March 2022 Newsletter

Brotherly Love

Being teammates creates a lifelong bond but for brothers, being teammates is even more special

This article originally published in the June 2016 issue of the quarterly College Diamonds print magazine. The information listed for everyone reflect their 2016 positions and classifications.

By McKenzi Morris

For many athletes, their teammates are their family. They are the people they spend the most time with and the people they are closest to. But for some of the thousands of athletes on college baseball rosters in 2016, their teammates actually are their family.

Twins Jim and Ed Voyles started playing baseball together when they were toddlers, and they continued that journey all the way to Florida State University. When looking at the Florida State roster, the only differences between the two are their jersey numbers and classifications. Jim is a junior while his brother is a redshirt sophomore.

Being twins, Jim said they are used to people confusing them and it does not annoy him anymore. Ed agreed, saying he even will answer to Jim if he knows his brother is not in the room.

At the University of Southern Mississippi, the Sandlin brothers got the chance this season to take the field together for the first time in their lives. Older brother Jake is four and a half years older than Nick, but they are getting to play on the same team for one season before Jake runs out of eligibility.

The 2016 roster for College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., included three pairs of brothers — (from left) Drew and Austin Colvard, Ben and Sam Christofferson and Riley and Trevor Bernsdorf. Having so many siblings on the team has made the entire group closer, removing barriers between the upperclassmen and underclassmen. Photo courtesy of St. Scholastica Athletics.

Nick Sandlin said he started playing baseball because he was always around the field watching his brother, and he eventually discovered it was something he was good at.

Because they have never played on the same team, he said this season was something new for the both of them, but Jake said he recognized how lucky they were.

“For brothers to play college baseball together in general is a big deal,” Jake Sandlin said.

Three sets of brothers all held spots on the College of St. Scholastica roster this season, making up a sizeable percentage of the team.

Trevor Bernsdorf, a junior outfielder, and his younger brother, Riley, a freshman catcher, played together in high school but did not know if they would make it to the same college. Sam Christofferson, a senior infielder, is getting the chance to share the field with his younger brother, Ben, a freshman pitcher, for the first time during his last college season. Austin Colvard, senior, shared the outfield with his brother, Drew, a sophomore, for the final time in his collegiate career this season.

Because there are several sets of brothers on the same team, there is a stronger family dynamic at St. Scholastica, Trevor Bernsdorf said. They are all close because of the lack of classification divisions.

“There are so many different pairs, so we have pairs throughout all the classes,” Sam Christofferson said. “It brings a dynamic to our team where there’s little class separation. It helps bring trust to the team and good relationships on and off the field.”

Nick Sandlin (No. 5) and Jake Sandlin played together at Southern Miss during the 2016 season. Jake Sandlin started his college career at Georgia College but used his final year of eligibility to be on the same team as Nick, who was a freshman pitcher for the Eagles that season. Photos courtesy of Southern Miss Athletics.


Growing up with a baseball brother

Having someone to play sports with while growing up was something all of the brothers said was one of the best parts of having a sibling. Austin Colvard said having someone there to push him and help him grow with every sport they played, especially baseball, was amazing because he never wanted to lose to his little brother.

Drew Colvard followed in his older brother’s footsteps, he said, and decided to play baseball while watching his brother. He agreed with Austin and said having the chance to learn while still having fun was the best part about playing baseball as a child.

“From a standpoint of learning I think (growing up playing baseball together) was the best possible thing,” Drew said. “Obviously you have other teammates, but when we were at home we would play baseball in the front yard. There’s always someone there to get better with and have a fun time with.”

Their dad was a key influence in the twins’ decisions to play baseball, Jim Voyles said, but growing up and getting to play with his twin was a unique experience that not many people get to have.

Both of the Voyles twins are pitchers, and Ed said having someone to compete with every day made baseball more fun and being raised playing the same sport was perfect.

“It was definitely an advantage having someone to throw with every day,” Jim said. “We pushed each other really hard and it paid off in the long run.”

Since he is a senior and his brother is a freshman, Sam Christofferson said they never got the chance to play on the same baseball team, even in high school. However, he believes they were closer growing up than most brothers because they were able to build a special bond through baseball.

Now being on the same field at the same time is something he will cherish.

“I know I’ll be able to look back and say that this was a really special moment in my lifetime,” Sam said. “It’s more than building a good relationship just because you add the teammate factor to the brotherhood already.”

Transitioning to college

For the Voyles twins, choosing to continue their baseball careers together at Florida State was an easy decision, they said. Both their father and uncle were athletes at Florida State and they wanted to carry on the family tradition.

Despite the school being a family alma mater, Jim said he and his brother would have gone to the same school no matter what, but Florida State presented them with the opportunity to continue their baseball careers together.

“To be able to represent your family at a high level like Florida State is pretty incredible to do,” Ed said. “(Putting on a Florida State uniform) is just special every time.”

Because of their age difference and the fact that Ben played hockey in high school, Sam Christofferson said he was surprised he ended up at the same college as his younger brother.

He said he wanted to stay out of the recruiting process and let his brother make his own decision, but part of him was hoping Ben would join him at St. Scholastica.

“It was important to me that he makes his own decisions, but when decided he was going to play baseball and come to Scholastica, I was elated,” Sam said. “I told him that and was super excited and looked forward to a good time with him.”

Trevor Bernsdorf felt the same way, he said, and wanted his brother to make his own decisions about baseball and what was the right program for him. They both knew they wanted to continue their baseball careers, but Trevor did not want to influence Riley during the process.

The two did not know if they would land on the same campus, Trevor said, but he knew he would support his brother either way and would help him get there because college ball was the ultimate goal.

“I think, first off, I was just really happy that he was able to play college baseball and he’d be continuing to play,” Trevor said. “I also just felt a level of comfort knowing what his experience was going to be like because he came to the same school as me.”

Nick and Jake Sandlin had a different journey to becoming college teammates than the rest of the brothers. Nick was not recruited by the same school as his older brother, but rather Jake joined Nick at Southern Miss before the start of Nick’s freshman season.

Jake graduated from Georgia College in four years, but only used three years of eligibility. He originally planned to stay at Georgia College for graduate school and finish out his last year of collegiate baseball, he said, but Nick decided to reach out to one of the coaches at Southern Miss and see if there was an open spot in the outfield for his older brother.

Getting him to come to Southern Miss was a plan set in motion by his younger brother, Jake said, and the whole transition happened quickly. Leaving the place he considered home for four years was hard, but he never had the chance to play on the same field as Nick and that made the decision easier.

“It was tough, it was a tough decision to leave my coaches that I had a really good relationship with and the teammates I had a really great relationship with, but they all understood the situation,” Jake said. “It was only because I was going to play with my younger brother and this was going to be the only place I left Georgia College for.”

Twins Jim Voyles (No. 42) and Ed Voyles (No. 18) are both pitchers at Florida State. They said having a brother to compete with and against growing up made both of them better. Photos by Brian Westerholt and Colin Abbey and courtesy of FSU Athletics.


Sibling rivalries

Attending the same school as his older brother means there are some hardships Drew Colvard said he has to face. One of the biggest of those is knowing his brother is graduating and will not be on the team anymore.

Another difficulty Drew faces is the feeling that he is expected to live up to everything Austin has accomplished while at St. Scholastica. His older brother has been one of the best players to come through the program and that puts some pressure on him, Drew said, but he focuses on improving himself to get better.

“I think I need to learn from him and just try to keep that mindset of it’s not about beating your brother, but being better so your team is better,” Drew said.

The Voyles twins agreed with Drew, saying that living up to expectations and being compared is hard to deal with.

Ed Voyles said the most difficult part of being twins on the same team is getting jealous of the other person’s success because of a personal desire to want to do well too.

“If I mess up or he messes up, it makes the other look bad,” Jim said. “But our successes aren’t really the same. If one does well, the other doesn’t have to do well.”

At Southern Miss, Nick Sandlin said he initially thought it would be difficult being on the same team as his brother for the first time, but it actually has not been. Every now and then he said he will worry about how his brother is playing in a game, but he is able to separate it from how he plays.

Jake said the biggest issue he faces with Nick is that they are still brothers, so they are going to act like it sometimes, but they get over it rather quickly.

“Being brothers, sometimes you’re going to bicker like brothers and get on each other’s nerves,” Jake said.

Side by side

Being able to have his family close by and at a lot of games this season was something Sam Christofferson said was nice about playing on the same team with his brother.

The main thing he enjoyed was getting to finally share a season with Ben. Even though it was his final season, Sam said that makes the experience even more special for the brothers.

“Senior year is going to be special regardless but being able to share that experience with my brother was amazing,” Sam said. “It really brought our family closer together and made senior year even more special.”

When Jake Sandlin was at Georgia College, he said he only got to hear about his brother’s success through his parents and other people because he was playing his own games. But once he got to Southern Miss and was able to watch his little brother in person, he said it was a wild experience and made his last year of eligibility something he will never forget.

“His two years in high school that he really just set the world on fire and did some really great things, I was off playing my own seasons,” Jake said. “I wasn’t there for any of that but now I actually get to be a part of his experience and I think that’s the most fulfilling part for me.”

From the time Drew Colvard got a hit that drove in Austin to win their Little League championship game when they were 10 and 12 years old, to sharing his senior season with his younger brother, Austin said having Drew by his side has been the best part about playing baseball at Southern Miss.

He said standing in the outfield and knowing Drew is there next to him has made the college experience that much better, while Drew said he just wants to make the most of the time they have left together.

“Standing in the outfield next to him, that’s something I’ll never forget,” Austin said. “Getting to stand in the outfield and play my senior season with my younger brother has been really great.”

Artifact of the Month

Hall of Fame recognizes weekly award winners

Each week, the National College Baseball Hall of Fame recognizes winners for three of our major awards: the Pitcher of the Year Award, the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award and the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award. Below are weekly winners for the month of February.

Feb. 22

John Olerud Award: Caden Grice, sophomore, LHP/1B, Clemson
Pitcher of the Year Award: Sammy Natera, sophomore, LHP, New Mexico State
Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award: Danny Serretti, senior, North Carolina

Where Are They Now

Before he won the Skip Bertman National Coach of the Year Award in 2018, LSU-Eunice head coach Jeff Willis was honored as part of the annual Night of Champions event more than once as a national championship winning coach, including in 2012.

While the wins and championships are the easiest way to measure success, it’s not always that simple, Willis told KATC-TV in 2021.

“As a very competitive individual in myself, we want to win the last game of the year," Willis said. “Everybody likes to win. The question is, what is the definition of success? Is the definition of success winning the last game of the year or is it reaching your full potential in everything you're a part of?"

Willis also serves as the school’s athletic director, a position he has held for 18 years, according to LSUE Athletics.

Because of his success, Willis has had several chances to move on to a D-1 program, but none of those options have felt right, he told KATC-TV.

"We're at the best junior college baseball program in the country," Willis told the station. "I know God has a plan for my life and he has me where I'm supposed to be right now. That could be different (six) years from now, 20 years from now. We just don't know that. But I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be."

Inductee Spotlight