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Youngest Drew takes his turn

Stephen, a freshman shortstop for Florida State, wants nothing to do with avoiding his brother's legacy.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 19, 2002


Even at the tender age of 12 years old, Stephen Drew proudly would pull on a Florida State baseball jersey and cap, dash into the outfield at Dick Howser Stadium and shag fly balls.

So, would anybody question which school he'd ultimately choose to attend six years later?

When that time came, his father did.

"Are you sure?" David Drew asked his youngest.

His reservation had nothing to do with how FSU coach Mike Martin and his program compared with others. It had everything to do with how his youngest son would be inevitably and incessantly compared with his oldest boy, J.D., who from 1995-97 rewrote the FSU record book and now plays for the St. Louis Cardinals.

"Do you really understand what you're stepping into if you go to Florida State?" the elder Drew asked again. "Do you really understand that J.D. is like an icon to those fans? They still love him to death. Are you sure you want to go into that situation?"

"Daddy. That's what I want to do," said Stephen, an 11th-round draft pick of Pittsburgh who subsequently rejected a $1.2-million offer in order to become the next Drew at FSU.

He then underscored how fiercely competitive he's always been with brothers J.D., 26, and Tim, 23, a pitcher who split time between Cleveland and the Indians' Triple-A affiliate the past couple of years:

"I'm going to go down there and beat all his records," said Stephen, 19, laughing.

He's off to a good start.

Entering Saturday night's game at No. 1 Clemson, an appropriate prelude to the ACC tournament at Florida Power Park Tuesday-Sunday, the leadoff hitting, smooth-fielding shortstop led the Seminoles in batting average (.388), was second in homers (11), including a 13th-inning winner against Miami and a ninth-inning winner against Maryland, and was fourth in RBIs (42).

Drew's numbers likely would be even more eye-popping had he not broken a bone in his left foot rounding first base in early February and missed the next 28 games.

"He's really gotten it done," said Martin, adding that Drew will get his vote for freshman of the year in the league even with just half a season. "He's not been intimidated by any situation he's faced."

Practice, Coach. Practice.

* * *

Since before he can remember, Stephen's been in one demanding situation after another.

By choice.

"Stephen would be in his diaper at 3 years old playing baseball with his brothers," his father said. "J.D. would be screaming at him, "I told you to stay at his base. I told you to do this.' "

He listened and learned.

He had to if he hoped to compete.

"J.D. taught me how to hit left-handed," said Stephen, who unlike his eldest sibling throws right-handed. "Tim was the one always throwing to us and you didn't get anything right down the middle. He'd come after us."

With a 94 mph fastball and the kind of stuff that prompted Cleveland to select him in the first round (28th overall) of the 1997 draft. He would have followed J.D. at FSU had he not signed.

"We never took it easy on him," Tim said. "You see some kids being babied all the time. But that's not what's going to help them get to the next level. I think Stephen's really benefited from that. And he works hard; harder than anybody I've seen for as young as he is."

* * *

In appearance and build, Stephen's the splitting image of J.D. at that age. Not surprisingly, their stances and swings are virtually identical. But he would have been wise to emulate J.D. even if he weren't related.

The oldest Drew sibling, a three-time All-American at FSU, broke 17 school records. He was the first player to hit three homers in a College World Series game and he was the first -- and only -- player to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season. In his final season, 1997, he won the Golden Spikes Award, college baseball's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Philadelphia drafted him second overall that year, but he refused to sign and St. Louis took him with the fifth pick in 1998.

"J.D. is the most heralded baseball player ever to come out of Florida State and that says a lot," Martin said. "But I don't want Stephen to feel like he's got to fill those shoes."

So, he politely refuses to compare the Drews.

But most everyone else has had that base covered for a long time. Throughout Little League and high school, Stephen's exploits were measured in the context of what J.D. and Tim did before him.

"That's got to be hard to live up to J.D. and Tim," said Zane Green, a sophomore outfielder at Clemson and former teammate of Drew's at Lowdnes (Ga.) County High. "But he never let that get to him. He heard people talk about it, how he was going to be best out of all of them, and it went right over his head."

Through it all, Stephen has maintained a strong sense of self and an equally strong sense that he could forge with the fans and media his own identity -- something beyond simply being J.D.'s and Tim's baby brother.

"I'm my own person," said Stephen, who might be a bit more emotional than the even-keeled J.D. but not as apt as J.D. is when it comes to reading newspaper or Internet articles. "You can't let (comparisons) bother you. J.D. and Tim are good brothers. We have a lot of fun. We always told each other, no matter what, we're going to just try to do our best."

That's why he never questioned his college decision.

"Some challenges you're going to have to face someday, so it might as well be now," he said. "Right now, I'm having fun here and we're trying to win a College World Series."

"Winning," J.D. told the Associated Press recently, "seems to follow him everywhere."

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