BALTIMORE -- Sometime during Dylan and Bobby Bundy's childhood, it became clear that the two Orioles' pitching prospects had a chance to put together some sort of future in baseball. With their father Denver, who pitched in high school, there to teach them, their chances were even better.
Bobby, 24, and Dylan, 21, found quality competition in leagues in Oklahoma. But for two months each year, they needed a way to stay sharp during the offseason. So Denver used his tractor to create a baseball diamond for his sons in the family's pasture.
"It wasn't level at all. Don't let him fool you," Dylan said. "I'd take one off the mouth every day taking ground balls. Get hit in the eye, tough it out. But it worked."
When Dylan was in elementary school, the family diamond is where his father instilled in him an appreciation for baseball. The O's 2011 first-round Draft pick would spend time in his backyard doing extra work in the field before and after his youth team practices.
"That's how I learned to love the game of baseball," Dylan said, "playing with my brother and my dad."
More than a decade later, Dylan would return to the pasture with his father to begin relearning how to compete in the game he loves.
After finshing the 2012 season with a Major League callup from Double-A Bowie, Dylan began experiencing right elbow pain in late March '13. The Orioles exhausted every option to try to get him healthy before suggesting Tommy John surgery. They tried rest and rehabilitation. They tried a platelet-rich plasma injection. Eventually, on June 28, the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball underwent Tommy John surgery.
Less than three months later on Sept. 24, Bobby -- the O's eighth-round Draft pick in 2008 who ended his '12 season at Bowie -- needed it, too. He was relegated to days in front of the TV with his brother.
Under the Orioles' typical rehab plan for recovery from Tommy John surgery, pitchers don't begin throwing for about five months. It had been Dylan's plan to return to Sarasota, Fla., for three weeks in December to begin his rehab. On Dec. 5, though, everything suddenly changed when Dylan and Bobby's mother, Lori, died.
"You need to do what you need to do," Dave Walker, the O's coordinator of medical services, told Dylan. "That's what's more important."
Baseball was a respite. Dylan stayed in Oklahoma for most of the month playing catch with his father.
Denver, who now works with the Owasso High School baseball team, helped Dylan learn the basics when he was a child. He gave Dylan and Bobby pointers on their mechanics. He threw batting practice on that backyard diamond as Lori shagged fly balls.
The earliest stages of rehab aren't much different -- it's back to the fundamentals. "Light tossing" is how it's described in the throwing program, so Dylan and Denver simply played catch from about 60 feet apart.
By the start of 2014, Dylan was in Florida pushing on with his rehab. On the last day of March, he threw off a mound for the first time, and by the beginning of June, he was back to pitching in games for Class A Aberdeen. Dylan moved to Class A Advanced Frederick in July, but he was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a right lat muscle strain on Thursday.
Dylan's brother, meanwhile, was just a few months behind. Bobby began tossing at the end of February, and on Saturday, he made his first appearance for the Gulf Coast League Orioles.
Bobby's rehab was never going to be as straightforward as his brother's. Elbow injuries had nagged him throughout 2013. In July, he had bone spurs removed from his right elbow.
"Sometimes as older players, they start contemplating whether to move on or push forward in baseball," Walker said. "I think Dylan helped [Bobby] out quite a bit."
Bobby was discouraged, but he could look to his brother's progress and the prospect of getting to go through the rehabilitation process together.
Despite being only three years apart, they didn't have many chances to play side by side. They learned the game together on that diamond in the backyard, but they didn't play on the same team until Dylan's freshman year of high school. Even then, Bobby, a senior, was sidelined for the first eight games with a right ACL injury. The day Bobby returned, Dylan hit his first home run. Bobby added another later in the game.
"Pretty close to the same spot," Bobby said.
In 2012, Dylan was promoted to Double-A after Bobby's arm trouble started.
When Bobby did finally make it to Sarasota in March to rehab, the brothers lived together. They cooked together. They threw on the same days. They ran into town and worked out together.
"That was nice," Dylan said. "We hadn't been able to do that since high school."
"It was very vital," Bobby said. "Going through the surgery together and getting to spend time with each other kind of kept our minds in the right direction."
And once every few weeks, they'd be reunited with their first coach.
After Lori's death, Denver spent some time remodeling his home -- a project he and his wife began together. When that was finished, he started making more trips to Sarasota. Treks to see his sons throw a bullpen session or play catch became a regular occurrence.
The visits were a return to Dylan and Bobby's youth and a time before a series of complications changed everything for the Bundys.
Just before Dylan left Sarasota for Aberdeen, Md., where he'd join the O's Class A Short-Season affiliate, Bobby was finally able to throw at 150 feet. They had a chance to long toss together, and Denver was there.
Denver watched the boys as they showed off the smooth mechanics he taught them in their backyard, each with a glove on his left hand and a scar on his right elbow.
"It was kind of like we were throwing in a game, when we were really just playing catch in the outfield," Dylan said.
"I know [Denver] really cherishes those moments," Bobby said, "and probably even more so now."
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com.