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Grading Gary Brown’s ‘American Ninja Warrior’ appearance

How did the champ do?

American Ninja Warrior - Season 12 Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

A few weeks ago, former San Francisco Giants outfielder Gary Brown appeared as a contestant on the obstacle course game show American Ninja Warrior.

He did well! Not well enough, mind you ... but well.

Naturally we need to grade it, element by element. Baseball players get judged on many different baseball skills, so American Ninja Warriors should be judged on many different American Ninja Warrior skills. If you want to watch it in it’s entirety before delving into the grades, now’s your chance:

Now, on to same grading. I’m eschewing the 20-80 scale of baseball grading for a standard 0-10 scale, which probably falls under the umbrella of “rating” not “grading,” but you know what? We’re off track here.


Brown opts for a rather played-out intro, imitating a baseball player hitting a home run. On the one hand, super cliche. On the other hand, what else is he supposed to do? Mime taking ball two?

Brown earns a few points for playing it out with the Sandlot-style bat point, and he earns a bunch of points for the spectacular bat flip. He took the obvious route and made it great.

Grade: 9.5/10

Family appearance

Brown’s family was not present, presumably because this season was filmed during the coronavirus pandemic, and guests probably weren’t allowed. But his wife, mother-in-law, and children supported him virtually, and .... look, I’m always going to give high marks to the family shots. It’s just how it goes.

A perfect 10 is sealed by Brown’s unfiltered happiness, and the adorable failed attempts at blowing kisses by his children.

Grade: 10/10

Friend support

Brown pulled the classic “used to be a professional athlete for a really successful team” card and also got Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford to be in virtual attendance. Brown was drafted in 2010 (fun fact: the Giants also drafted Bruce Bochy’s son, Brett Bochy, and NFL Pro Bowler Golden Tate that year), and came up through the system with a lot of notable Giants. He remains close friends with many of them, including Crawford.

Crawford was enthusiastic, super into the whole ordeal, and rocked his Giants hat. The only thing missing was a webcam and internet connection that were made post-2005.

Grade: 11/10

Uphill floaty rock things

I’m sure there’s an actual name for this obstacle, but baseball is a sport with TOOTBLANs and TINSTAPPs, so to hell with actual names.

Brown looks balanced the whole way through, and is never in danger. He finishes the obstacle on his feet, which gives him an advantage going into the next obstacle. He definitely could have gone faster, but playing it safe is smart.

Grade: 8/10

Swinging detached loop

This obstacle looks equal parts super fun and literally impossible. But apparently nothing is impossible for Gary Brown. Or, you know ... other American Ninja Warrior contestants.

Brown handles the first transfer smoothly, but gets himself into a little bit of a pickle by landing at an angle. He’s then twisted, and it’s not easy to get untwisted in that situation.

But Brown uses his hips well and gets himself sorted out.

Grade: 8.5/10

Hexagonal wheels that spin in multiple dimensions

Brown really gets in his element for this obstacle and makes something that I can only imagine is hilariously difficult look quite easy.

Grade: 9.5/10

Gun draw

Before the next obstacle, Brown’s friend whips out a speed gun to see just how fast a professional athlete can run through an obstacle. I gotta say, with those mechanics, this guy could easily star alongside Tom Cruise in a movie with a $100 million budget, of which $90 million is spent on stunts and special effects.

Grade: 8.5/10

Uneven ball running

Now this looks fun, and I’ll be honest: if there was an indoor park that just had this obstacle and you could pay an admission price and just spend all day running across these suspended yoga balls at varying heights, I would inquire about a season pass.

Brown sticks the landing about as well as Buster Posey diving into third, but he gets across those things quickly.

Grade: 9/10


At one point the broadcasters got into the baseball gimmick with a safe signal, at which point Brown showed them how it’s really done.

Now I’m not trying to tell you how to spend your time, but if you wanted to spend your Friday creating an online petition to have Rob Drake or Joe West replaced by Gary Brown, I would sign it and share it on all my social platforms.

Grade: 9.5/10

Deceptively difficult hanging rectangles

And here’s where Brown’s dreams of being crowed the greatest obstacle course runner of our time come crashing down. He starts this obstacle off excellently, displaying some otherworldly upper-body strength (smart call rocking the tank top, Gary; if my shoulders looked like that I’d want people to see them, too).

But he can’t find the grip halfway through, and falls to the water in, frankly, unexciting fashion.

Grade: 5.5/10

Baseball quips

These game shows are masterful at tying in as many references as possible. In less than two-and-a-half minutes, the broadcasters managed to do the following:

  • Compliment Brown’s swing
  • Mention that Crawford is an All-Star
  • Note that, “running the bases is a lot different than running a Ninja course”
  • Mention that hips are used for generating power in hitting as well as in the hoop obstacle
  • Describe him at one point as “a bit outside”
  • Mention that he “avoided a strikeout”
  • After the second obstacle, notedthat he “turned two”
  • Reference “chin music” (this one really impressed me)
  • Call the start of the third obstacle the “top of the third”
  • Exclaim that, “this rookie is knocking it out of the park”
  • Mention that he set the record for stolen bases at Cal State Fullerton
  • Tell him that he’s “safe”
  • Point out that a baseball scout’s job is to “find talented athletes,” which was rather revelatory I must say
  • Note that he has a World Series ring
  • Say that he’s “going, going, gone — he strikes out!” when Brown fell; kind of mixing our baseball metaphors, but whatever

Again, in less than two-and-a-half minutes. Gotta marvel at that efficiency.

Grade: 9/10

All things considered, Brown’s appearance on American Ninja Warrior earns a final grade of “Better than Barry Zito on The Masked Singer.

Way to go, Gary.