Friday, Oct 31, 2014
Hernando High

A legacy all his own

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Editor's note: This is the fourth story in a series highlighting Hernando High's 2013 Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

The questions about his dad followed Dee Brown throughout his high school and college careers. He just never allowed them to weigh him down.

Brown, who will turn 31 this month, now lives in Winter Park, helping troubled teenagers through social work while coaching baseball and raising his 5-year-old son, Javier.

After graduating from Hernando High in 2001, he went on to play football and baseball at the University of Central Florida before shifting to professional baseball.

Those accomplishments led to his induction this month into the Hernando High Sports Hall of Fame.

"When I found out, it was exciting," Brown said. "Growing up I'd hear about so many different athletes. You'd hear (fellow inductees) Tim Sims and Mike Walker. To be in the same class as them, it will be an honor.

"In high school I was absolutely blessed to have adults and coaches around to keep me out of trouble, make sure I had the appropriate grades, and give me the skillset and knowledge to perform at a high level. Not everyone is blessed with that."

His father, Jerome Brown, was a member of the first induction class three years ago, having been an All-American at the University of Miami and an All-Pro defensive tackle with the Philadelphia Eagles before his tragic passing in a 1992 car accident in Brooksville.

Dee, 9 years old at the time of his father's death, certainly couldn't hide from his lineage, but never used it as a measuring stick.

"Me and my dad played two different positions," Brown said. "I never tried to live up to expectations or tried to be better than him.

"It didn't put any weight on me. It opened up doors for people to take a look at me, but not to judge me based on him."

He initially began playing baseball and football around age 7, with Kennedy Park Little League and Hernando Youth League respectively.

At Parrott Middle School, he continued with football and added basketball to the mix.

With those Leopards, he said, he was averaging 30-40 points per game. Then the other kids started growing, while he stayed around 6-foot.

He stuck with hoops for three varsity seasons at Hernando, though he was "mainly just grabbing rebounds." By that point he knew his future lied elsewhere.

Though he said he initially chose to play JV football as a freshman, he only lasted three games on that level before the Leopards pulled him up to play running back and linebacker.

As a senior, he rushed for 1,030 yards and 14 touchdowns. Defensively, he recorded 130 tackles and three interceptions.

He similarly spent only a handful of games on JV in baseball, eventually joining the varsity club as a designated hitter. Though he had been a catcher and third baseman to that point, when a spot opened up in the outfield he jumped at the chance.

He would stay in the outfield for the remainder of his playing days, typically in left field.

By the time he left the Leopards, he was a three-time All-State selection on the diamond, including first team nods as a junior and senior.

During his senior year, the right-hander hit .489 with seven doubles, 12 home runs, 36 runs batted in, a .978 slugging percentage, .577 on-base percentage and 11 stolen bases.

"He is on a very short list, as far as baseball at Hernando High School, that are the best," said Sims, Hernando's current head baseball coach who also served in that capacity during Brown's run with the Leopards.

"He may very well be the best player ever to come out. Athletically speaking, he's on that short list, too. He very well may be the most athletic player in that Hall of Fame class.

"He hates to lose. His competitive nature and work ethic, and when you have that combination and someone who hates to lose and works to get better on a daily basis, that's a great combination to have."

Additionally, Brown was a two-time All-Academic selection for the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference.

In February 2001, Brown opted to sign with UCF, as the school was willing to allow him to participate in two sports.

Listed at 6-foot, 235 pounds as a freshman with the then Golden Knights, he played fullback and appeared in 10 games, rushing nine times for 53 yards and a touchdown.

He improved to 36 carries for 170 yards and two scores as a sophomore, and caught 12 passes for 167 yards with a touchdown.

However, he was never heavily featured in head coach Mike Kruczek's pass-oriented offense. After totaling 19 rushes for 80 yards and a touchdown, and 25 receptions for 162 yards and a score as a junior, he decided to fully commit to baseball.

Over four seasons playing baseball at UCF, Brown hit .344, clubbed 43 doubles, eight triples and 26 home runs to go with 229 RBI and 182 runs scored in 239 games.

He had a breakthrough season in terms of power in 2005, slugging 18 homers and driving in 71 runs, both collegiate career highs.

That attracted the attention of Major League Baseball scouts, to the point he was drafted in the 10th round (294th overall) by the Washington Nationals that June.

For four seasons Brown bounced around the lower levels of the Washington farm system, reaching as high as Double-A for 58 games with the Harrisburg Senators in 2007.

In 398 minor league games, he compiled a .282 average, 76 doubles, 13 triples, 33 home runs and 216 RBI.

Unable to advance up the organizational chain, he was granted a release by the Nationals in March 2009 and almost immediately went to independent baseball, with the Northern League's Winnipeg Goldeyes.

"I put my best foot forward and it didn't get me where I wanted to go, and it was time to turn elsewhere," Brown said.

He played for the Goldeyes from 2009-10, playing in 190 games while hitting .303 with 48 doubles, 20 homers and 93 RBI.

By the 2010 campaign he had already started to feel it was time to move on from baseball.

"Honestly, I was done. When I went to Winnipeg, mentally I was OK with it. Physically I was not OK with it," Brown said. "I knew I could still hit . but I couldn't sit here chasing down a dream until I was 50.

"I wouldn't change anything. I enjoyed every second. I got to see the country and even Canada. I met people who opened doors for me."

First he sought a job in law enforcement, then realized he wanted to impact young lives in a different way.

Working for the state, he tries to assist teenagers dealing with difficult situations.

"I'm trying to make sure their goals are still being accomplished, that they're going to college and staying out of trouble, things like that," Brown said. "State-wise, I'm trying to get them back with their families."

Meanwhile, he helps outs with 13U and 16U travel ball teams, with the Central Florida Diamond Force, staying within the game.

"I think I'll always miss it," Brown said. "I enjoyed hitting for so many years of my life. It's what I was known for. But do I regret any decisions in my life? No."

His mother and stepfather, Scotty and Lasonya Scrivens, still reside in Brooksville, though Brown said he doesn't make it back in town often.

He'll return for the Hall of Fame festivities next Thursday and Friday, celebrating his time in the Purple and Gold and reuniting with his old coach, among others, as he enjoys a new chapter in his life.

"Many of my fondest memories would be with Dee Brown, being on the field with him. We spent a lot of time together," Sims said. "I think what I'm most proud of, as a father now he's instilling the strength and character his mother and stepfather instilled in him in his little boy Javy."

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

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