It's a triple play at South Jersey's Shawnee High

The Arsenaults are standouts in different spring sports as juniors at Shawnee High. (From left) Zach is the No. 1 player on the golf team, Connor is the baseball team's No. 3 hitter, and Tyler is the No. 2 tennis singles player.
The Arsenaults are standouts in different spring sports as juniors at Shawnee High. (From left) Zach is the No. 1 player on the golf team, Connor is the baseball team's No. 3 hitter, and Tyler is the No. 2 tennis singles player.
Posted: April 23, 2011

Back when they were known as "the triplets" and played the same sport in the spring, the Arsenault brothers often were frustrated by their differences.

Zach was the redheaded pitcher. Tyler was the brown-haired catcher. Connor was the blond first baseman.

They would meet on the mound in the middle of most baseball games.

"We would fight all the time," said Tyler Arsenault, recalling the days when the boys played for the same teams in youth baseball.

Now 17 and juniors at Shawnee High School in Medford, the Arsenault triplets have come to embrace their differences.

It's not unusual for triplets to excel at sports. The twist for the Arsenaults is that each brother is a standout player in a different spring sport.

Zach is the No. 1 player on the Shawnee golf team. Tyler is the No. 2 singles player on the Shawnee tennis team. Connor is the starting third baseman and No. 3 hitter on the Shawnee baseball team.

"It's better this way," said Connor Arsenault, the youngest and largest of the triplets. "It gives us each our own identity."

The brothers' success in three sports with three kinds of equipment - baseball bats, tennis rackets, and golf clubs, plus gloves, balls, and a wide range of footwear - creates a serious space crunch in the family garage, as well as the backseat of the Honda Accord that Connor Arsenault uses to drive his siblings to school.

"The garage has to be an arsenal of equipment," Shawnee athletic director Sue Murphy said in a bit of wordplay on the family's last name.

The fraternal triplets, born on Jan. 31, 1994, have always been different. Their mother, Donna Arsenault, said they always slept in different cribs, always had their own rooms, always were in different classes in elementary school.

They never looked alike, with different hair colors and different body types. Zach is the oldest but always has been the smallest. Connor is the youngest, but always has been the biggest. Tyler is the middle child, and the "medium" in one of Donna Arsenault's descriptions of her three sons: "Small, medium, and large."

But when it came to youth sports, the boys almost always played the same sports, almost always on the same teams in the Marlton Rec Council and later in the Medford Youth Athletic Association.

"People would say, 'Here come the triplets,' " said the boys' father, Jim Arsenault. "It was like they were referred to as a unit. I think they wanted to kind of get away from that."

Jim Arsenault thinks that the desire for individuality was the force that drove the boys in different directions at about eighth grade. Donna Arsenault thinks it was more a case of each boy finding a sport more fitting to his skills and personality.

The boys rarely agree with each other - spend 10 minutes with each one, and he'll spend five jokingly putting down the other two - but they agree with both parents in this matter.

Zach Arsenault never played golf before eighth grade. But he found a game perfectly suited to his deft touch and intense mental approach. Plus, his father is one of the top amateur golfers in South Jersey.

Zach has been Shawnee's No. 1 golfer since his first match of freshman year. He won the South/Central Group 3 sectional as a sophomore with a 74, leading the Renegades to the team title.

He was second at last week's Burlington County Open, shooting a 79 as Shawnee won the team title.

Of course, his brothers wondered why he didn't finish first, and Connor had some extra ammunition that day because he went 4 for 4 in his baseball game.

"Me and Connor were making fun of Zach for finishing second," Tyler said.

Shawnee golf coach Jeff Kates said Zach is a perfectionist on the course.

"Zach is a very focused young man," Kates said. "If he continues to develop, the sky is the limit with his skill set."

Zach, who stands 5-foot-8, said he likes the individual challenge of golf.

"It's all on you," Zach said.

Tyler, the only brother to play a second varsity sport - he's a standout defender on the Shawnee soccer team in the fall - found an outlet for his rangy athleticism on the tennis court. Plus, his mother loves to play tennis.

Tyler was Shawnee's No. 3 singles player as a freshman and No. 2 singles player as a sophomore. He was expected to be Shawnee's No. 1 singles this season, but lost a couple of close challenge matches to nationally ranked freshman Justin Kang in the preseason.

Tyler was 14-2 as a freshman and 17-2 as a sophomore. He was 3-1 through the early part of this season, all at No. 1 singles as Kang was out of the lineup.

"No one that I've coached brings to the court the determination that Tyler brings," Shawnee tennis coach Jim Baker said. "He's a real warrior."

Like his brother Zach, Tyler said the individual nature of singles tennis was appealing to him.

"You can be your own person out there," said Tyler, who is 5-10.

When his brothers abandoned baseball, Connor stuck with the game. He is a versatile player who can handle third base and first base and also can catch.

Connor, who is 6 feet tall, broke into the Shawnee starting lineup this season. He was batting over .500 through the early part of the season, highlighted by that 4-for-4 performance with three runs in a victory over Triton.

"He is a quality young man," Shawnee baseball coach Brian Anderson said. "He is a selfless young man who has been willing to accept whatever role is needed for the benefit of the team."

Their parents say the brothers have always been competitive with each other. But they also suspect that beneath the typical teenage teasing and sibling rivalry, each secretly roots for his brothers' success.

"They are always jabbing at each other, but I know they also are proud of each other," Donna Arsenault said.

The boys have a routine in the morning. Connor drives the white Honda Accord, with Tyler in the passenger seat. Zach is stuck in the backseat with three school bags as well as his golf bag, Connor's baseball bag, and Tyler's tennis bag, plus what Donna Arsenault describes as a collection of discarded Gatorade bottles, food wrappers, candy wrappers, plastic containers, and assorted other trash.

"He's the smallest and he can fit back there," Tyler said of Zach.

Zach said it's not his size that relegates him to the backseat.

"I get up the latest," Zach said.

The brothers are in the same homeroom but mostly are in different classes. They are good students, but sports is their passion. Once the bell rings at the end of the school day, they go their own ways in pursuit of a different game.

"We all made a choice to go with a different sport," Connor said. "We push each other to do well. It's like we're always trying to top each other. It's always a competition."

The brothers all hope to play their chosen spring sport in college. But Tyler said one thing is for sure: It won't be at the same college.

"We all made a deal to go to college a minimum of an hour away from each other," Tyler said.


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or panastasia@phillynews.com

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