Josh Fletcher wasn’t pleased with his spring. His performances as a member of the Rochester Century baseball team didn’t meet his expectations.
But Fletcher started to feel infinitely better this summer while playing for the Rochester A’s American Legion team.
“I’m really happy with everything,” Fletcher said. “This has been a blast.”
By no coincidence, his good times really started to roll about the time his younger brother, Jerry Fletcher, was called up to the A’s from his VFW team. That happened one-third of the way into the season.
Josh is a senior-to-be, Jerry a sophomore-to-be, though neither actually attends Century. They’ve been forever home schooled, their mother, Carrie Fletcher, their teacher.
To say that Josh and Jerry have built a bond puts it mildly.
“We are about as close as brothers can be,” said Josh, the A’s starting third baseman and No. 1 pitcher, while Jerry has been starting at shortstop the last half of the season. “We strive to make each other better every day, in everything that we do.”
Josh is confident in saying that Jerry’s mere presence automatically makes him better. Immediate comfort washed over him the minute Jerry was called up to the A’s, their shared experiences and familiarity the provider.
Just like that, Josh started to hit, pitch and field better. That .261 batting average he trudged around with in the spring was given the biggest jolt. Josh is hitting a sparkling and team-leading .439 for the A’s. His pitching has also taken off. Josh is 3-2 with a tidy 3.73 ERA and ended his regular season with a gem against powerful Austin, tossing a three-hitter with no earned runs in a 13-3 win. On Monday, in the second round of the Sub-State 1 tournament, he pitched the A's to an 11-0 win over Stewartville.
None of these upticks have taken the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder by surprise. He’d also been expecting such numbers in the spring, which is what made that Century season such a downer for him. But once Jerry showed up this summer, everything changed.
His brother has a way of lifting him up in a way that no one else can replicate.
“Having my little brother on the team, and having him push me through the hills and valleys that happen throughout a season really helps,” Josh said. “He’s always there for me. He’s my backbone if I’m having a bad day; he’s there to pick me up. And the same is true the other way around.”
Tearing it up
Neither has required many pick-me-ups this season. While Josh leads the team in hitting with his .439 average, Jerry is third overall, batting a robust .364.
That Jerry has immediately delivered for the A’s is no surprise to Josh. He was sure he’d fit in talent-wise. All of the brothers’ backyard sessions together, be they endless games of Wiffle Ball as little kids or their more current go-to of trying to outdo each other in their games of catch, left Josh with no worries about Jerry measuring up in an A’s uniform.
“I knew Jerry could make that jump,” Josh said. “I knew what he was capable of; I knew he’d be one the best players on the team.”
A’s coach Todd Stellmaker also quickly got on the “Jerry train.” Just watching him go about his business at the plate, at shortstop and in his interactions in the dugout had the coach believing he had a special player.
“Jerry is just a ballplayer,” Stellmaker said. “His baseball IQ is up there, he’s a grinder and he is naturally gifted at playing the game. The best way to explain it is that he just knows the game and does his job. He’s got a nose for it.”
After what Jerry says was a bit of a nervous start for him as a member of the A’s, he quickly settled in. Like Josh, he treasures having his brother on the team. It’s the first time they’ve had that happen, save for the countless Fletcher backyard battles, where oldest brother Jacob Fletcher was also involved.
Jerry savors having Josh out there with him, in so many ways.
“Josh has given me the most,” Jerry said. “I’d be nervous without him.”