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Hawks' Brody walks softly, carries big stick

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Mill Creek's Greg Brody has progressed from a light hitting middle infielder as a sophomore to one of the county's best hitters as a senior preparing to play in the state quarterfinals.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Mill Creek's Greg Brody has progressed from a light hitting middle infielder as a sophomore to one of the county's best hitters as a senior preparing to play in the state quarterfinals.

HOSCHTON — Off the baseball diamond, Mill Creek’s Greg Brody isn’t one to attract attention to himself.

Even when he takes the field, it’s sometimes difficult to pick him out of a crowd.

THE BRODY FILE

Who: Greg Brody

Sport: Baseball

School: Mill Creek

Class: Senior

Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”

Favorite sports team: Kansas City Royals

Dream job: Either a Major League Baseball player or a sports medicine doctor

Summer travel team: Team Elite

Noteworthy:

• Currently leading all Hawks’ starters, and among the Gwinnett County leaders, with a .474 average with 11 home runs, 45 RBIs, 38 runs scored and a 1.491 OPS

• Is a four-year starter at Mill Creek, the first three at shortstop before moving to second base this spring

• Has hit 18 home runs over his last 38 games dating back to April 27, 2009

• Has a 3.3 grade-point average, and has signed to play collegiately at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

“He just plays the game so unassumedly that a lot of people often overlook his ability,” Mill Creek coach Doug Jones said. “He’s such a quiet kid. He goes about his business. There’s not a lot of flash. He just lets his bat and glove speak for themselves.”’

But while Brody’s voice and demeanor might be fairly quiet, his bat and his glove have spoken volumes throughout his career, but especially this spring.

The Hawks’ middle infielder had been solid throughout his four seasons as a starter in the Mill Creek program.

However, he has really come out of his shell in his senior season, ranking among Gwinnett County’s best in most offensive categories.

And he’s a big reason the Hawks (25-5) have advanced to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals for the first time in school history as they prepare to welcome Redan to Fathers Field on Tuesday.

“He’s focused,” Jones said of Brody. “He knows who he is. He knows what he wants. He knows what he’s going to have to do to get there. He’s very goal-driven.

“He was a skinny runt when we pulled him up (off the junior varsity squad) as a freshman. He kind of grew into a man this past year.”

Indeed, after sitting out much of his sophomore season with a back injury, Brody began to blossom toward the end of last year.

After hitting no home runs through much of Mill Creek’s Region 7-AAAAA schedule, he belted seven through the Hawks’ final eight games of the season — including three in last year’s state playoffs — as well as posted the bulk of his 24 RBIs.

And he’s continued to swing a hot bat this season, posting team highs with a .474 batting average, 11 homers and 45 RBIs, plus 10 doubles and two triples that have helped produce a .532 on-base percentage and .959 slugging percentage (a 1.491 OPS) in 30 games.

While simple maturation and increased strength have helped, Brody believes the reason for his power surge goes beyond the physical.

“I’ve been swinging the bat pretty good this year,” Brody said. “Confidence is the main thing. I definitely started hitting the ball better during the playoffs last year. It was a fun atmosphere.”

While Brody’s bat has spoken loudest for him this season, it is hardly the only way he has contributed to Mill Creek’s cause this season.

After spending the last three seasons as the Hawks’ starting shortstop, Jones asked him to move to second base this year — in part to make room for newcomer Dustin Bonin, who is also having a solid season (.370, 4 HR, 17 RBIs, 16 SB), and also to help accommodate another new role for himself.

“Devin Bonin is a good shortstop,” Brody said. “And this is the first time I’ve started pitching. ... (Playing second) will save my arm a little bit, and it would be best for the team for me to play second base.”

Brody hasn’t been needed to pitch much — he has just five mound appearances so far this season.

However, when he has taken the hill, he’s come up clutch, having pitched four scoreless innings with a win and two saves in a late-inning role out of the bullpen.

“He’s so unselfish,” Jones said. “He’s a four-year starter. He’s played shortstop every year. And I say, ‘Hey buddy, I need you to move to second. It’ll make the team better.’ No problem.

“And I would hesitate to put him out there (on the mound) with a game on the line. ... He’s not a rah-rah kind of guy. He just kind of leads by example.”

And Brody is trying to set another example by his work in the classroom, where he carries a solid 3.3 grade point average.

He will attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., in the fall to continue his baseball career, though he will also working towards his career off the field as a pre-med major in hopes of going into sports medicine one day.

It’s a goal he’s had for many years — hoping to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Thaddeus Kopec, a retired physician — and reinforced by the doctors who helped him recover from his back injury two years ago.

“I went and saw a bunch of doctors and saw what they do,” Brody said. “It takes about eight to 10 years of study, but my grandfather’s a doctor, and I’d be willing to do it.”