OVBL Brothers reunited

The Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League affords a lot of opportunities.

One of those is that it allows college players the chance to continue playing throughout the summer using wooden bats.

Another is it allows brothers to play together for the first time, something that never occurred before due to age difference and such.

That came into play in the recently completed championship series between Barton and Neffs when not one, not two, but three sets of siblings participated.

Nick and Anthony Rocchio suited up for the champion Braves, while Jon and Josh Nagel and Clay and Cliff Francis donned the A’s Gang unies.

“It was awesome,” Nick Rocchio, 23 years old, said of finally being able to play with his younger brother and fellow Bellaire High graduate. “This was the first time that we really got to play together on a team, and to be paired in the middle infield positions … you couldn’t have asked for more.

“Even though we never played together, we’re really smooth,” he added. “We seem to know where each other is and what side of the bag to be on. It just works.

“I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe, brotherly instinct. I don’t know.

“Anthony was always the one we called when he only had eight players,” Nick continued. “He’s used to playing with older guys, and he fit right in with us this year.”

Anthony, who will soon be 20, said all of those days of playing with the older guys really helped him.

“I was always the youngest guy on the field,” he said. “Bit it was fun and it was a learning experience.

“Getting to come here (Barton) and play with Nick was really fun. And to win a championship was even better.”

While neither the Nagel’s or Francis’s got to taste victory in the championship series, just getting to play with their sibling was worth it.

“Our parents were pretty excited when they found out we were on the same team,” said Jon Nagel, the older of the two former Martins Ferry multi-sport standouts. “They’ve never got to see us play together, so that was pretty neat.

“It was fun, really fun,” he said of playing with Josh. “It’s hard to explain because we’re five years apart.”

Jon said he is the more calm of the two, but that they feed off of each other.

“We give-and-take. We complement each other and keep each other’s head in the game.”

Josh, meanwhile, said, “we go at each other pretty hard, but it’s been fun having him around. He brings some veteran leadership to our team, and to be successful like we were (this summer) was nice.”

The Francis’s story is a bit different. Cliff and Clay graduated from different high schools. Cliff went to Shadyside and graduated in 2007, while Clay got his diploma from Shadyside two years later.

“We played together on the Cadiz Legion a couple of years ago, but it was only a game here and there,” Cliff noted. “We never really played anything together growing up, so this summer had been pretty cool.”

Clay echoed his brother’s thoughts.

“This summer was a different experience,” he allowed. “I watched him grow up his entire life playing baseball, so to get to play with him this summer was special.”

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com