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SOUTH FL SUN-SENTINEL
Dejesus: From Fields To Dreams
By Ted Hutton
August 18, 2003
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. · It's not just the players that are living a dream by making it to the Little League World Series. Just ask Angel DeJesus.
He and his wife are in Williamsport, thanks to the kindness of strangers who donated money for a trip DeJesus could not have afforded on his salary as a factory worker.
And Sunday, he got to watch his son, Richie, hit a home run, just miss a grand slam and make several great plays at third base.
It is something Angel DeJesus couldn't have imagined when he left Puerto Rico and came to the fields west of Boca Raton in 1966 to pick tomatoes, green peppers and eggplants for 85 cents an hour.
He was a 16-year-old kid looking for a better life.
"You had to get on your knees to pick, and you had to be careful about the snakes," DeJesus said. Now life couldn't be any better.
"We're still dreaming," DeJesus said after watching Richie help East Boynton Beach beat Great Lakes 7-2 on Sunday to earn a spot in the U.S. semifinals. "I don't know when we'll wake up."
DeJesus has not just seen Richie excel on the field, he has seen his whole demeanor change over the past few weeks.
"He is a different person," DeJesus said. "He's opened up, and that's the way I want him to be."
East Boynton manager Kenny Emerson has also seen the change.
"Richie was really quiet, really reserved. Now you can't keep him down. He and Andrew Weaver have become great friends. You have to hear their helium voice imitation."
Weaver said he had met Richie before they became teammates. Richie was one who would talk with friends, but never said much to anyone else. That has changed.
"At night, when we're having pillow fights, he's in there and not back on the bed. It's cool."
Richie is still shy when microphones come his way, but Sunday there was a big smile on his face when he answered questions following East Boynton's win.
"Right down the middle," he said about the pitch he hit over the fence in the second inning. "What else was I supposed to do with it?"
At the news conference, DeJesus credited teammate R.J. Neal's stepfather, Robert Melchionna, with straightening out his swing.
Melchionna said coach Joe Irene had asked him to use his camera to tape Richie so they could figure out what was wrong, since Richie, the No. 4 hitter in the lineup, had gone into a slump in the regionals.
"He was dropping his hands below his knees and pushing the ball," Melchionna said. "That's not the Richie I remembered seeing."
Melchionna and Irene conferred, and Richie changed his stance. The result was evident in batting practice in Williamsport, and he then took it into Sunday's game.
"Now that's the Richie I remember," Melchionna said.
DeJesus had the home run ball with him at the news conference, thanks to the efforts of player Patrick Mullen's father.
Ed Mullen left the stadium and tracked down the man who had the ball.
"All he wanted was a new World Series ball, so I tracked down an official who got me one and we made the trade," Mullen said.
WATCH THE WEST
Now that East Boynton is in the semifinals, attention is being paid to Pool B, with teams representing the West, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southwest regional champions.
The West team from Chandler, Ariz., appears to be the top team in the pool, as they beat Richmond, Texas, 10-4 Sunday and improved to 2-0, while Texas dropped to 1-1.
"Arizona is good," Emerson said. "They remind me of East Boynton on a great day."