“The wide receiver was all arms and legs and lean muscle fiber. Beneath a brilliant Florida sky, he guided his lanky frame into what looked like a skinny post pattern, hauling in the pass from Phillies strength coach Dong Lien somewhere around the 30-yard line.
The game was Frisbee, and the football grid was still a week away from appearing on top of the outfield grass. Yet even in this casually paced pregame routine – kind of like fetch for grown men – there was evidence of what could have been.
Later on, Domonic Brown laughed when asked if he had caught himself in a daydream, perhaps going over the middle in the Orange Bowl instead of getting ready for that night’s game against the Marlins.
“I’m just out there getting loose,” he said. “Getting my work in.”
Not long ago – 5 years, in fact – Brown thought he would be doing something far different in South Florida. After a junior season in which he caught nine touchdowns and tallied 718 yards for Pasco High in tiny Dade City, Fla., the 6-5 wide receiver was prepared to accept a scholarship to play football at the University of Miami, where he planned to follow in the footsteps of Hurricanes greats like Michael Irvin and Santana Moss. During the summer of 2005, he was ranked by Rivals.com as one of the top 250 recruits in the nation, and most Florida-centric publications had him ranked among the top 20 players in the state. He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, and possessed a frame tailor-made for the NFL.
“As a football player, he was the real deal,” said Dale Caparaso, who coached Brown through his junior season at Pasco. “Most of the schools that recruited him thought he could play at the highest level. When U of M came and Florida State came, they thought he had the potential to play at the elite level.”
Baseball scouts felt the same way. At the time, Brown was one of the top pitchers in the Tampa Bay area, going 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA while pitching Pasco to the state semifinals. He tried out for Team USA’s junior national team and participated in one of the country’s premier scouting showcases in Atlanta. Brown always assumed his future, at least the one on the baseball field, depended on his ability to pitch.
“We knew he was pretty special back then,” Caparaso said. “He was a great pitcher. Most people thought that was where he was going to end up in the big leagues.”
But the Phillies thought he had the tools to be a big-league outfielder, and in June 2006 they used a 20th-round draft pick, hoping he would forgo football and prove them right.
By that point, Brown had moved to Georgia, where he played both baseball and football his senior year. The University of Miami was willing to let him play both football and baseball, an option he seriously considered in the aftermath of the draft.”
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