Together once again

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2003

TROY, Ala. &045; Doug and Brandon Atkins have always been together. From the day they were both born on Oct. 9, 1980, they’ve been at each other’s side playing sports or whatever else interested them.

They both made the front page holding up baseball cards in 1993, played baseball at Adams County Christian School and later at Copiah-Lincoln Junior College.

But when the time came to keep playing baseball after their days at Co-Lin were up, they separated and were two states away &045; pitcher Doug at Troy State and right fielder Brandon at Southeastern Louisiana.

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That lasted one season.

Two peas in a pod

This season is just like old times the fraternal twins are playing on the same team again, this time as members of the Troy State squad heading into the stretch run of its Atlantic Sun Conference schedule.

&uot;We always had just one schedule,&uot; said their mom, Jennie. &uot;I don’t think they’ve ever been on different teams (growing up). They played every sport that was around &045; baseball, basketball, football, the one year they ran track, the one year they played tennis and the one year they played fall ball. We’ve been doing it for 20-something years.&uot;

The reunited brothers have made it easier on parents Jennie and Johnny, to say the least, despite the seven-hour drive from Natchez to Troy. But the situation has worked out best for both Doug and Brandon, who get a chance to end their baseball careers the same way they began in the late 1980s.


&uot;I don’t regret (leaving SLU) at all,&uot; said Brandon, oldest by nine minutes but shortest by three inches.

&uot;I get to spend my last year with Doug. We didn’t realize how much we missed each other until we got apart. We tell each other what we’re doing wrong. We’re enjoying it. We’re getting a chance to play together again, and we want to end on a good note.&uot;

It was Doug who went to Troy State head coach Bobby Pierce and asked if his twin brother could transfer and play for the Trojans. Rules in NCAA baseball require transfers to sit out a year only if the case involves a student-athlete transferring to a school within the conference of his original school, so Brandon had a chance to jump in immediately.

Not that the two wanted to renig on the decision from the prior summer of splitting up. But Doug knew it would be nice to have Brandon playing behind him or in the dugout while he’s on the mound.

&uot;It’s our last season together,&uot; Doug said.&160;&uot;We can finish out our senior years together, and that’s something you’ll never forget. We’ll tell each other what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and push each other. We’ve always tried to help each other out and play the game the best way you can.&uot;

Doug sort of came to the rescue of his brother prior to the season after Brandon’s first season in Hammond, La. Brandon put up modest numbers for the Lions &045; .273 average, 1 HR, 12 RBI while starting in 33 of the 40 games he played &045; while the team struggled to a 21-33 mark and a last-place finish in the Southland Conference at 7-20.

The season marked the end for head coach Greg Marten, and SLU hired former LSU assistant Dan Canevari to take over.

When he did, Brandon started to feel the squeeze.

&uot;They came in and brought a few of their guys with them,&uot; Brandon said.&160;&uot;During the fall I talked to them, and they knew I started last year but didn’t have me in as a starter because they said I didn’t hit enough homers for a corner man. That’s understandable coming from LSU. They hit a lot of homers. They told me I could be a role player and could platoon a little bit and I wouldn’t get to start as much as I did last year. But I still try to keep up with them. I made a lot of friends.&uot;

That left the two together after they declined offers to stay together coming out of Co-Lin. Playing apart made it harder on the family to attend &045; Brandon saw more of his family than Doug just for proximity’s sake &045; while the family did spend last Easter in a hotel room.

The brothers kept in touch despite being two states away.

&uot;I was surprised how well they adjusted and made new friends,&uot;&160;Jennie said. &uot;I was pleasantly surprised. I was afraid they would be homesick or lonesome, but they both made friends they would hang out with when they didn’t come home. Brandon would come home more than Doug.&uot;

Now the two are adjusting to being together in Troy and trying to finish their careers out with a bang. Doug remains the Trojans’ closer and leads the team in appearances (16) and saves (2) heading into this weekend’s series at Gardner-Webb.

With enough appearances before the season it out, he could set the school mark in appearances in a season.

&uot;I’ve been pitching a lot, and it’s starting to wear me down,&uot; Doug said.&160;&uot;All I’ve ever done in baseball is close. In the first six games I think I threw five of them. In a tournament I pitched in all three games and had all three decisions. I’m kind of worn out, but I’m trying to stay with it. I’m not 18 any more &045; I know that. But come the ninth or eighth inning I’ll feel like I’m 18 again. I’ll be ready.&uot;

Brandon is in a platoon situation in right and has spent some time as the Trojan’s designated hitter. He’s hitting.276 with 58 at-bats while starting in 12 of the 19 games he’s appeared in, and lately things are starting to pick up thanks to adjustment in his swing.

He didn’t play in a Tuesday loss to Birmingham Southern but DH’d in all three games last weekend against Jacksonville State, notching six hits in 13 at-bats.

&uot;I start against all left-handers, and I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well lately,&uot; Brandon said.&160;&uot;I was dropping my hands. I worked out a lot, and when I first got here I put on a lot of muscle weight. I was getting a home run swing. I just dropped my hands and tried to get out of hitting so many home runs. They want me to be more of a doubles guy.&uot;

If the two are to end their careers the way they want it, they’ll do their best to spur the Trojans (20-16, 10-8) on toward the end of the season. This weekend’s series at Gardner-Webb are big since the two teams are jammed up in the middle of the A-Sun standings.

The top five teams get to the conference tournament, where the Trojans were bounced in two games last season.

&uot;When we get bases loaded or runners on second and third, we can’t get that hit,&uot; Doug said.&160;&uot;We’ve missed getting hits at the right time. We’ve got to play solid baseball from here on out to stay in the race for the tournament. There’s nothing better than the conference tournament.&uot;