Going their own way

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2001

Come fall, two veterans of the Natchez baseball diamonds will take their acts elsewhere.

After playing ball together for their entire lives, the Atkins twins -Brandon and Doug – will no longer play on the same team. Brandon will attend the Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La., and Doug will go to school at Troy State University in Troy, Ala.

&uot;We’ve played together for 15 years,&uot; said Brandon, who plans on playing centerfield for SLU. &uot;We don’t mind getting away from each other.&uot;

But the two have had spectacular careers together, from their time in Dixie Youth baseball when they were on a team that clubbed 34 homers in one season at Ballew-Bowlin field to the careers they just concluded at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson where the twins led Co-Lin to its first Junior College World Series appearance in 2000.

Both players were recruited by some of the same schools. Ole Miss, Delta State, Troy State and William Carey were interested in Brandon and Doug. But Brandon signed with SLU because the Lions want him to play centerfield, Brandon’s favorite position. Plus, it’s an opportunity to play against the best competition.

&uot;I didn’t want to pass up the chance to play against Alabama, LSU, Tulane and the big schools,&uot; Brandon said.

Doug was being courted by the Colorado Rockies before the Major League Draft, but he opted to go to school. Doug signed with Troy State because he knows he’ll have the opportunity to throw often.

&uot;I wanted to go somewhere where I could play,&uot; said Doug. &uot;I didn’t want to wear a uniform,&uot; referring to the opportunity to play in the Southeastern Conference but ride the bench every day. Troy State also plays a solid and competitive schedule, with Cal-State Fullerton, Vanderbilt and Southern on its schedule.

Last season, Brandon had a great season at Co-Lin, showcasing all his skills. He hit for average, batting .379. He hit for power, slugging five home runs, 17 doubles and three triples with 50 runs batted in. Brandon also swiped 20 bases.

For his efforts he was named an All-State and All-Region selection. Unfortunately, he torn his anterior cruciate ligament in the super regional game against Forest Park Community College. After six weeks of crutches, Brandon is now working out daily.

Doug is a dominant closer with a 94 miles per hour fastball. Over his two years at Co-Lin, he was 11-8 with 14 saves. In his first year, he was ninth in the nation among junior college pitchers with a 2.09 earned run average.

Both said it’s difficult coming to terms with the fact that they won’t be on the same team next year. At the same time, though, they know it’s time to move on.

&uot;It’s time for us to split up,&uot; Doug said. &uot;It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be tough for our parents.&uot;

Their parents, Jennie and Johnny, are going to have to get adjusted just like the twins. For the past 15 years, Jennie and Johnny have had only one schedule to follow. Now, with Brandon two hours away in Hammond and Doug seven hours away in Troy, more miles will be put on the car, and they’ll see Brandon and Doug less.

&uot;It’s been nice just having one schedule,&uot; said Jennie.

And, at least for next year, SLU and Troy State won’t play each other, so the parents won’t get to see both of their sons play together.

Despite the downsides, both parents are excited for the twins.

&uot;I think it’ll be good for them,&uot; said Johnny. &uot;A lot of pressure was put on them by being on the same team.