Ribbing aside, Sewald brothers pull for each other to make bigs

Johnny Sewald is following in his brother’s footsteps with a career in baseball. (Gregory Fisher / Tri City Valley Cats)

Having an older brother, Johnny Sewald followed in his brother Paul’s footsteps.

But the four-year age difference is becoming less of a factor these days, now that both have been drafted and are playing in the minor leagues.


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“It’s incredible,” Paul Sewald said of his brother joining him as a professional baseball player last month. “He’s getting the chance to reach his dream of playing Major League Baseball, and I couldn’t be more excited for him.”

No doubt having an older brother already playing professionally is a huge help navigating a baseball 24/7 lifestyle.

“He’s taught me a lot about being a minor-leaguer and what’s it’s like,” Johnny said. “Even though I’ve only been here a month, it’s definitely helped. I had a good mindset going in because of how well he prepared me.”

Not only are the brothers both pro players, but they are playing within two hours of each other in New York state. Paul, drafted in the 10th round in 2012 by the New York Mets, is a relief pitcher for the Double-A Binghamton Mets. Johnny, a 14th-round pick by the Houston Astros in April, is an outfielder with the short-season Tri-City ValleyCats.

“Paul’s insight gives me an edge over other guys who don’t really know what to expect right away,” said Johnny, 21, who was a four-time baseball state champion at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas before going on to play at Arizona State.

Paul had planned to visit his younger brother and take in a game this week, but something unexpected came up: the elder Sewald was invited to play for Team USA in the Pan Am Games held in Canada.

“I’ll have to try and look at a time where we both are home at the same time. Maybe I have an off day and he doesn’t,” said the 6-2, 190-pound right-hander. “This is a really cool honor for me, but I’m also really excited to see him and talk about what he’s thought of the process so far. We talk daily, but we’re so close, it’ll be great to get together.”

Up until now, perhaps the most exciting thing the pair had to talk about was when the 6-foot, 160-pound Johnny was hit in the ribs a couple months ago by Washington State lefty Layne Bruner.

The Sun Devils center fielder managed to trap the ball between his body and his arm and nonchalantly threw it back to the pitcher, as if it happened all the time. The clip got its fair share of TV airtime as well as making the rounds on the Internet.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” said Paul, who is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 14 saves in 15 opportunities with the B-Mets. “I was watching it live, and when I realized what had just happened, I just laughed. That’s such a classic John thing to do … typically he’s a goofball, be he’s usually very calm out there (on the field) and it showed in that clip. It was cool all the attention it brought him.”

Humor aside, Paul, 25, said what he admires most about Johnny is how hard his brother plays.

“He battles every at bat no matter what, going 100 percent all the time,” he said. “And Johnny has to because his speed is such a great tool, he needs to use it.”

He certainly has so far. While Johnny’s .299 batting average ranks 21st in the New York-Penn League, he’s tied for seventh in hits with 26, leads the league in stolen bases with 15 (he has yet to be caught) and also in walks with 16. Additionally, his .415 on-base percentage ranks eighth league wide.

Despite paving the way for Johnny and owning impressive minor league career stats in his own right (11-5 record with a 1.82 ERA and just two blown saves over three minor league seasons), Paul insists he doesn’t own brotherly bragging rights any longer.

“He’s much better than me, so he doesn’t need any of my skill,” said Paul, who played college ball at San Diego. “But I’ve definitely helped with the mindset. He knows how hard it is through my experience, and I think it makes him very focused and motivated to not only copy my success, but to exceed it.

“But don’t get me wrong — when I face him in the big leagues, I will strike him out.”

Above: Johnny Sewald is following in his brother’s footsteps with a career in baseball. (Gregory Fisher / Tri City Valley Cats)

Stephanie Storm Lariccia

Stephanie Storm Lariccia is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.