COMPTON — It’s a long way from Frankfurt, Germany to Compton — 5,785 miles to be exact.
That’s how far recent Centennial High School graduate Pierre Dante Brown traveled to play the sport he loves the most — baseball.
The aspiring pitcher grew up in the central German city, where he was raised by his mother, a doctor. His father served in the U.S. Army.
Brown said others find it strange that he developed a passion for the American sport of baseball in the middle of a soccer-mad European country.
“I started playing when I was 11 years old,” Brown said. “I first learned about baseball through movies like ‘Hardball’ and the ‘The Bad News Bears.’ In Germany, everyone plays soccer and I wanted to be different.”
Soon after discovering America’s pastime, Brown’s mother signed him up to play for the Frankfurt Eagles club team. When he got older, he decided the best way to develop his skills would be to play in the United States.
“I like baseball because it’s more challenging than soccer in my eyes,” Brown said. “It’s harder to play. You have to be more focused on everything around you. It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination. The other thing I like about it is that there are no tie games and it can go on longer than 90 minutes.”
In September 2013, Brown moved to California and began attending Westchester High School where he played junior varsity baseball.
During that time, a family friend introduced him to Centennial High’s baseball coach Gerald Pickens, who convinced him to hone his talents in Compton. Pickens welcomed him into his home and in time he became a father figure to Brown.
“I like the way Mr. Pickens coaches and how he manages the team at Centennial,” Brown said. “He’s a great coach. He wants me to succeed and it means a lot to me that he brought me in.
“He’s kind of like my dad. He always watches over me. He’s all I’ve got here. My mom is back in Germany,” Brown added.
Pickens said he never hesitated to welcome Brown into his family.
“It might sound corny but I think it’s my calling to help people in any way I can,” Pickens said. “Pierre’s been living with me for a year and a half. It was rough at first but we adjusted and now we have a father-son relationship.”
He also praised Brown’s work ethic and commitment to academic achievement.
“He’s a good student and can be a professional at most anything he chooses to do,” Pickens added. “There’s a level of work I expect all of my players to achieve. He thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t. He subsequently came around and became our best pitcher this year.”
Brown said that besides the support he received from his coach, Centennial High School proved to be a welcoming learning environment that enabled him to be accepted into Cal State L.A., where he plans to major in either nursing or criminal justice while also trying out for the university’s baseball team.
“What most people might hear about Compton or my high school is the complete opposite,” Brown said. “Compton is a beautiful city. There are a lot of nice people here who want to help you.
“Centennial is a great school. The teachers are ready to help. My counselor [Sherrie] Moore was always motivating me to do well in school so I could go to college.”
With school over for the year, Brown currently plays for Compton’s local CBATS baseball team, but he said his time at Centennial High School will always stay with him and push him to succeed.
“I’ll always remember [Centennial],” he said. “I will miss my teammates. We were like brothers, like family. If anyone had a problem we’d let each other know we were on their side. Now I want to try to get to the next level in baseball.”