By Chuck Curti
Updated: February 7, 2007
PIKESVILLE, Md. — Thoughts of the Virgin Islands usually conjure images of turquoise-blue waters and pristine white-sand beaches. It’s a place to kick back, a place to relax.
But the residents of the USVI are a serious people. Benedict College’s Deshaun Brooks, a native of St. Thomas , said that when Virgin Islanders find a field in which they excel, they throw their whole being into the endeavor.
In a place where poverty is as prevalent as beauty, those skills could be a ticket off the island. Brooks has found his field of expertise: the baseball field. Baseball, as it turns out, is extremely popular in the Virgin Islands .
“If I were to compare the attitudes about baseball of kids in the U.S. Virgin Islands to kids from the U.S. , the kids from the Virgin Islands are much more serious,” said Benedict baseball coach Derrick Johnson, who has coached other players from the USVI.
Brooks takes it a step further. “We (Virgin Islanders) live baseball.”
Not only does Brooks live baseball, he hopes to make a living at it. Judging by the numbers he has put up at Benedict, playing professionally might not be just a pipe dream.
Brooks enters his senior season trying to follow up a 2006 performance in which he posted some eye-popping numbers and earned SIAC Player of the Year honors.
He hit .438 with NCAA Division II highs of 18 homers and 80 RBIs. He also compiled a 5-2 record as a pitcher, striking out 43 and giving up no home runs in 42.2 innings.
Johnson said Brooks’ fastball has topped out at 94 mph.
In the field, Brooks can play both corners. He committed only eight errors in 150 total chances playing primarily at third base last season.
“He’s a vaccuum cleaner over at third base,” said Johnson. Brooks is off to a good start in 2007, going 3 for 4 over two games in a season-opening doubleheader sweep of Bluefield State .
Brooks doubled twice in the opener, then was walked intentionally three times in the second game. But you won’t ever catch the affable Brooks boasting about his numbers.
“That’s just not me,” said Brooks, who also includes a 3.0 grade point average in computer engineering among his impressive numbers. “I don’t brag on myself. I just do what I do on the field. I don’t like to talk about what I do. I like to show it.”
Johsnon, on the other hand, isn’t shy about talking up his star player. “He’s got every attribute you’d want in a baseball player except the speed,” said Johnson. “Quite honestly, I don’t think he’s gotten the attention that he deserves or that he’s earned.”
There is one big number on Brooks’ stat sheet that has continued to go down: his weight. When Brooks arrived at Benedict from North Central Missouri College , he weighed more than 260 pounds.
Brooks attributes a dislocated knee he suffered in juco, in part, to the excess weight he was carrying on his 6-foot-4 frame. He’s down to 230 and said he’s trying to shed another 10 pounds.
“It’s just diet and exercise … and I stopped eating after 8 o’clock (p.m.),” said Brooks. “It helps me a lot. I can do what I do and not get tired. I have a lot of talent, and I don’t want it to go to waste.”
The best part of Brooks’ weight loss is that he has managed to maintain his power. Johnson attributes that to Brooks’ exceptionally quick hands.
“He really doesn’t even have a stride. His hands are so quick and he generates so much bat speed. He can hit the ball to all fields.”
Brooks also relies on his quickness in the field. He hopes to play third base at the next level, another reason for his desire to lose weight.
“I have quick reflexes and I know how to read the ball off the bat,” said Brooks.
In getting a read on the 2007 season, Brooks is confident that Benedict can contend for the SIAC title. He noted that there are plenty of talented freshman pushing him and the other upperclassmen, which, he said, will make everyone better in the long run.
Plus, Benedict has a score to settle with Morehouse College . Morehouse has beaten Benedict in the SIAC tournament the last two years, and Brooks said he and the rest of the Tigers want to do something about that.