The last time RJ and JT Snyder shared the same baseball field, the bat wasn't much shorter than 3-year-old RJ, who was allowed to play up with his 6-year-old brother on a Hanna Little League T-Ball team, coached by their dad, Eric.
It's been 12 years since then. RJ is now a freshman and JT a senior at South Central, where the Snyder boys are together again, helping the Satellites to a Class A sectional title.
"It's been really fun," said RJ, a left fielder and catcher. "I'll always remember the year playing with my brother. It'll be the first thing that comes to mind."
JT is a three-year starter who was a part of S.C.'s sectional run in 2012. He can't assimilate freshman seasons with RJ, having transferred to LaCrosse and getting only limited eligibility when he was in ninth grade, but he appreciates being able to share this year's success.
"I'd rather be the person showing RJ what high school's like," JT said. "We have really good senior leaders. It'll help him when he's older."
Ryan Kruszka, in his second year as coach, had heard of Eric's background at the school as a player and his reputation in the south LaPorte County area as a coach, but he wasn't pulling RJ up as a feel good story. The freshman started out on junior varsity, showed well and when the chance came along, he took advantage of it.
"You can tell they're a coach's sons," Kruszka said. "They're doers. They pick things up well. They make adjustments. You don't have to tell them many times."
Kruszka would know. His dad was a coach and teacher for 35 years. Sometimes, dad is the coach. Sometimes, dad is the dad, and someone else is coach. Both Snyders were coached extensively by their dad, who led LaCrosse to a sectional title in 2002, and still coaches RJ's Babe Ruth team.
"It's like I have my pitching coach here, and I go home to get my hitting instruction," JT said. "Everyone tells me my dad was really good. I go to a game, and the coach knew him, so he knows me. When I come up to bat, he says, 'Good hitter.' It's like, 'Oh, you're the (former) LaCrosse coach's son, you must be pretty good.' It's pretty much expected."
It's even tougher for RJ as the younger brother.
"There was a little extra pressure coming up, to follow in JT's footsteps and just having the Snyder name," RJ said. "It feels like I have to do that much better. You have to live up to expectations, but the bar's already been set. I've always been taught, don't think. It's all in you, just let it flow. It'll come."
When it doesn't, JT's been there to ease the burden.
"He'll come in, and I'll know he's angry," JT said. "He'll try to do so good, he feels like he let the team down. It's my job to help him have the sense of composure I have. At the beginning, he was doing what I used to do. I tell him just to stay calm and let it happen. When he does, he's a really good player. We've got a lot of really good freshmen, including RJ, and I needed to be more of a role model."
JT is listed as a pitcher-first baseman, but can play most anywhere. He is hitting .429 with 24 RBIs and 28 runs. RJ is batting .362 with 10 RBIs and 18 runs.
"I come from the same kind of family," Kruszka said. "It's pretty cool whenever you have that family atmosphere, to sit back and watch, to see them pick at each other. When they're working individually in the cage, JT will see stuff, pull RJ aside and be the big brother. That's priceless information, one brother to the next, generation to generation."