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Rays' top pick: 'This is for us'

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By GARY SHELTON

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001


The celebration is still not over. The joy is not yet complete.

By now, Dewon Brazelton has completed his leap into the air. He has smiled until his face ached, and he has laughed till his throat was sore. He has talked, thewordsrunningtogetherlikethis, to everyone who happened to wind up on the other end of the phone.

He has thanked his mothers, all three of them, and he has done interviews without end. He has had his hand shaken, his back slapped and his wellness wished for. He has assured people, over and again, that no matter what they thought, being drafted by the Rays is a good thing, a great thing, the best of all possible things.

This is what happens when a kid's dreams survive against the odds of them coming true. The day becomes a holiday, and the place becomes a party and the world is without limits. Dewon is on his way. How in the world can that not make you feel good?

For Dewon Brazelton, however, the emotions of being the No. 3 pick in Tuesday's draft will not be complete until today, maybe tomorrow, when he enters a familiar room full of stuffed animals and musical toys in the Bedford County Nursing Home in Shelbyville, Tenn.

Only then, when Brazelton approaches the silent silhouette in the bed, when he sees the familiar face of his brother, Fewon, turn toward him, when the eyes brighten and the smile widens the way they always do, will the celebration be complete.

They will sit together, brothers, twins. Dewon will talk about the Rays, and how that is where he wanted to go, and about how quickly teams can go from bad to good. He will talk about how much in a hurry he is to get to the big leagues. He will talk about money and how he wants to buy an Escalade.

Then Dewon will lean forward and whisper: "This is for us."

Somehow, Fewon will understand what he is saying. Somehow, one brother's happiness will penetrate the private world of the other and spread until he feels it, too.

Dewon Brazelton believes this. He doesn't care if you do. The first thing you need to know about Dewon is that he's stubborn about certain things, including the cognition of his brother. "He knows what I'm saying," Dewon said. "He knows how I'm feeling."

Theirs is a story that will break your heart and lift it at the same time. One brother, Dewon, seems to have all the gifts heaven can bestow; the other has cerebral palsy. Dewon is 6 feet 4, 215 pounds, and he throws fire. Fewon is 6-4, 90 pounds and cannot walk, talk or see. Dewon is on his way to becoming a major-league pitcher. Fewon cannot raise his hands.

"He's my brother," Dewon said. "I love him to death. It doesn't matter to him if I've won or if I've lost, if I throw 95 miles an hour or 72, if I have any money or if I'm broke. A lot of people love you for who you are, but in the back of their minds, they know if you're successful or not. Fewon doesn't care. He's my brother. He loves me. It's as simple as that."

Monalisa Brazelton, who was two weeks out of high school when she gave birth to them, talks of the relationship between her sons as if it is something magical. In a way, perhaps it is.

"It's wonderful to see," she said. "Fewon used to not respond to anyone. But he responds to Dewon's voice. Dewon can get him laughing. Who is to say that Fewon can't understand him?"

Perhaps that is why Dewon, 20, never saw all the obstacles in front of him. His father had disappeared. His mother worked two jobs and had her own problems to overcome. He called four places home, and Diane Darlington and Debbie Barnett housed him enough for him to refer to both as his mother.

"He had about a thousand reasons to become a bad kid, and he didn't," Rays scout Skip Bundy said. "I know when he was in high school, he would go to school, go home and feed his brother, go to baseball practice, and then go to work at McDonald's. And he still maintained his school work."

Despite the obstacles, Dewon saw himself as the fortunate son. When he was younger, there were times he would imagine the two of them talking in the womb: "I would imagine him saying, "I know how I'm going to be, so you take my food and oxygen, too. You're going to need it.'

"Every day I walk onto the field, I know it could have been me. I would love to be able to trade with (Fewon) on a day-to-day basis: "Okay, you be me today, and I'll be you.' Because of that, I'm probably more thankful for my success than anyone else out there."

Perhaps that is also why Dewon always played sports as if he had an advantage. As a high school quarterback, he was good enough for Tennessee and Alabama to scout him. As a basketball player, he was a leaper, someone who would rather dunk it than shoot it. A knee injury ended both those dreams. But not even an arm injury, and the resulting Tommy John surgery, could stop him as a pitcher.

Maybe it doesn't mean anything. And maybe it means everything. You have to like what the Rays bought into Tuesday. The fastball. The changeup. The character.

The Rays have Dewon.

Dewon has Fewon.

Together, how can they fail?

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