AKRON, OH. — Graham Stoneburner will never forget the first time he faced his older brother Davis in a professional game.
Sure, it happened just three weeks ago, so the recollections are still fresh, but to hear each of them tell it, they’ll be just as crisp five decades from now as they are today.
“I was facing the batter before him, and I noticed he came out on deck and moved a little bit closer out of the on-deck circle than he probably should have,” said Graham Stoneburner of the August 24 matchup.
“The manager actually pinch hit him, he wasn’t in the lineup. So I wasn’t really expecting to see him at bat. I saw him on deck, and then I turned my focus to the batter I was facing. He got out, and then it was just probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in baseball. It was just a lot of fun, and something we can talk about for 50 years and tell our grandkids about.”
David Stoneburner grounded out against his brother at Canal Park, unable to do much with a fastball that his younger brother left middle down in the zone, rolling over it and sending it to third baseman David Adams for the out. Now, the elder Stoneburner may get another chance to face his brother. And this time, the stakes are much higher.
“It’s awesome, you couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Davis of playing against Graham again.
“You get to play your brother in a championship game, and it’s the first time I’ve ever played in a minor league championship. I get to play against my brother, so at least one of us gets to take a ring home, hopefully us.”
Until that late-August duel, the Stoneburner brothers had never faced each other before. Davis said he’d caught Graham a few times before, but had never actually had the chance to face him.
“It was really awesome to face my brother, it’s probably the highlight of my career,” Davis Stoneburner said.
The Stoneburner brothers, separated by three years, never played on the same team or even against each other growing up, despite some heated wiffle ball battles. Now, in the prime of their professional careers and even with much more on the line than just pride at a Richmond, Va. dinner table, each had nothing but good things to say about the other.
“He’s an extremely gritty player,” said Graham of Davis. “He’s always going to be dirty at the end of the game, he’s going to run out every ball to first and he’s going to play hard and give it his all.”
Your turn, Davis.
“He’s a great person,” Davis said. “I don’t know if you know him very well, but he’s one of my best friends and I love him very much.”
But at the end of the day, there is an Eastern League pennant on the line. And that hasn’t escaped either man.
“There definitely will be a Stoneburner with a championship ring, and I’m hoping it’s me,” said Graham Stoneburner.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com