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From the land of opportunity

PHILADELPHIA -- When he sits in his seat on Monday night for Game 5 of the World Series, Darek Braunecker will never be able to ease his mind and take a pitch off. He will be in the most awkward of positions, as the agent who represents both Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett.

Each pitcher will be on the mound for his team, yet they'll be in very different positions. After rallying for a 7-4 win over the Phillies on Sunday night, the Yankees are up 3-1 and can clinch their 27th World Series title on Monday. Burnett, on three days' rest, will be trying to help win his team a World Series. Lee, on regular rest, will be trying to prevent the Phillies from losing one.

In the middle will be Braunecker, who has represented both pitchers since 1999. Despite their being born just a year apart and growing up just miles away from one another in Arkansas -- Lee in Benton, Burnett in North Little Rock -- they never competed against each other and only met just a few years ago, through a charity Braunecker started.

"It's going to be interesting," Burnett said after Game 4. "They've got two country boys from Arkansas going out, represented by the same guy."

Lee also was excited.

"It's not very often two guys from the state of Arkansas make it to the big leagues, much less square off against each other in the World Series," Lee said. "It's going to be a neat deal for our state."

The best pitcher from their state is Dizzy Dean, a Hall of Famer who was on the 1934 World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals. Burnett (100 wins) and Lee (90) rank sixth and seventh, respectively, on the wins list of pitchers from Arkansas.

Both are now in the position to add another title winner from their state. Burnett, who is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four career starts on short rest, is nearly there. He is coming off a Game 2 start in which he held the Phillies to a run over seven innings, getting the win and drawing the series even, outpitching Pedro Martinez. Now he'll try to win the clincher.

"I'd lie if I said I wasn't going to go home and think about it all night," Burnett said. "I'm not going to take it as just one ordinary game or another start. It's the World Series, Game 5, and I'm the starter. That's what it's all about."

After the Phillies' loss in Game 4, Lee -- who was stellar in Game 1, striking out 10 in a complete-game, 6-1 win, and who has a 0.54 ERA this postseason -- had a more muted reaction when asked about pitching in a World Series elimination game.

"I still have to have the same approach, still got to try to put up zeros and give the team a chance to win," he said.

He took just three questions before cutting off the interview. In fairness, he had already spoken to the media before the game -- Burnett had not.

But before he left, he was asked whether he felt for Braunecker.

"No, not at all," Lee said. "He's got two guys in the World Series; it's a neat deal for him."

For the past few days back in Little Rock -- where Braunecker is from and where he lives with his family -- he has been besieged by phone calls, text messages, e-mails and solicitations from the community and beyond. Everyone wants to know what he will do, for whom will he cheer, and how will be react?

"I'm going to take a tremendous amount of delight seeing both of them on the field," Braunecker said before Sunday night's game. "I won't be rooting for one or the other. I don't know what I'm going to do when either of them is on the mound."

After the Yankees beat the Phillies on Sunday, though, the stakes were raised significantly. In a text message soon after the game ended, Braunecker wrote: "One to extend it or one to end it. … Whoa."

But Braunecker also added that still doesn't change how he'll feel tomorrow; he just wants them both to throw well.

"Obviously I'm not rooting for one over the other," he said.

It's been 12 years since Braunecker first saw both of them pitch, just a few months apart.

On his first scouting mission as an agent in January 1997, Braunecker got a tip about a group of minor leaguers who were planning on long tossing at the University of Central Arkansas. It was there where he saw Burnett, then a minor leaguer with the Marlins, and Braunecker -- a former minor league pitcher with the Expos -- knew immediately he wanted to represent the right-hander. He had a legal pad with him and wrote down on the bottom of it, all in caps, AJ BURNETT THIS IS MY GUY.

He drew five lines underneath his mission statement, and then pursued Burnett -- who already had an agent -- for the next 2½ years. Just a few months after seeing Burnett pitch, Braunecker traveled to Meridian Community College in Mississippi to watch Lee pitch. Lee had been drafted out of high school in 1997 -- by, of all teams, the Marlins -- but instead went to Meridian before transferring to the University of Arkansas.

Braunecker pursued Lee -- still an amateur -- eventually advising him in 1999, just a few months before he secured Burnett.

And now all three men are here. Burnett and Lee aren't best friends, but have grown closer over the last few years, especially when they work together with their charity, which is a baseball league for disabled children. They are both outdoorsmen -- Burnett a fisherman, Lee a hunter -- and both, of course, have Braunecker.

In an ideal world, Braunecker would love both to throw nine shutout innings and hand it over to the bullpens. But that doesn't take into account when they actually have to face one another in the batter's box. How will the agent feel then?

"I'll probably be more on the side of the guy on the mound than the guy up at the plate," he said. "They get paid to throw a baseball, not to hit it."

The pitchers already have discussed this scenario. Before Saturday's game, they ran into each other in the outfield. The two talked about facing each other on Monday, and then Lee pointed to a Budweiser sign in the outfield.

"That's what I'm going to be aiming for," he told Burnett.

"Go ahead, 'cause I can hit too -- I was in the National League for six years."

Now he's with the premier team in the American League, one win away from sending his fellow Arkansan home.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. You can reach her at amy.k.nelson@espn3.com.