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DEE BROWN EMERGES FROM HIS FATHER'S SHADOW

[November 16th] -- When I was a kid rooting for the Washington Senators in the mid to late 1960's, baseball team's had a much different makeup. African Americans made up nearly 27% of team's rosters. Today, it's less than 9%. Why? Studies suggest that wearing a baseball jersey in a predominantly black community just didn't cut it. Basketball jerseys and expensive shoes were the ticket to fame and fortune outside of the neighborhood.

That's why the story of Dee Brown is so amazing.

Dee Brown, the Nationals' 10th round pick in the 2005 draft, is the son of former Miami Hurricane and Philadelphia Eagle defensive standout Jerome Brown, whose life was tragically cut short in a high-speed auto accident a decade ago. He went to Central Florida University on a football scholarship, though baseball was his favorite sport. Playing college football was a way to honor his father's memory. In his senior year of high school, Brown rushed for 1,001 yards and scored 11 touchdowns while batting .489 with 12 home runs.

The Orlando Sentinel named him the 12th best high school football prospect in Florida, and was heavily recruited by Georgia, Tennessee and Florida Sate before settling on Central Florida (he preferred their baseball program). In 2002, his freshman year at Central Florida, Brown rushed for 67 yards against Toledo and amassed another 66 yards receiving as the team's starting fullback. But though he was a great football player, he was even better on the diamond. He won the Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year Award, led the Knights in hits (85), RBIs (56) and total bases (111), and finished second in batting average (.397). By the time he graduated, Brown set countless records for the UCF baseball team. He finished his career batting .360 with 26 home runs and 195 RBI's. With his athletic pedigree and gaudy collegiate statistics, most thought that Brown would be drafted in the first three rounds of the 2005 draft.

He ended up being taken in the 10th round by the Nationals, the 294th player taken.

Scouts felt that Brown's game wasn't as polished as it should have been, probably due to his playing two sports for so many years. But while scouts may have seen flaws in Brown's "game," the pitchers in the New York - Penn league had a hard time finding them. Brown batted .283-8-32 in just 184 at-bats for the Vermont Expos in 2005. He began the 2006 season at Savannah, hitting .278-6-51 before getting a late season call-up to Potomac, where he did even better. He ended the season a combined .283-10-75, and will certainly begin 2007 at 'AA' Harrisburg.

For all of his sudden success in the professional ranks, Brown remains a modest man. "I'm your one day at a time type person," he said. "I'm still learning every day. I don't think I'm better than anybody...I'm a simple person." He says his personality has been formed by his family's religious background. His grandfather, David Stewart Sr. was a Baptist minister just like his father before him. His uncle, David Stewart Jr. is also a minister. Two more of his uncles are ministers and two of his aunts are also missionaries. Brown, true to his family's beliefs, prays every night before going to bed, though admits he doesn't get to church as often as he'd like.

Dee Brown's tenure with the Nationals has been a bit confusing. In 2005, a different Dee Brown played in the Nationals' minor league system for a year before returning to the Royals' organization. But now that we know who he is, one thing is for certain. Dee Brown has a bright future in Washington. If he continues to improve at his present pace, he could be ready for a "cup of coffiee" sometime in 2008. He can play both left and right field -- he's a good fielder, but still has a lot to learn. At 5'11", 230 lbs, he has a build that may allow him to develop into a real power hitter. Running backs, however, are not slow. He stole 14 bases last year in 19 attempts.

Perhaps Dee Brown will be the Nationals first "diamond in the rough," a late round draft pick that "made it." Brown loves the game of baseball, and in time, Washington just may love Dee Brown. As an African American, Brown has the opportunity to make a difference in Washington's black community. As near as I can figure, only two African Americans, Chris Booker and Nook Logan, were on the team's roster at the end of last season. The city needs blacks heroes.

Good luck, Dee Brown. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Stanton: Third time's the charm? Nah, it couldn't be, could it? Mike Stanton said on Wednesday that he wouldn't mind coming back to the Nationals for a third stint in 2007. "I had a good time in Washington," said Stanton, who had a 4.47 ERA with the Nationals last season. "They have a good bunch of young kids there. It was fun playing there. At this point in my career, you don't rule out anything or anyone. With the background that I have with the Nationals, and with Jim, anything is possible." Manny Acta says he wants at least two lefty relievers in the bullpen, and with only Micah Bowie (himself a free agent) as the only remaining southpaw, Stanton just might be back.

Page Returning to D.C. Mitchell Page, only a couple of weeks since being demoted to roving minor league hitting instructor, is back in D.C. as Manny Acta's hitting coach. Jim Bowden said that he moved Page to keep him with the team, and that he always wanted the new manager to choose his coaches. Page said that some positive comments by assistant G.M. Bob Boone sealed the deal.


Comments:
I don't think that Brown is a "surprise" anymore. After his first year in Vermont, I think most of the Nationals' braintrust were expecting a lot from Brown.
 
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