Smith brothers from Dover American Legion team have unusual manager-player relationship
In pro sports, there are a handful of notable instances of siblings playing with or against one another.
Examples include the Ripken brothers in baseball, the Gasol brothers in basketball, the Williams sisters in tennis and the Manning brothers in football.
Those instances, however, are rare, especially at the highest pro levels.
The Smith brothers, however, are taking it to an entirely different level with Dover's American Legion baseball club.
Instead of playing together, the Smith brothers — Bryce, 21, and Brayden, 17 — have a much different brother-brother relationship.
That's because Bryce is the team's manager, while his younger brother, Brayden, is one of his players.
According to Bryce, the brother-brother, manager-player scenario works well, despite Bryce's young age and the relatively small age difference.
Baseball bond: The Smith baseball connection really got started the year before Bryce took over as the team’s manager. That was nearly four years ago, the only season in which the brothers were teammates.
During that season, Bryce pitched a complete-game victory over Hanover. His catcher that night? None other than his brother Brayden, of course.
“I only got to play with Brayden for one year,” Bryce said. “And he caught the only game I pitched that year. We won that one 3-2. And when I look back at that, I think that’s where we grew the strong bond that we have today.
"Baseball is a game where you build strong bonds with your teammates, and baseball is our connection together and it helps strengthen that bond both on and off the field.”
Enjoying success: While a brother-brother, manager-player relationship is unusual, the Smith brothers are making it work. Post 791 has already clinched the York-Adams West Division title with an 11-2 record. That earned Dover the No. 2 overall seed for the upcoming eight-team, double-elimination playoffs, which start Monday.
While his older brother Bryce is the team's skipper, Brayden doesn't feel uncomfortable about his relationship with his manager/brother.
"(We) don't really have too many problems with each other," said Brayden, who is hitting .375 on the season. "If one of us needs help, you know he'll come to me or vice versa. We try to help each other out and I think that we work well together."
Family affair: At 21, Bryce Smith is by far the youngest manager of a program in the York-Adams American Legion league.
"Yeah, that says a lot," Brayden said about his brother.
Bryce Smith, however, started managing when he was 19, so he’s certainly grown more and more comfortable in his role. Not surprisingly, he thanks his family for that.
“My father, Brad, actually runs the team,” Bryce said. “He does all the paperwork and leaves the coaching up to me. And my older brother, who is also named Brad, helps out as well. So it’s pretty much a family environment.”
Looking ahead: The Smiths are hoping that the good times this season last a little longer. The winner of the league playoffs earns an automatic berth into this year’s Region 4 tournament that will be held in Hanover.
“It’s been a long time since a Dover team has put up an 11-2 record,” Bryce said. “All year long we’ve been playing pretty well. And one thing we know ... is even if we get down, we know that our bats can make it up and that we’re going to score runs. Hopefully we can keep our momentum going.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.