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Hernando star awaits First Year Players Draft

By BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Dee Brown is a baseball player -- a 6-foot-1, 238-pound one -- who happens to cause some serious mayhem on a football field.

His long-term future secure as of Wednesday, when he signed a national letter of intent to play both sports at Central Florida, the Hernando senior's near future will be determined in 113 days during the First Year Players Draft.

If Brown is selected high enough by a major-league team, he easily could be led into a life-long dream: playing professional baseball. In that perfect-world scenario, he could play football at UCF and receive a free education.

But after watching friend and former teammate Chris Cole go undrafted last spring despite batting .520 with an .863 slugging percentage, Brown knows pro baseball is no certainty.

So for now, he says, he's not even worrying about it.

"Time will tell with that," Brown said. "I don't have much to say about it, so I just have to wait."

Hernando coach Tim Sims, who shakes his head when recalling last June's draft, said he thinks Cole going unselected has helped Brown prepare for any eventuality.

"(Brown) knows how it goes; Cole is a friend," Sims said. "On a private side, (Brown) knows how Chris took it when he was not drafted and his expectations may not be very high now."

Cole starts at first base for Florida State.

Some scouting services have questioned whether Brown's bulk could size him out of baseball. Team One Baseball, in an August report, said: "Though he runs okay, he doesn't offer much else defensively. Brown's arm is well below-average, and his range is fair."

Sims knows how illusory the process can be, but has come to trust Brown's talent. Sims is certain what he would do if he were making the decisions for a big-league organization.

"Is Dee Brown going to be drafted? I don't know," the coach said. "Would I draft him? Yes."

Part of the problem for Brown will be replicating a junior season in which he batted .515 with a school record 15 homers. The problem, Sims said -- perhaps trying to motivate Brown -- is he can't possibly improve those figures.

"It will not happen," Sims said. "If it does, I would be totally surprised. With he and Cole together, they were putting up some serious numbers. This year, a lot of folks will pitch him a little differently."

Brown didn't want to project any figures, but said, "I always go in with high expectations."

Brown said he didn't feel a lot of pressure during the intensive six-month recruiting season, that he "pretty much slid through." But Sims saw his slugger at batting practice Wednesday afternoon.

"If you had seen BP ...," Sims said. "Any kid would be tense going through what he did, and you could just see a kid who had a great weight lifted off his shoulders."

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