RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Flying Squirrels’ Jonah Arenado and Jacob Heyward are both making their first all-star game appearances in the minor leagues, but they have something else in common. Both have last names with major league recognition, as they work to follow in their superstar siblings’ footsteps.
Arenado, the Squirrels’ third baseman, is the younger brother of Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado, while left fielder Heyward’s older brother, Jason, is an outfielder for the Cubs. Both observed their older siblings’ baseball skills from a young age.
“I started when I was 5 years old,” said Heyward. “[Jason] is six years older than me, so I guess when I saw him play, I wanted to play too.”
“Seeing [Nolan] get drafted in front of me and seeing how that journey went definitely motivated me a little bit more," said Arenado. "Watching him do what he did in the minor leagues made me want to get better and want to live this life.”
The younger Arenado says he’s learned from his brother, specifically about taking care of his body. Jacob Heyward says Jason taught him about going to work everyday, enjoying it and always having fun.
“He tells me what he sees and vice versa," Arenado said. “I don’t think people imagine me helping him out but I like to think I do. We talk a lot about what he’s feeling, what he’s going through.”
“Everybody can tell someone how to hit, but you gotta be the one to do it," Heyward said of discussions between him and his brother. "It’s more just the mental side, mental aspect of it, taking it day by day and just keep working through it.”
Nolan Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million deal with Colorado during this past offseason and has been an all-star in each of the last five years. Jason Heyward won the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award, was an all-star that season and is a five-time gold glove winner. He won a World Series ring with the Cubs in 2016. Both admire the abilities of their respective family members, while trying to reach the major league stage themselves.
“With him doing it all the time it looks routine, but those plays are extremely difficult. So now, playing over there (at third base), he amazes me,” Arenado remarked on Nolan’s skills.
“It’s just amazing to watch him grow and be the man he is today," said Heyward of Jason’s bounce-back with the Cubs.
Still on the checklist- the brothers facing off against each other in a major league game. For Arenado, he’d suit up for the Giants, an arch rival of Nolan’s Rockies.
“I kind of just envision him hitting a ground ball down the third base line thinking it was going to be a hit, and then I rob it, and then it’s not a hit," laughed Nolan Arenado during last year’s all-star festivities in Washington.
Jonah says ‘not so fast.’
“My first hit’s going to be a bullet right off his chest. Then when he has the wind knocked out of him, I’ll be at first base laughing and smiling, so that would be the dream.”
For Heyward, a chance to take the same field in the same big league game as his older brother would have a special meaning to his entire family.
“It’d be surreal. It’d be great for my family, great for my parents to see, great for my grandparents to see, and it’d just be a dream for everybody.”
For now, the two Flying Squirrels’ players will relish the chance to be Eastern League All-Stars and keep working on their own hopeful marches to the majors.
“Be known for Jonah, not Nolan’s brother," said Arenado, "but I can’t control any of that. People are always going to compare me with my brother and that’s OK with me.”
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