BEREA, Ohio — Brandon Weeden's baseball epiphany came in June 2006, when he realized it was time to give up.
The stark reality almost hit him in the form of a barrel of a broken bat that came dangerously close as the ball sailed over the fence for a home run.
“That's for the birds,” Weeden said.
That night, the Cleveland Browns' future franchise quarterback was pitching for the High Desert Mavericks, an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals in the Class A California League. A second-round pick of the New York Yankees in 2002, the 6-foot-3½ right-hander was with his third organization, including a stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His fastball clocked 91-to-97-mph on the radar gun, but he didn't have the three pitches required to get out of A ball. His baseball fortunes were sinking, and his ERA was rising.
He was on the mound for the Mavericks in Adelanto, Calif., north of San Bernardino off Interstate 15, where Weeden said the wind always blew out to right center at 55 mph.
“It was the worst experience of my life,” Weeden recalled Friday. “I gave up three broken-bat home runs and my ERA was something astronomical, like 5.6. I said, ‘It's not going to happen. I'm not going to make it.'
“I didn't want to be a guy who spent 10 years in the minor leagues. I threw hard; I was blessed with a strong arm. You could throw 107 and they're still going to hit it. Those guys you see throwing every night have all three pitches. I didn't.”
Weeden came home and told his now-wife Melanie that he was thinking about going back to play college football.
“She said, ‘Are you crazy?' ” he said. “I'm like, ‘Naw, absolutely not, let's do it.' ”
Nearly six years later, the Browns are anointing the Oklahoma State quarterback who turns 29 on Oct. 14 as the 11th different opening-day starter in their 14-year reincarnation.
On Thursday, the Browns nabbed Weeden with the 22nd overall pick of the NFL Draft, spelling the end of the Colt McCoy era that lasted only 21 games in two seasons. They revamped their offense with Weeden and Alabama running back Trent Richardson, whom they traded up one spot to get.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur made no secret of the Browns' intentions for Weeden on Thursday night.
Asked how Weeden would help the point-starved team score touchdowns, Shurmur said, “If we don't hand it to Trent, then we are going to have Brandon throw it in there.”
After Weeden met the media Friday, there seemed little doubt about Weeden's maturity or his ability to command a news conference.