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OC Register: Model stadium designer overcame heart surgeries to land Dodgertown project

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    Brett Pevey’s Dodger Stadium model is now on display on the club level at the stadium. (Larry Stewart photo)

  • 0626_SPO_LDN-L-STADIUM-MODELS-0626-21.jp

    Brett Pevey poses in the room where he stores many of the models he has made over the years.

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  • 0626_SPO_LDN-L-STADIUM-MODELS-0626-3.png

    Brett Pevey shows off his model of Yankee Stadium.

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    Brett Pevey’s conceptual model of the new Rams stadium is among his latest models. (Contributed photo)

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    Brett Pevey, 16, poses with his scale model of Angel Stadium in the stadium parking lot before their game with the Texas Rangers on Monday, August 15, 2011. Pevey made the stadium replica as a summer project complete with working lights and an iPod as a jumbotron. (Paul Bersebach, The Orange County Register)

  • 0626_SPO_LDN-L-STADIUM-MODELS-06268.jpg

    Brett Pevey poses with Jose Mota and an early version of Angel Stadium. (Contributed photo)

  • 0626_SPO_LDN-L-STADIUM-MODELS-06269.jpg

    Among dozens of detailed models, Brett Pevey built a replica of New York City. (Contributed photo)

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    Staples Center is among Brett Pevey’s replica models. (Contributed photo)

  • 0626_SPO_LDN-L-STADIUM-MODELS-062611.jpg

    Brett Pevey recreated in model form both the inside and outside of Staples Center. (Contributed photo)

  • 0626_SPO_LDN-L-STADIUM-MODELS-062613.jpg

    The email from Peter O’Malley’s office, inviting Pevey to build the Dodgertown model.ers, inviting Pevey to reconstruct a model of Dodgertown.

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    The Pevey family poses with former Dodgers CEO Peter O’Malley at his office. (Contributed photo)



It started with Legos. Brett Pevey got his first set when he was a toddler and soon showed a unique talent. He didn’t need directions; he just started using the little plastic bricks to create model buildings.

When he was 5, he built a replica of the National History Museum of Los Angeles.

By the time Brett was in his early teens, Legos filled 15 boxes in his bedroom closet at his Glendora home and there were three bins beneath his bed.

Besides his fondness for model-building, Brett also loves baseball. He combined those two passions and, at the age of 15 in 2010, he built a model of Yankee Stadium.

“It was a humble beginning,” says his father Ray. “It mainly consisted of only paper and cardboard.”

But Brett fine-tuned his model-building skills over the next year, and after finishing his freshman year at Glendora High in 2011, he began building a model of Angel Stadium, a place he often frequented with his parents, Ray and Lorelei, and older sister Chantel.

When the model was completed in mid-August of that year, the Angels found out about it through intermediaries, and so did the Orange County Register. Next came photoshoots and interview sessions, first at the newspaper office and then the stadium. At the stadium, Brett and his model were stationed near the front gate and fans came by to marvel at everything from the center field’s rock pile to an iPod-animated video board.

An in-depth feature story on Brett and his model-making skills ran on the front page of the Register’s sports section on Aug. 22, 2011.

Brett’s parents say that story, written by former staff writer and columnist Marcia Smith, inspired their son. So did a Regional Occupational Program (ROP) architecture class at Glendora High.

Over the past eight years, Brett, now 24, has built, by his estimation, around 100 more models. Most, but not all, are replicas of sports stadiums. He has stored many of them away, given some away and sold a few.

Brett, also a hockey fan, made an actual-size model of the Stanley Cup after the Kings won it in 2012, and fastidiously hand-engraved every name from the winning-team rosters, dating back to 1893. It took him several months. “His hands kept getting tired,” Lorelei says. He also built a model of Staples Center, inside and out.

In 2016 he spent four months building a six-foot long model of Manhattan, complete with more than 600 buildings, many of them skyscrapers. More recently, his projects have included a model of Dodger Stadium, one of the Rams’ new stadium under construction in Inglewood, and a much more elaborate model of Yankee Stadium than the one he built at age 15 in 2010.

His crowning achievement, which was in the works on and off for the past two years, is now completed. It is a huge (39×57-inch) model of Dodgertown, the storied baseball spring training camp located in Vero Beach, Fla., as it appeared in the mid-1950s. The Dodgers trained there for 61 years, from 1948 to 2008, before the team moved its spring training site to Glendale, Ariz.

Highlights of the model include Holman Stadium, three other baseball diamonds, the original barracks that remained from a former U.S. Naval Air Station, and a drainage canal that cuts through the middle of the site.

This model project was commissioned by Peter O’Malley, who became Dodger president in 1970 and sold the team to Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation in 1998.

These days, O’Malley maintains a downtown L.A. office and, for the past seven years, has served as chairman of what is known as “Historic Dodgertown.” He was responsible for restoring the Vero Beach site which is now a multi-sport center featuring 10 baseball fields. Major League Baseball, the new lessee, renamed it the “Jackie Robinson Training Complex” in April.

Brett remembers the date of his first visit to O’Malley’s office – May 23, 2017. It turned out to be a lot more than just a visit. Brett showed O’Malley a photo of his Dodger Stadium model, and that afternoon Brett received an email from Brent Shyer, O’Malley’s right-hand man, asking if he would consider building a model of Dodgertown, using old photos from their files.

Brett and his family were excited, to say the least. “That email brought tears,” Lorelei says.

Brett soon went to work, coordinating the project along the way with O’Malley, Shyer and office mates Robert Schweppe and Adam King.

The completed model is a real work of art with every little detail meticulously placed so that everything appears exactly as Dodgertown did in the mid-1950s.

Model maker, but also a role model

But this story isn’t about a model. It is about a model maker.

Brett Pevey has a genetic disorder known as 22q 11.2 Deletion syndrome, or simply 22q. It’s also known as DiGeorge syndrome and a few more complicated names.

Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

It is a disorder caused by a small missing piece of the 22nd chromosome, and that tiny missing portion can affect every system in the human body. It can be the cause of nearly 200 mild to serious health and developmental issues in children and is believed to be the second most common genetic disorder behind Down’s syndrome.

For the Register story on Brett that ran in 2011, his parents chose not to mention 22q or delve into any aspect of that – and for good reason. Brett, then 16, was not fully aware of his medical condition or even that he had one. He only knew he struggled academically in school, took special education classes and had a heart condition that required two open-heart surgeries. He remembers only the second one. The first came when he was only three months old.

If you were to meet him, you likely would not realize Brett has a disability. He is a 5-foot-8, 160-pound young man who is exceedingly polite and well versed in talking about his models, baseball and other topics that interest him.

“After he showed me that photo of his Dodger Stadium model, all I knew was this young man has a lot of talent,” O’Malley said during a recent photo shoot. “That same day was the first time I ever thought about having anyone make a model of Dodgertown, and I asked Brent (Shyer) to email Brett.”

O’Malley now marvels at the final product, which the Peveys carefully transported to his office in their SUV two weeks prior to the recent photoshoot. At the photoshoot, O’Malley for the first time noticed eight very tiny model cars in the parking lot in the front the Dodgertown barracks.

“I researched to find out what were popular car colors in the 1950’s,” Brett explained.

“That’s amazing,” O’Malley said.

Asked what impressed him most about the Dodgertown model, O’Malley said: “Brett, with his model a close second. He is a genius . . . and a superstar.”

O’Malley’s plan is to somehow get the model to Vero Beach. “Not sure how we will get it there, but that is where it belongs,” he said.

Brett’s heart condition limits his activities, but he was on the junior varsity golf team at Glendora High. He was permitted to use a pushcart, rather than being required to carry his golf bag. He said his best score was a one-over-par 37 over nine holes at Marshall Canyon Golf Course in La Verne. In high school golf, they play only nine holes.

Brett’s parents are now willing to talk about their son having 22q and the challenges that come with it because they want to show others what can be accomplished by someone with a learning disability. They are proud of their son’s abilities. They embrace them and support them, making countless trips to supply stores.

Brett’s model-building ability is called a “splinter skill.” Children and adults with at least one splinter skill are generally referred to as a savant, meaning they can do one or more things out of the ordinary, usually involving music, math, or memory. The Dustin Hoffman character, Raymond Babbitt, in the movie “Rain Man” was a savant.

But Brett Pevey is no Raymond Babbitt. During a three-hour-plus afternoon interview session at the Peveys’ Glendora home, Brett talked freely and showed a sense of humor.

On one occasion, his father was going through some of his son’s medical difficulties when Brett noted, “My dad is the medical nerd here, I’m the model stadium nerd.”

The only time Brett had trouble finding the right words was when he was asked how satisfying it is for him to be able to help others.

In other words, to be role model as well as a model maker.

“It makes me happy,” he said.

Brett’s medical problems began at birth. He was born in 1995 with truncus arteriosus, a rare and critical congenital heart defect.

A delicate operation was necessary. It was performed at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles by Dr. Vaughn Starnes, a nationally known cardiac surgeon who specializes in congenital heart surgery. At the time, this type of surgery Brett needed had been successful only once before, meaning Brett became only the second survivor. And he almost didn’t make it.

“I don’t know if Brett even knows this, but his heart stopped five times on the operating table,” Lorelei said during the interview session in the family room of their home.

This got Brett’s attention. “You mean I almost died; I’m glad I didn’t,” he said with a smile.

Added Ray: “Nitric oxide saved his life.” It lowered the high blood pressure that was stopping the heart.

A second open-heart surgery was required in 2003, when Brett was 8, to upgrade a vessel that was put in place in 1995. That operation, also performed by Dr. Starnes, went well, and Brett was home after only two days at Children’s Hospital.

After the first surgery, there were some tough times. Various complications required at least a half-dozen surgeries.

“I remember that at one point the number of surgeries was higher than his age,” Lorelei said.

Through those early years, Brett was slow to develop in such areas as walking, speech, and social skills. And there was no diagnosis.

It wasn’t until Brett was 9 that, through a complex blood test, Dr. David Geller at Children’s Hospital concluded he had 22q.

“It took three months for us to get results from that blood test,” Lorelei said. “The first thing I was told was that he had velo-cardio-facial-syndrome. I said, ‘What is that?’ ”

Because 22q can cause as many as 180 different symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed. This leads many to believe the syndrome is much more common than statistics indicate. The latest figure is that 1 in 3,000 children are born with 22q, but many believe that is a gross underestimation.

The Peveys pointed out that there is a website, 22qfamilyfoundation.org, that can be helpful to parents facing the same issues they have faced for the past 24 years.

The Peveys readily admit difficulties remain. But they also want people to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that they are grateful that their son is happy because he is doing something he loves, something that he is extraordinarily qualified to do, and something that gives him a great feeling of pride.

Editor’s note: Longtime sportswriter Larry Stewart played a role in the story in addition to writing it. As a friend of Ray Pevey, Stewart helped make an introduction to Peter O’Malley in 2017.


Kid builds Angel Stadium from scratch

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