BY RYAN DEPAUW | The Statesman
With a combined 107 hits and 100 runs batted so far this season, brothers Alex and Tyler Wojciechowski add brute force that has helped the Bulldogs win 12 straight games.
Alex, a senior with a major in mathematics, stands at 6-foot-5 and patrols first base. Tyler, a freshman with a major in mechanical engineering, stands at 6-foot-3 and plays opposite his older brother at third.
With a competitive nature and a mix of brotherly-love, the “Wojo” brothers, as they’re known, bring a special relationship to the UMD program.
“We’ve always kind of battled each other,” Tyler said. “Ever since we were kids, I would try to be better than him and it’s always helped us both succeed.”
Like most sport-crazed brothers, they competed against one another in many sports. The constant competition pushed both brothers to succeed.
“We always played each other in hockey and baseball and the competitiveness really drives everything. I’m not trying to lose to him and he’s trying to pull the upset,” Alex said with a grin.
They would never have discovered baseball, and their abilities, had their neighbors not introduced the game to Alex. Of course, Tyler was not going to be left out.
“Our neighbors kept bothering him to get going,” Tyler said. “And then, you know, the little brother saw him playing baseball.”
If not for those neighbors, the Wojciechowski brothers might instead have continued to pursue hockey—the sport their father wanted them to focus on.
“We played soccer for a while and then kept getting nagged by our neighbors to try baseball out and kind of just never looked back,” Alex said.
Never looking back worked out for them as well as the Bulldog baseball program.
“Well, one is a few years older than the other,” head coach Bob Rients said, when asked the difference between the two. “But off the field, we know that they’re going to be very committed to their education and very committed to team philosophies. They’re very talented but they’re great people too.”
It’s not every day you find collegiate-level players that are willing to go back to the basics, but according to Rients, that’s where the “Wojo” brothers stand out.
“Alex stood out early on, as far as his willingness to do the little things in baseball that aren’t really taught anymore,” Rients said. “A lot of that comes down to passion and his love just to play the game, and I see that in Tyler as well.”
It wasn’t just their willingness to do the little things that caught Rients’ attention the most, it was their patience at the plate and their ability to work hard.
“They’re both disciplined in the batter’s box,” Rients said. “And from a hustle standpoint, you never have to get on them. They’re always giving it their best every single day and from a coach’s standpoint that’s extremely valuable.”
Even as he ends his rookie season of collegiate baseball, Tyler still looks to his older brother for advice on the game.
“I’ve always tried to model my game after this guy over here” Tyler said, as he turned to look at his brother with a smile. “I’ve watched him since I was young, and then he succeeds and I want to be like him. Not even be like him, I want to be better than him.”
That would be a tall order this season, as Alex is one of the best players in Division II baseball, according to Rients, as well as his offensive statistics.
Alex leads all NCAA Division II players in home runs (28), and runs batted in (75). His slugging percentage, 1.099, leads all three NCAA baseball Divisions.
“You talk about Alex, he’s elite,” Rients said. “To have a guy like that in the program, I think, gives the rest of the guys even more confidence in what they’re doing on a daily basis just because they get to see what goes into being very good.”
Rients said that Alex’s presence in the lineup makes the other Bulldog batters comfortable. Tyler’s comfort on the baseball team, however, probably comes from brotherhood.