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Brown perseveres during pro baseball career
June 11, 2009
Over his 14-year career the team names scripted across Dee Brown's chest have changed 12 times.

Midway through a tumultuous part of that career, Brown grasped that it wasn't what was sewn on the front of his jersey that mattered, but rather the letters across the back - his last name.

"You may believe you are playing for the team on the front, but really you are playing for the name on the back, your last name," Brown said. "You are playing for yourself."

The shift signaled Brown's way of putting his situation in a perspective all his own.

A first round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 1996, Brown was a minor-league sensation. Long before becoming an Albuquerque Isotope, he was synonymous with the word "prospect."

He was drafted 14th overall at the age of 18, making his Major League debut by the time he was 20. Baseball America named him the Royals Minor League Player of the Year in 1999, the same year he started the first-ever Futures All-Star game at Fenway Park. By 2001, he found himself on Kansas City's Opening Day roster for the first time, playing in 106 games, his most in a single season at the big league level.

After spending 10 years in the Royals system, Brown, who signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in January, has spent the past three years with seven different franchises.

A list of injuries and some tough luck led Brown down an unforeseen path, but the Bronx, N.Y., native, stayed true to his talent, his ability, and himself.

"When you are young, you kind of expect to be in the Major Leagues. You expect to be great. You expect to make a lot of money. Then when it doesn't happen, it is a tough reality," he said.

"You realize it is a business and that was the hardest thing to swallow - the game within the game. It took me a long time, until I was about 27 or 28 to realize the business side. You have to form a shield and believe in yourself. It becomes a challenge, but it is what I have chosen."

While Brown has played in more minor league games (1,152) than Major League games (271), the Isotope says he has come to appreciate the things the game offers at each level, like traveling and meeting new people, in addition to the opportunity to simply still be playing.

"Deep down inside you have to know what you can and can't do, like anything in life. You learn to keep things in perspective."

The perspective Brown has adopted is that as long as there is a jersey with his last name on it, he will keep playing, despite the level.

"I am here for a reason. I could easily not be playing. I have friends making it in professional ball and those who lasted two or three years, so I see both aspects of that. Regardless of me switching from team to team, in the end I have to make the best of it.

I have battled injuries. That is why I am where I am. I have struggled a lot with my health in the big leagues, which always hurt my production. I am still here even though a lot of people didn't think I would still be here playing, but it has been fun, and I continue to have fun playing."

For Albuquerque, Brown has primarily played left field with occasional roles as the 'Topes designated hitter. His performance, like his personality, has become instantly entertaining.

The left-handed hitter has put on some remarkable shows at Isotopes Park, a place he admits he is fond of calling his home park.

"Since day one, since the first game, I felt really comfortable here," Brown noted of playing in Albuquerque. "I thought to myself I could really enjoy playing here all year. That is what I am trying to do, come out here and entertain the fans."

Since a 4-for-5 outing on May 8 against New Orleans, Brown has not batted below .280, collecting 10 of his 12 home runs since that game, three of which came in a single contest on May 22 when the Isotopes hosted the Salt Lake Bees, Brown's 2008 team.

The slugger has struck out just 11 times over 104 plate appearances since May 8 as well and finished the month with a .351 batting clip. His 41 RBI and .314 batting average through June 10 are third best on the team

The numbers are prospect-esque and reminiscent of Brown's early years.

And regardless of where they take him, Brown will keep them in an importantly discovered perspective.

The perspective of the name of the back of his uniform. His own.