Twelve players, eight brothers

Woodbury's brotherhood: In the back row (from left), older brothers Matt Atkinson, Jack Tierney, Reilly Roan, Aaron Buckley. In the front row, David Atkinson, Kevin Tierney, Chris Roan, Brandon Buckley.
Woodbury's brotherhood: In the back row (from left), older brothers Matt Atkinson, Jack Tierney, Reilly Roan, Aaron Buckley. In the front row, David Atkinson, Kevin Tierney, Chris Roan, Brandon Buckley.
Posted: April 26, 2013

John Atkinson sat quietly in a folding chair behind home plate watching his grandkids play baseball for Woodbury.

Atkinson has seen a lot over the years. He coached Little League in town and called games behind the plate. Three of his sons even played at Woodbury on the 1980 team. His oldest, Jay, who graduated in 1980, has two sons playing at the school, Matt and David.

But John Atkinson has never seen anything like the current team, which features four sets of brothers among the 12 players.

Jay Atkinson lives three houses down from Heather Tierney, whose sons, Jack and Kevin, play for the team.

The Roans live two blocks down the street, and their sons, Reilly and Chris, also play for the team.

Heather Tierney knows Wayne Buckley from high school, and his sons, Aaron and Brandon, are the fourth set of brothers on the squad.

"It's a very small town, but everyone stayed around," Buckley said of quaint Woodbury, which covers only 2.1 square miles but is described as perfect by some of the kids. "It's exciting, seeing my boys play like I did."

Not surprisingly, the players on the team are very comfortable with each other. Many of them recall playing T-ball together as kids and remain close off the field, even scrimmaging and practicing together on their own time in the summer.

"It's not weird to us," senior Matt Atkinson said. "We're just used to it."

The team - 5-4 overall and 3-4 in the Colonial Conference - created traditions of going to Don Pablo's for "Taco Tuesday," which it has done for the last six weeks, and parking next to each other before school to create "baseball alley."

"It's a lot of fun," junior Jack Tierney said. "We all know each other on a different level, and we have a different connection with each other, and that allows us to get closer as a team and allows the team as a whole to get better."

The players understand how special their situation is. They've always known that most teams don't have this many siblings or so much time playing together, but they can't imagine having it any other way.

Jack Tierney, Aaron Buckley, Matt Atkinson, and Reilly Roan once played on a summer team with players with whom they weren't familiar and realized how much they appreciated the team they have at Woodbury.

"The difference between this team and that team was that we've been playing together forever," Jack Tierney said. "We've been pushing each other forever. It's weird to have to play with a different kid that I haven't met before."

Coach Anthony Matranga credits the older brothers with showing their younger brothers the ropes, but a lot of sibling rivalries carry over to the field.

"They're always trying to compete with their brother and do better than brother," Wayne Buckley said. "They try that much harder when they're playing with their older brother."

The Buckleys both play on the infield and, in some situations, are competing with each other for one spot.

Even if it costs a player his playing time, having a brother on the team helps the players remain calm.

"It keeps the team together," Matranga said. "Sometimes when a guy you don't know beats you out, it's different than when your brother beats you out.

"You're still there getting his back, whether it's on the field or at home. It helps them get better."

The moment the brothers and their four other teammates step off the field, the mood becomes much lighter, filled with laughter and smiles. Like best friends who have known each other for years, the players make fun of each other incessantly.

Each player on the team has a nickname, some more suitable for print than others and unanimously mocking in nature, and the players are giddy as they explain who goes by what.

There's Reilly "Old Man" Roan, known for his bad knees. Chris Roan is "The man who can't talk" because of his cracking voice. Aaron Buckley goes by "Chap Man," because of his need for ChapStick.

"The brothers bring a certain dynamic to the team," Matranga said. "They get on each other at practice. It's kind of like a family atmosphere. That's how Woodbury is.

"These kids stay together, they grow up playing together, then they come and it's no different when they're on the field playing varsity baseball. It's the same thing as playing Little League."


Herd of Brothers

The Woodbury Thundering Herd have four sets of brothers among their 12 varsity baseball players.

Player   Yr.   Pos.   

Matt Atkinson   Sr.   LF   

David Atkinson   So.   CF   

Aaron Buckley   Jr.   2B   

Brandon Buckley   Fr.   3B   

Reilly Roan   Jr.   SS   

Chris Roan   Fr.   C   

Jack Tierney   Jr.   C   

Kevin Tierney   So.   SS   


Contact Nick Carroll

at ncarroll@phillynews.com.

Follow @NickJCarroll on Twitter.

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