NEW ORLEANS — Delgado freshman catcher Chris Eades is living one dream and chasing another, praying one day the baseball gods will allow him to play pitch-and-catch in the pros with the older brother he worships.
An ace starter for the top-ranked LSU Tigers, junior right-hander Ryan Eades is projected to be an early-round pick in the June Major League Baseball amateur draft, while Chris Eades platoons behind the plate for coach Joe Scheuermann’s nationally ranked junior-college team.
The Dolphins (37-8) rank ninth in the latest NJCAA Division I poll after splitting a doubleheader Wednesday with 10th-ranked Faulkner State Community College.
Delgado returns to the diamond Saturday in a doubleheader against Baton Rouge Community College (18-17) — a team that’s 2-1 against the Dolphins this season — at Pete Goldsby Field.
First pitch is 1 p.m.
“Ryan and I put our records together, and we’ve got over 70 wins combined,’’ said Chris Eades, who’s hitting .258 with seven doubles, one homer and 15 RBI in 23 starts. “That’s pretty cool. He’s doing his thing at LSU and getting better every day, and that’s what I’m trying to do here at Delgado ... just get better every day and move on to the next level.’’
A year ago, it seemed the brothers would reunite at LSU and pick up where they left off at Northshore High School in Slidell. After verbally committing to play for Paul Mainieri’s Tigers during the summer of 2011, Chris Eades reassessed his situation and decided that his best opportunity to play would be at Delgado.
“Chris can play every day defensively at the (NCAA) Division I level,’’ Scheuermann said. “What he needs to do is make some adjustments offensively, and I think if you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s getting better here with at-bats.
“We’ve played 45 games, and he’s played in half of them. To be honest with you, he wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity at LSU or at a D-I school.’’
Chris Eades decommitted to LSU four days before the NCAA signing date, thus forfeiting a chance to catch Ryan at the college level. Though teammates for two seasons at Northshore, the brothers never started together during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In ’09, the year Northshore won the Class 5A state championship, Chris spent his freshman season playing behind starting catcher Chad Gough-Fortenberry. Chris started in ’10, but Ryan missed his entire senior season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
“When I went on my official visit to LSU, coach Mainieri talked to me and said they just wanted me to pitch and maybe try and catch in the fall,’’ said Chris Eades, who’s 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. “I pitched a little bit as a closer in high school, but I’ve been catching my whole life.
“If I’d gone to LSU, I probably wouldn’t have played much, because Ty Ross is behind the plate and he’s as good as there is. It would have been good to go there and learn under him but I get to play a lot here, see live pitching and I have a chance to get better.’’
Chris and Ryan lament the fact that they’ve not been able to fulfill the dream of their parents, Marian and Ned, a former catcher in the Cincinnati Reds farm system who died Sept. 18, 2004, after losing his battle with lymphoma.
A former coach at Northshore, the school’s baseball field is named after Ned Eades. Marian Eades is the softball coach at Northshore.
“The chance of being in the same battery with Ryan is probably gone,’’ Chris Eades said. “The only way it could possibly happen now is if I were to get drafted one day by the same team as him. Hopefully that will happen. That would be nice.
“But the way I look at it is, I got a chance to play college baseball. As long as I get a chance to go keep playing and living the dream, that’s good enough for me.’’
Ryan was 12 at the time of his father’s death; Chris 11. Each wears No. 37 in honor of their late father, who wore that number when he played.
“It was disappointing when Chris decided not to come to LSU,’’ said Ryan, a 19th-round pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. “We were looking forward to that opportunity since it was kind of taken away from us in high school when I tore my labrum. But he made the right decision by going the junior-college route. I don’t think he would have caught much here.
“I guess things happen for a reason, and you just got to move forward and make the best of the situation.’’
Which is what Chris Eades is doing at Delgado where he platoons with sophomore catcher Luke Voiron, formerly of Jesuit.
“Hey, we tried to convince Ryan to come here for one year, but it didn’t work out,’’ Scheuermann said laughingly. “But Chris is happy here, and I think his brother is happy for him. It’s a good situation for everybody.’’
“I’m glad it’s working out,’’ he said. “You know, “it’s nice to see brothers act like they do. They have a really neat relationship. They are almost inseparable. They talk all the time. They go watch each other play when they can. They kiss each other hello and goodbye. It’s good to see. That’s something to brag about.’’