Pitcher/catcher brothers bring family chemistry to area amateur teams
The chemistry of a pitcher and catcher on the baseball field can take years to cultivate, but when the duo is made up of brothers the relationship comes much more natural.
Two area amateur baseball teams have used one brother pitching to another throughout the season on their way to the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball tournament.
Chris and Cory Marek make up a battery for the Alexandria Angels, the defending Class B state champion, while catcher Tyler and pitcher Brady Nolz have helped the Parkston Mudcats back to the state tournament in 2014.
"Any time that you can play the game you love with your family or siblings it is special because of that lifelong bond that you have," Chris said. "You are taught the game by your dad, so you learn the game the same way. You think the same way because you were taught together."
For the Mareks, who graduated from Mitchell High School, both have seen time on the mound and behind the plate since the brothers began playing amateur baseball together nine years ago for the team in Salem. They joined the newly-formed Angels in 2011. This year, Chris, who also manages the Angels, has taken a more permanent role in the catcher's gear, with Cory remaining in the pitching rotation.
"There is an understanding that (Cory) is the better pitcher and I'm the better catcher," Chris said. "We respect what each other does and we are confident in what we do."
Growing up, the Marek brothers did not get the opportunity to play youth baseball on the same team, with Chris, 32, and Cory, 27, being five years apart.
"We were normally too far apart to play with each other in teener and majors, so amateur is actually the first time we have been able to play on the same team, and its been a lot of fun," Cory said. "When we lived out in Rapid City, I remember being 4 or 5 years old and hitting the ball together in the yard at our house."
Chris and Cory said they have never had a situation where their relationship on the field has impacted their relationship as brothers in a negative way.
"It's kind of surprising that we have never really had arguments," Cory said. "He calls a really good game, and it's just relaxing to have him back there."
Chris said there have been situations where they have disagreed on the field about how to attack a batter, but it's just a part of the competition and they leave it on the field.
For the last two years, Tyler and Brady Nolz have also had the opportunity to compete as teammates and brothers for the Parkston Mudcats, with Tyler, 28, behind the plate and Brady, 25, on the mound.
"He knows what I want to throw, when I want to throw it and I don't have to shake him off too much," Brady said. "It's a lot of fun for us and for our family to get to come and watch."
Brady added the relationship can be good and bad at times, as the two are not bashful about voicing their opinions to each other.
"Usually it's pretty easy, but we are not scared to argue with each other," Brady said. "There have been a few times when we have jarred back at each other, but it's never too bad."
Brady said he can be more vocal about voicing concerns with his brother than he may be with another catcher. Tyler added he is not afraid to call his brother out on the field.
"I love catching for him and he makes catching easy," Tyler said. "He's one of the best pitchers that I've ever caught and puts the ball right where I want it. If he was a bad pitcher, it might make it a little harder."
Growing up in Parkston, the Nolz brothers did not get the opportunity to play on the same team with the age difference. But Tyler did coach three seasons of Legion baseball with Brady on the team.
"To go from coaching him to being on the same field, it's kind of like a second coach being on the field with him," Tyler said. "He can take criticism and can take praise and doesn't let it go to his head."
Tyler added baseball has become such a big part of life to the Nolz brothers, playing in games, watching it on television and going to professional games. He said baseball has just incorporated into what the brothers are as a family.
The Parkston Mudcats defeated Redfield DQ 5-1 in 11 innings Friday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. They play Harrisburg at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the second round. The Angels play Avon at 7 p.m. today in a first-round game at Cadwell Park.