Monday, April 14, 2008

Article on former Brewers draft pick & brother of Rickie, Jemile Weeks

With Weeks in the lineup, Miami is once again a CWS contender

By Heather Dinich

March 18, 2008

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Three years ago, Jemile Weeks walked slowly across campus at the University of Miami, prolonging his arrival at his first class as a freshman. The small but speedy second baseman couldn't quite cross the threshold into the classroom -- not yet.

His father, Richard, was in the midst of negotiating Jemile's value with the Milwaukee Brewers. Once his son actually stepped into class, all deals were off.

Jemile Weeks shined during his first trip to the NCAA tournament in 2006.

Weeks' cell phone rang. It was his dad, with an update.

"I said, 'Well, Jemile, they went from 850 [thousand] to 855,'" Richard Weeks recalled. "It's not moving where we want.'"

"Well, should I go to class?" Jemile asked.

"No, not yet, not yet," Richard said. "We're still at the table. I'll call you back."

Jemile Weeks, who was drafted out of high school by Milwaukee in the eighth round, likely would have gone had the Brewers upped the ante to $1 million.

Instead, he went to class.

At 18, Jemile turned down mega money and the opportunity to join his older brother, Rickie Weeks, who is currently the Brewers' second baseman. Skipping college for a lucrative baseball contract is a decision many elite high school baseball players make, but for Weeks, the favorable odds of winning a College World Series at Miami and time to further develop as a player outweighed Milwaukee's offer and the chance to play with his brother.

"My family, they knew I was going to make the right decision, whichever decision I made," Weeks said. "My brother told me I've got two great choices in front of me. Do what you feel is best."

Now, with Weeks in the lineup as a junior, the No. 6-ranked Hurricanes (13-2, 5-1 ACC) have a legitimate shot to return to Omaha and win it all. For Weeks, who intends to pursue his major league dream again after this season, it's probably his last chance at the title.

"This year, the way we started off, if we can stay consistent, I think this team can go real far and maybe win a national championship," Weeks said. "I want to be a part of that. That was one of the biggest things that influenced me to come here. … I wanted to be a part of a great team, and I thought Miami was that place."


By choosing Miami, Jemile wound up where his brother wanted to go.

Rickie Weeks had hoped to play for the Hurricanes, but wasn't recruited by Miami. Coach Jim Morris admitted he "made a mistake," but wasn't about to make it twice.

"The first time I met Jemile, I told his dad, 'We're not messing this up again,'" Morris said with a smile. "'Let's sign this one.'"

Jemile Weeks had the chance to follow his brother Rickie into the Brewers' organization.

Weeks' teammates wondered, though, if he would ever show up.

"Before I even knew him, we came to school a couple days early, and Jemile wasn't here yet," outfielder Blake Tekotte said. "We were like, 'Hopefully he comes.'"

Weeks was still weighing his options. He was a scrappy 155 pounds coming out of Lake Brantley High School - a factor that probably caused the Brewers to pause during negotiations. But Weeks also knew he had room to grow. He turned to his brother, who played at Southern University and was drafted in 2003, for advice.

"You try to give him the pros and cons of it," said Rickie Weeks, who was in the minors at the time. "I told him if you were to come out, you'd have some money in your pocket and you'd be able to start your career off early, being a young guy, try to work your way up. Then again, going to college, you have some experience under your belt, getting older, mature, stronger, which is only going to help you out in the long run."

After a few prayers (his mother, Valeria, is a pastor at a church in Orlando) and some more thinking, Jemile arrived at Miami. Milwaukee's unwillingness to budge financially made the decision final.

"The day before school started I see him rolling up at night," Tekotte said. "I was like, 'Oh, thank God.'"

They've been roommates ever since.


Weeks wasted no time showcasing why more pro scouts were looking at him than college recruiters. As a freshman in the College World Series, Weeks had a .308 average and scored three runs. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Lincoln Regional for hitting .583 (7-for-120) with eight runs, four doubles, three walks and four RBIs. And in the Oxford Super Regional, Weeks hit .500 with three home runs, eight RBIs, five runs and two intentional walks.

"He lit it up when it counted," Morris said. "He's shown us what he can do."

Weeks' career was derailed last season, though, with a hamstring/groin injury that kept him out for 11 games. The Hurricanes missed the quickest bat in their lineup.

Draft eligible this year, this season could be Jemile Weeks' last chance to win a CWS title.

"It's hard to replace a guy like that in the 2-hole," outfielder/pitcher Dennis Raben said. "He's got speed, power, he gets on base. He plays great defense. It's hard to replace anyone like that, but especially him. He's like a sparkplug in the lineup."

Weeks took off the whole summer and turned down a spot on the U.S. National team to rehab.

"It built my desire back so much to come out here and just give it all this season, give it all I got," he said. "You never know when it's done."

According to Morris, it might just be the beginning for Weeks, who is batting .345 and already has 10 hits, seven RBIs and two home runs in seven games.

"We're expecting him, to be honest, to be even better than his freshman year," Morris said. "It's two years later, he matured, is getting stronger. I'm expecting really good things."

So are his teammates.

"He's fast and he's got some explosiveness for being a little guy," Tekotte said. "It's huge having him healthy and having his legs healthy under him. He's going to be a huge part of our success early this season."


No doubt his entire family will be watching -- and listening.

The elderly blind man who sits in the stands next to Richard Weeks at Mark Light Stadium is the patriarch of baseball in the Weeks family. Victor Weeks, Jemile's grandfather, was an outfielder for the Negro League's Newark Eagles in the late 1940s. Last Christmas, Jemile and his brother unwrapped books on the history of the Negro League.

"He's a real inspiration to me," Jemile said. "Just having that in your background, and understanding and listening to the stories, it inspires you even more."

For more than 30 years, Jemile's grandfather has been able to see only shadows because of his severe glaucoma, but that hasn't stopped him from following every pitch. Even when Victor can't make it to the games, Richard gives him the play-by-play from his cell phone.

"Strike 3," he said while on the phone during the series opener against Florida. "Changeup, inside corner."

Richard Weeks played, too, as an outfielder at Seton Hall and Stetson. He taught his sons the game early, and would throw them batting practice in their house with a balled-up sock.

"Baseball has been around me all my life," Jemile said.

"He was born for it," his father said.

There's always still the possibility he winds up playing with his brother again.

"I hope one day we do," Rickie Weeks said.

It's just not time to leave the classroom -- yet.

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