Varland brothers square off in 'emotional' pitching matchup
Gus and Louie Varland have played baseball with each other their entire lives, from Little League to high school to college together at Concordia-St.Paul in Minnesota. The brothers pitched against each other on Opening Night in April – Gus with Double-A Tulsa and Louie with Double-A Wichita – but Louie
Gus and Louie Varland have played baseball with each other their entire lives, from Little League to high school to college together at Concordia-St.Paul in Minnesota. The brothers pitched against each other on Opening Night in April – Gus with Double-A Tulsa and Louie with Double-A Wichita – but Louie came out of the bullpen, while Gus was the starter.
On Friday, it was a milestone a lifetime in the making – the Varland brothers finally squared off as starting pitchers.
“It was unbelievable,” Gus said. “It’s one of those things that you dream of. … In pro ball, you don’t really think that you’re gonna play against each other, because [Louie] is a year younger and the Twins and Dodgers affiliates never really play each other. But in Double-A, it just so happens that we get to play each other. It was awesome. Just to pitch against each other was unbelievable. The emotions were flowing, which was so cool.”
“And it happened twice, which is even cooler,” Louie added.
When the two teams first faced each other on April 8, Gus’ Drillers came out on top, 5-4, behind 4 1/3 one-hit innings from the eldest brother. This time, it was Louie’s Wind Surge that earned the victory, 7-2, thanks to five two-hit innings from the Twins' No. 15 prospect.
The game was originally scheduled for May 3, but three straight days of rainy conditions in Kansas kept pushing back the matchup. Luckily for the Varlands, they had each other to help pass the time.
“We saw each other every morning, every single day, all day, pretty much,” Louie said. “The family’s down here – parents, sister, girlfriend – so every morning was breakfast and then lunch, and then we went to the field.”
The good thing, Gus said, is that there was plenty of time to recover from his last outing. But the pre-game jitters were still persistent.
“I’ve had that pre-game anxiety for the last four days now,” Louie said. “It could be this day, then you’re getting anxious, and then it dies down the next day, same thing.”
“Exhausting,” Gus added.
When the game finally happened, though, the hype never really died down. Normally in the zone during starts, both Gus and Louie couldn’t look away when the other was trying to get his teammates out.
“Usually when I pitch, I don’t really pay attention to how the other pitcher’s doing,” Gus said. “But the whole time this time, I’m watching to see how Louie’s doing and what pitches he’s throwing. It was cool. It was so cool.”
Once it was apparent that the schedule was going to align, the weeks leading up to the game were full of excitement for the whole Varland family. The fulfillment of a lifelong dream did not disappoint.
“It’s a little tough to know who to root for,” Gus said. “I want Louie to do well when I’m watching him, but I also want to win too and have my hitters do well. I’m hoping for some compromise; that we score some runs that are unearned or something.”
No pitcher was tagged with unearned runs, but Louie did come out on top this time. The 24-year-old earned the win as he struck out six across five frames, allowing two hits, two walks and two earned runs. Gus allowed eight hits and six runs in three innings.
“The first game, I got him, and now this game he’s got me, so it’s 1-1 right now,” Gus said. “Hopefully we meet up again and pitch against each other for the rubber match.”
The brothers are certainly looking forward to a chance to go head-to-head on the mound once again. But for now, they’re going to enjoy the moment with friends and family.
“It’s unbelievable,” Louie said. “It’s one of those games we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”
Stephanie Sheehan is an contributor for MiLB.com.