For most of the year, the McMillin home in Ventura resembles a baseball locker room. There are posters of favorite players on the walls and dirty uniforms, mitts and baseballs scattered throughout.
Season-ending injuries to identical twins Dean and Darrell McMillin, sophomores at Ventura College, however, have changed the decor to that of a hospital room.
Dean, a left-handed pitcher who was selected the Western State Conference Player of the Year in 1989, is recuperating from shoulder surgery. Darrell, an all-conference third baseman as a freshman, is rehabilitating a broken wrist.
Dean and Darrell have not picked up a bat, glove or ball since February, but they are expected to start playing catch in the next few weeks with hopes of returning by the start of winter league in October.
"Those two are very independent and determined to get better, so I haven't had to play nursemaid too much," said Rose Marie McMillin, the boys' mother. "But it certainly has been a sad period around our house. I'm usually busy attending game after game in the spring. This year it was a different story. I have a feeling they'll be back better than ever very soon, though."
The twins were sidelined within two days of each other. In a game against College of the Canyons on Feb. 17, Darrell landed hard on his left hand as he was sliding into second base.
At first, he thought he had sprained his wrist, but when he attempted to play in the outfield, he could barely keep his glove on. The wrist continued to swell, and, two days later, his doctor confirmed that it had been broken.
While Darrell's wrist was being placed in a cast, Dean was undergoing surgery at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Medical Clinic in Inglewood to repair stretched capsules and ligaments in his left shoulder.
"I was in the waiting room at Kerlan-Jobe when I got the call from Darrell (about the broken wrist)," Rose Marie said. "I thought to myself, 'What next?' "
Dean had suffered the same injury that sidelined the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser in April. Excessive throwing over a period of time stretched the ligaments and capsules in his shoulder, limiting his accuracy and making it difficult to pitch for any length of time.
"I would normally warm up for a game for about 20 minutes," Dean said. "The same warmup was taking me about 40 minutes when my shoulder started bothering me. Once I got on the mound, I was OK, but getting there was a real chore."
Dean's pain started in October, but both the team trainer and his family physician diagnosed the problem as tendinitis, a swelling of the shoulder's tendons, a common ailment for pitchers. As the condition worsened, Dean had difficulty finishing winter-league play.
He rested the shoulder in hopes that it would heal by the start of spring ball. After going 10-4 with a 3.56 earned-run average in '89, Dean struggled in his first two games this season and went 0-1. He decided to visit the Kerlan-Jobe Center, where he discovered his shoulder muscles were stretched apart and he would need surgery to repair the damage.
"What Dean had is a common problem for pitchers," said Dr. Ronald Glousman, who performed the surgery. "But surgery is not common. Most just need to rest and exercise the shoulder. But in this case, the muscles were too torn for that. What I did was tighten the ligaments so the shoulder would be back in its normal state."
Ventura won the WSC title in '89, but, without the McMillins, missed the playoffs in '90.
"When you lose two all-conference players, to say you missed them is a big understatement," Coach Gary Anglin said.
The only bright side is that the injuries occurred early in the season, so Anglin secured medical redshirts for both and expects them back next season.
The brothers, who are 21 and the youngest of seven children, started playing baseball at age 5 but had not suffered a serious injury until this spring.
The setback has been especially hard on Dean, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in '88 and the Houston Astros last year. Electing to attend Ventura in hopes of improving his game, Dean was hoping to complete another banner season and to be selected again in the draft. Unable to throw, he watched in pain as the June draft passed him by.
"It's been a very difficult few months on me," Dean said. "I just have to concentrate now on getting back to the level I was at before all of this and resuming my career."
The prognosis is good that both will return to form. Darrell had his cast, which went from his forearm to hand, removed in late April. He has been squeezing tennis balls and lifting five-pound weights to regain his strength. He said his wrist has almost healed.
The healing process will take a little longer for Dean, who expects to start throwing within a month but might not be back to full strength until early next spring.
Dean had the surgery on a Monday and was back in school three days later. Although he had trouble lifting his arm for six weeks, he now has regained much of his motion and is lifting weights.
"The minute I left the hospital, I felt like my shoulder was all better," he said. "It was amazing, but the pain was all gone. It's now just a matter of building back up the strength I had in it. It's never felt better, though."
Glousman said Dean is making rapid progress and expects full recovery. Normal rehabilitation for this operation is one year, Glousman said.
When the ailing brothers were reunited at home after Dean's surgery, they joked about their misfortunes and told each other how glad they were that they'd have another chance to play together.
The two have been inseparable over the years, especially when it comes to baseball. Both were three-year starters at Ventura High, each earning all-Channel League honors twice.
After an 8-3 senior season, Dean received scholarship offers from several colleges. He was ineligible to play at a four-year university because he failed to score 700 points on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and was declared a Proposition 48 casualty. Dean also believed that he was not ready to turn pro, so he opted for nearby Ventura College.
Darrell did not receive any offers, and he followed his brother to Ventura. As a freshman, Dean led the team in victories. He was drafted by the Astros at the end of the season, but they told him they would not sign him until after his sophomore season at Ventura. Darrell made the starting lineup as a freshman and batted .377.
Optimism was high this year until their injuries hit.
Since then, they have tried to encourage each other in their comebacks. They work out in the weight room at school five days a week and run three to four miles every day.
"When it comes to baseball, my brother and I do everything together," Darrell said. "Once again, we're on the same schedule, whether we like it or not."