In a lineup loaded with stars like clutch slugger Evan Giordano, speedster Evan Fox and bat-to-ball wizard Shane Paradine, it may be easy to be overlooked. However, outfielder Matt Brown-Eiring has made quite a name for himself amongst these big bats and is just as key to the Stony Brook baseball team’s success as anybody.
The First Team All-America East (AE) selection from a year ago has proven himself to be a five-tool player for a program with championship pedigree and expectations.
For many, Brown-Eiring’s breakout 2022 may have come out of nowhere. As a freshman in 2021, he only played in 13 games with five starts, batting just .154 (4-for-26). He made no impact on defense either, playing just three games at third base and two in right field.
The ensuing offseason saw the loss of three regulars in the starting lineup, forcing Brown-Eiring to step into a bigger role. Luckily for Stony Brook, he did just that.
As the regular starting left fielder in 2022, he started 50 of the team’s 52 games and slashed .294/.368/.552. Batting behind the league MVP in Giordano, Brown-Eiring led the team with 50 RBIs. He also led the Seawolves with 16 doubles and 28 extra-base hits. He slugged 10 home runs, which was second on the club to only Giordano, who hit 13.
Brown-Eiring’s monstrous sophomore year came after a disastrous freshman year. Arriving on campus during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown-Eiring was locked in a dorm room with five other teammates that he did not know before then.
All he was allowed to do was stare at his computer monitor to attend his classes and practice baseball. Unfortunately for Brown-Eiring, the very thing he was brought here to do was not going well.
Isolation from the real world and struggles at baseball practice weighed heavily on Brown-Eiring. He considered leaving it all behind on several different occasions that year.
“My first year here was probably the hardest I’ve ever had it,” Brown-Eiring said in an interview with The Statesman. “I was probably close like five times just going to Coach’s office and being like ‘I don’t want to play anymore.’”
Neither his mental fortitude nor his physical attributes were where they needed to be. Brown-Eiring was not nearly as fast as he is today, as he came into Stony Brook running just a 7.30-second 60-yard dash. He did not lift weights or exercise as frequently during his younger days at Connetquot High School, leading to him being much slimmer than he is today.
His position coming out of high school created another dilemma for him. A third baseman and pitcher in high school, Brown-Eiring had given up pitching after high school. As for third base, that role belonged to Giordano. Being skinnier, slower and lacking versatility, Brown-Eiring was at a huge disadvantage for playing time.
He was disappointed by the lack of playing time, but got to sit back and learn from older stars like Chris Hamilton and John Tuccillo. Guided by the leadership of his elder teammates, Brown-Eiring was able to finish a rough freshman year with a bang.
With the regular season title already locked up, Brown-Eiring started in right field for the 2021 regular season finale at Binghamton. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the third inning, Brown-Eiring smashed a three-run homer to right field to give Stony Brook a lead it would never look back from. It was the first home run of his NCAA career and it got his teammates riled up.
It was a wild moment for the then-freshman, as he did not even know the ball cleared the wall until assistant coach Jim Martin told him while he was running.
“I was just trying to get as many bags as I could to show the coaches that I could play,” Brown-Eiring said. “I get to second and Coach Martin was like ‘You hit a home run.’ I looked back and it was gone, and I went numb. That was the best feeling in the world.”
Brown-Eiring was able to take that positive momentum into his summer 2021 season. While playing for the South Shore Clippers of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, Brown-Eiring utilized what he had learned from his coaches and teammates and put it to good use. He posted a .333/.375/.540 slash line with four doubles, four home runs and a team-leading 25 RBIs.
“During summer ball, I kind of started to open things up,” Brown-Eiring said. “I started to figure it out. I became a lot more relaxed. I was ready to play, I had an approach and I executed.”
After his massive summer campaign, Brown-Eiring officially began to make a full-time conversion into the corner outfield. To help him make the transition, he transformed his body.
Brown-Eiring challenged himself in both the kitchen and the weight room and tacked on muscle. He also worked on his speed and saw results. He now runs a 6.80 60-yard dash, which is a half-second faster than his recorded time as a freshman.
Improving his physical intangibles helped him overcome some mental hurdles, making his move to the outfield easier.
“When I filled out and started to understand lifting, running, conditioning and eating right, I unlocked an ability I never knew I had,” Brown-Eiring said. “It made me quicker and faster. That’s why when I transitioned into the outfield, I worked so much harder on reading the ball and running good routes. Two years ago, I couldn’t have done that.”
Once the fall 2021 semester began, Brown-Eiring’s development as a player had become a top priority for head coach Matt Senk. He had a meeting with Brown-Eiring, who was now a sophomore and primed to compete for a starting spot in Stony Brook’s lineup.
During the sit-down between the two, Senk gave Brown-Eiring his expectations for him for that year.
“He said that they needed to keep my mental state consistent,” Brown-Eiring said. “He was like ‘It can’t come in waves; we need you to be good at all times. It’s fine if you fail. You just need to learn to accept it. You’re not a freshman anymore, you need to establish yourself and be good.’”
Along with the hard work that Brown-Eiring put into his body, Senk’s message set his breakout season into motion. After a positive offseason, he earned a spot in the starting lineup for the 2022 Stony Brook baseball team. On opening night, he started in left field and batted sixth.
He had an up-and-down first five weeks of the 2022 season before finally hitting his stride. That March, his batting average jumped as high as .283 and as low as .238. After going 0-for-3 with three walks in a series-opening loss to Maine, Brown-Eiring entered game two of the crucial series batting just .247.
Then came March 26, 2022, when Brown-Eiring became the player he is today.
Already 2-for-4 on the day, Brown-Eiring stepped to the plate with a runner on first and Stony Brook leading 4-1 in the top of the eighth inning. Facing Maine relief pitcher Colton Carson, Brown-Eiring fell behind 0-2 before working a full count. After that, he fouled off the next four pitches to stay alive. Finally, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Brown-Eiring launched an opposite-field two-run homer to put the game away.
After that at-bat, Senk pulled him aside and gave him the words he needed to hear.
“He pulled me aside and he said that’s who I am,” Brown-Eiring said. “He said ‘That’s what you do, that’s what you need to continue to do. I’m so proud of you.’ Every piece of stress literally fell off of me. From there on, I just went up there with confidence.
“When I’m confident, I go up there and I say that I’m the best player on the field. Even when I’m not the best one out there, I still think I’m the guy.”
From that point forward, Brown-Eiring was one of the best hitters in the AE. He wound up raising his batting average as high as .314. He wound up finishing the year with the fourth-most RBIs in the conference.
While he was raking at the plate, he also flashed the leather with ease. The time he spent learning how to play the outfield paid off. He played a perfect corner outfield, posting a 1.000 fielding percentage on 96 chances. He made several highlight-reel diving catches throughout the season, putting his athleticism on full display. He also picked up a pair of outfield assists.
However, due to a wrist injury suffered during the penultimate series of the season, Brown-Eiring’s average dipped below .300. He remains hard on himself because of that.
“I still don’t think I had a good enough year last year,” Brown-Eiring said. “Should’ve hit .320.”
While his average was dipping during the final weekend of the season, Brown-Eiring was still able to hit his 10th home run. Earlier that game, teammate Derek Yalon had gone deep to left-center field, forming a special moment for the two outfielders.
Brown-Eiring and Yalon went to high school together and played baseball alongside one another from a young age. The two were lifelong friends way before they were college teammates. Despite their long history, that day saw the first time the two had ever homered in the same game. The tandem did it again against William & Mary last Friday.
“It’s something out of a storybook to grow up with someone like Derek and still be playing with him,” Brown-Eiring said. “There was just something about being like brothers and hitting home runs in the same game. It was crazy.”
Long-term relationships like that are important to who Brown-Eiring is off the field. After all, his love for his family was what helped him make the decision to commit to Stony Brook.
“I’m a big family-oriented person,” Brown-Eiring said. “I was kind of a homebody without knowing. I had some things at home that were going on … I couldn’t leave my mom. I knew I had to stay here. My parents can be at like 75 percent of my games — why would I not go?”
As important as his parents are to him, his grandfather was just as integral to making him the person he is now.
“My mom was a single mom, my dad was a single dad, and it was tough for both of them to balance out baseball and school,” Brown-Eiring said. “My grandpa took the biggest load out of everyone; he kept me going. He threw to me in the backyard every day. I would say he was the most crucial to my development other than my parents.”
After going from bench-warming third baseman to First Team All-Conference outfielder, Brown-Eiring significantly raised the bar for himself. Before this season, he was named to the 2023 Preseason All-CAA Baseball Team.
Brown-Eiring is off to an inconsistent start this year, one reminiscent of his 2022 season. However, he is currently on a hot streak, having hit safely in eight of the last nine games. Since March 28, Brown-Eiring is 12-for-32 with three doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs and six runs scored. He has also walked five times, been hit by three pitches and hit one sacrifice fly.
Perhaps this streak is a sign of things to come for the Seawolves’ star left fielder.