday center fielder this season. So he’s happy baseball won out over skateboarding.
“My heart was always with baseball since before I even picked up a skateboard,” he said.