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Family affair: Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini, brother Gavin pursue major league dreams

07.02.14 at 1:54 pm ET
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Understand this about Garin and Gavin Cecchini: They did not grow up in the typical southern, Christian household. Sure, the Cecchinis are both from Louisiana and were raised in a very devout Christian family, but Raissa and Glenn Cecchini did not raise their kids like most other families.

Both Raissa and Glenn Cecchini are lifelong baseball coaches. Both parents coached at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La., where Glenn still coaches baseball in addition to his duties as a coach for Team USA. Raissa, on the other hand, is a 20-year coaching veteran and won the Easton National Master Coach of the Year award in 1997.

Saying that baseball runs in the Cecchini bloodline would be an understatement. The kids started off playing baseball at a young age together. Garin and Gavin often played with the neighborhood kids in their backyard, where the family had a small baseball field.

The brothers would team up and “destroy” their opponents.

“Garin and me would get two other guys,” said Gavin, now a 20-year-old Mets minor league shortstop. “It wasn’t always the same guys, but there was another guy that we usually played against. His name was Zach Von Rosenberg. He pitches in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Zach and Garin are the same age and me and Zach’s younger brother are the same age so we would play against them a lot.”

“I remember us always being on teams and us fighting when we would lose and us cheering when we would win,” said Garin, now a 23-year-old third baseman who is one of the Red Sox‘ top prospects. “That’s where we started to actually love the game. We would have Wiffle balls and we would throw as hard as we could and try to hit the ball as far as we can and always beat the other guys.”

It was on that small baseball field that Garin and Gavin started to dream about one day playing in the major leagues.

“That’s what we wanted to do when we were 9 years old in the backyard. We dreamed of, ‘Now up to bat, Ken Griffey Jr.,’ and then you were Ken Griffey Jr. for that one moment in the backyard,” Garin said. “That’s what you dream about and what you wanted to do.”

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Garin, who is 2 1/2 years older (and at 6-2, 200 pounds, one inch taller and 20 pounds heavier) than Gavin, used his younger brother as motivation to get better on the field.

“I didn’t want my little brother to be better than me because I would have been embarrassed, but he was always really good,” Garin said. “He always pushed me and he always wanted to be better than me. He wanted to have a better freshman year than I did and whatnot. I think just the competition of us wanting to be better than each other, it was a good healthy competition.”

Garin, who was held back a year in kindergarten due to a speech impediment, became a decorated high school player, setting the freshman record for batting average at Barbe High School, making Team USA and getting projected as a first-round pick heading into his senior year of high school.

Meanwhile, heading into high school, Gavin set a path of goals to follow, all of them along the lines of matching or besting Garin’s accomplishments at a younger age.

“When Gavin came in as a freshman, guess what he wanted to do?” Raissa said. “He wanted to break Garin’s batting average as a freshman. Whatever, Garin did, Garin made Team USA, guess what, Gavin wanted to make Team USA, and they actually both did. They are just driven by each other. ‘You can do this, I can do this better. He can do this, I’m going to do this better.’ “

Separated by two grades, the Cecchini brothers had the opportunity to play together in high school during Gavin’s freshman year and Garin’s junior year. The only thing that prevented the brothers playing another year together in high school was a torn ACL suffered by Garin during his senior year.

Both brothers look back at their years together playing for their dad among their most enjoyable experiences playing baseball.

“That was one of the funnest times, whenever two brothers can play with each other, there is nothing better than that,” Gavin said. “It was a blast playing with him. I would love to play with him again.”

Before suffering a torn ACL, Garin was projected by many analysts as a first-round pick. Although the injury caused Garin to fall to the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Gavin continued to use Garin’s first-round talent as motivation to become a first-round pick himself.

“[Gavin] said, ‘I’m going to be a first-round pick,’ ” Raissa said. ” ‘If I’m not a first-round, I’m going to school because I’m going to be the No. 1 pick coming out of college.’ They are competitive in that aspect, but not in a mean way.”

In the 2012 draft, the Mets selected Gavin with the 12th overall pick. Despite their sibling rivalry, Garin was nothing but proud of his younger brother.

“We got over [our rivalry] during my senior year of high school,” Garin said. “It was just that, we’re both great players and we hope the best. If one is going to be better than the other, time will tell. But I’m happy that he was a first-rounder. I was a fourth. I can always say that my baby brother was a first rounder, and that’s something that you can brag about it.”

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Growing up in a baseball family, Garin and Gavin were exposed to baseball at a young age. As the brothers grew up, Garin and Gavin’s lives began to center around baseball, whether it was with their own teams or the teams that Glenn coached.

“We were always with the players and at the field, whether it was dragging the infield or picking weeds out of the grass or messing around with the baseball players or throwing ground balls to us,” Gavin said. “Then they’re throwing it back and catching them and then we’re throwing to them and they’re throwing to us and we’re hitting it. We were always around the baseball field.”

Raissa recognized that both Garin and Gavin were driven to be the best from a young age. Garin and Gavin’s competitiveness led to endless hours taking ground balls and hitting balls in the batting cage.

“If they had a bad game, they were going to go back in the cage and they were going to hit until they got it right,” Raissa said. “If they had a bad game fielding, we were going to flip on the lights at the high school and field balls until they got them right.  Neither of them wanted to lose, so they were driven by that. They always wanted to be the best. One day, we were there until 4 o’clock in the morning. They refuse to be any less than the best.”

The hard work continued day after day in the Cecchini household. Even during family vacations, the family always had the brothers’ baseball future in mind.

“We would go on vacations to wherever it is and my dad would be making us bring our gloves and bats to the vacation,” Gavin said. “When we were in California, we would stop on the side of the road in the middle of the day when we were driving to California and he would tell us to do squats and lunges, and probably at the time we were fussing and stuff like that, but it all worked out for the good and we can’t thank our parents enough for what they’ve done for us.”

Gavin takes to using his parents’ outlook on life and tries to apply what he’s learned to his own life both on and off the field.

“The thing about my parents, they never settled,” Gavin said. “They’re always trying to get better themselves. They are teaching what the best of the best do, what the professional players do, and that’s why people are always praising my parents and how good of coaches they are. They never stop. They are always trying to find that edge, always trying to help kids be the best that they can be, and at the end of the day, you can’t thank those guys enough. All of my teammates, they always come back and say that they miss my parents as coaches. I can honestly say that they pushed me to the limit and made me the best player that I can be, and that’s all that I can do.”

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Considering the amount of blood, sweat and tears they put into Garin’s career, Raissa and Glenn Cecchini deserved to see their son’s major league debut more than anyone. Garin started the season at Triple-A Pawtucket and ultimately received the call to make the trip to Boston on June 1.

The only problem? There was no flight out of the Lake Charles airport that could get the family to Boston on time for the 1:35 p.m. Sunday game against the Rays.

Luckily for Raissa and Glenn, they were not in Lake Charles when they received the news from Garin.

After Glenn led the Barbe High School team to the state and national high school baseball championship, he and his wife did not have many plans. At the last minute, a Cecchini family friend who was celebrating his 55th birthday wanted to go see one of the Cecchini boys play. Gavin, playing in Georgia for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats, was closest.

The group left Lake Charles on Thursday morning in the family truck and arrived that evening to see Gavin play. After the games on Friday and Saturday, the Cecchinis received a call.

“They’re bringing me up. I’m not sure I’m going to get to play, but I’m being activated tomorrow,” Garin told his parents. “I’m going to be in contact with you.”

They were able to fly from Savannah to make it just in time to Fenway to see the third baseman collect his first major hit and RBI

Said Raissa: “How ironic was it that we weren’t going to Savannah, we ended up in Savannah and we get to go see his major league debut. When I saw his smile — and it’s bringing tears to my eyes right now — the tears began to roll of my face, and I thought I needed to stop this foolishness, but it was just a dream come true. You’ve wanted this all of your life, since you were 4 years old, and then go through the things that he’s gone through and to finally to be on the field with the Red Sox Nation and to hear them screaming and yelling and going crazy, it was like a relief off the chest and just the proudest moment any parent could have.”

Gavin felt unbelievably happy for his brother when he heard news of the call-up. Because he had a game at the same time, Gavin had one of the clubhouse attendants check in on the progress of the Red Sox game and whether or not Garin had gotten a chance to play. Gavin uses Garin’s call-up as motivation for his own play.

“That’s always in my childhood dreams,” Gavin said. “That’s why I’m here in the minor leagues grinding it out. The minor leagues is tough. You’re playing every day. In the Sally League, where I was, it was 13-, 14-hour bus rides and you’re getting in at 3, 4 in the morning and then you’ve got to go play the game the same day. It’s baseball and this is what I want to do and I made the decision to play this game and this is what I worked for my whole life and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Garin and Gavin talk every night, checking in on each other’s performances after each game. Gavin, who recently was promoted to the High-A Port St. Lucie Mets, receives advice from Garin on what to do and what not to do during the daily grind. During the offseason, the brothers’ competitiveness naturally pushes each of them to the next level.

“We’re always trying to battle to see who can catch more balls and make better throws,” Gavin said. “Who can square up more balls when we’re working out in the weight room. Who can do more reps. You’ll stop at 10 reps. I’ve got my brother and we’re working out together and he’ll say, ‘Come on, I’m going 15,’ and then ‘Oh, I’m going 15,’ and then sooner or later you’ve got 25 reps in bench press. We’re always trying to outdo each other, but in the game we’re trying to help each other be the best that we can be.”

Even though they no longer live under the same roof, Garin and Gavin continue to drive each other to be the best possible versions of themselves. That said, brothers are still brothers.

“Sometimes we would get in fights and see who would make less errors or who would hit the ball, but now, when we practice together, it’s all fun and loving,” Garin said. “We know what we need to do and it’s a job now. It’s our career and we know what we need to do to take care of it and it’s a blast now that we’re both in pro ball and our parents get to watch our dreams unfold.”

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