They are bonded by blood and baseball, slight in build but a formidable one-two punch.
Nick and Ty Madrigal are 18-year-old twins and captains of Elk Grove High School’s baseball team, ranked No. 1 in the region. They have similar passions and crave to compete, be it on the diamond or in statistics or English classes as honors students.
And nothing delights the seniors more than fielding buckets of ground balls and gloving dozens of fly balls on an off day, pushing and inspiring each other. The Madrigal brothers have the same interests in music, generally hip-hop and sometimes country. They both devour eggs in the morning, and carpool, swapping turns on who gets the keys to the four-door Honda.
Girlfriends? No time. There are games to prepare for and finals to study for, they explain nearly in unison.
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“We’re a lot a like, the best of friends,” Ty said.
“We’re as close as it gets,” Nick said. “We’re excited, every day.”
The Madrigals were seemingly in such a rush to enter this world that they were several weeks premature. On March 5, 1997, Nick arrived at 4 pounds, 11 ounces and Ty at 5 pounds, 10 ounces – their heads not much bigger than a baseball. Their mother, Angie, delivered quite the double play.
“Nurses took me into intensive care and showed me babies that could fit into your hand,” said father Mike Madrigal, holding his hands out for emphasis. “They were preparing me for how small they might be. Nervous times. But the boys were fine. They came out great, all the fingers and toes, arms and legs, and they’ve never stopped amazing us. They amaze even now, right on down to their good manners.”
But for all the similarities, the Madrigals are not identical twins and differ in body size and skill set. They stand alone in each category, and that’s about as much distance as you’ll find. OK, there’s also the tidy side.
“Ty’s more organized, cleaner than I am,” Nick said, laughing.
Since they couldn’t share the same jersey number, the brothers compromised. Nick wears No. 2 and Ty No. 12.
Ty is taller and heavier, if just slightly, at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds. He is the Herd’s left-handed ace, sporting a 6-3 record and a 1.99 ERA while facing some of the top teams in the state. He is 15-4 in his three-year Thundering Herd career. An outfielder when he isn’t pitching, Ty is batting .321 with 11 RBIs and 19 runs. He plans to play in college and has drawn the interest of numerous programs.
The right-handed Nick, a shortstop, is 5-7 and 160 pounds. He possesses unusual foot and hand quickness, golden attributes for his position. He is batting .461 with 17 RBIs, 26 stolen bases and 26 runs.
Elk Grove enters Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section playoff opener seeking its eighth Division I North championship since 2002 and second in three seasons. The Herd’s last game will be the final one as teammates for the Madrigals, too.
“That’s why we want to finish strong,” Ty said.
Of the two, Nick is the more accomplished. He was named a preseason All-American by three national publications and won a gold medal with USA Baseball’s 18-under national team at the Pan American Games in September. Nick is projected to be selected in the top two rounds of next month’s major-league amateur draft. In the meantime, he has given a verbal commitment to Oregon State – yet another double play.
Nick draws a flood of scouts, cross-checkers and executives to games. He’s calm in approach and delivery, and baseball people notice.
“(He’s the) best high school shortstop I’ve ever seen,” Sacramento State baseball coach Reggie Christiansen said. “Incredible. Some scouts will tell you he can play defense in the big leagues right now.”
Such talk flatters Nick, but he quickly dismisses it. He remains focused on the next game, the next bucket of balls to tie into.
All the while, Ty doesn’t try to compete against his brother for accolades. He’s a star in his own right, his coach said.
“Two great kids, and we’ll miss them when they move on,” longtime Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson said. “They play the game hard, the right way. They’re dedicated. The game means a lot to them. Nick has been the guy who gets more recognition, playing for Team USA, and Ty has sometimes been in his shadow, but he’s stepped out of that shadow this year. He’s done some outstanding things for us and stood out on his own.”
Ty earned wins over powerhouse programs Clovis (2-0), St. Mary’s of Stockton (1-0), Bellarmine of San Jose (2-1) and Jesuit (7-1).
During a tense rivalry game against No. 2-ranked Franklin on May 4, Mike Madrigal nervously fidgeted behind the backstop.
On a quick 6-3 defensive play – shortstop to first in a flash – he exhaled and said, “That’s it. Hit it to your brother. I can breathe.”
Elk Grove won 4-3.
“Having my brother behind me, that’s comfort,” Ty said. “Same with (second baseman) Carlos Moseley and (third baseman) Brooks Day and (first baseman) Dylan Carlson. But Nick’s always been by my side, and he’s such a great player. He knows my game. He’s the one guy who can keep my composure. He’ll come to me before the game or during the game and tells me straight. That’s that tight bond that you can’t break.”
Said Nick, “I feel really comfortable out there. I don’t play with fear. I trust my abilities. I know there’s still a lot I can learn, but it’s so fun playing this game. I notice the scouts, but I don’t think too much about it. I have a game to play. If I start thinking too much about it, that’s when you get into trouble.”
Even Sunday workouts are serious business.
“To always have that guy to catch ground balls with, working on relay throws, fly balls, hitting off the tee, working to get better, that’s been great,” Ty said. “We’re the same way in class. We like to take care of business there. We understand the structure, that education comes first, that you need that.”
Said Nick, “Growing up, we have kept busy every day. Working on our game, it’s something we’ve always done. Sitting at home and doing nothing, that just doesn’t feel right. Working hard, getting better and doing it together, that feels natural. Strive to be great in anything you do. We feel blessed. It’s been a great life.”
What: Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs
When: Division I North openers for top seeds Wednesday and Thursday, Sacramento City College
Notable: The Division I playoffs started in 1976; Elk Grove has won a record seven titles since 1990; Jesuit has won five since 1994.
ELK GROVE BASEBALL BY THE NUMBERS
▪ 1-2: Rounds in which shortstop Nick Madrigal is projected to be
drafted next month.
▪ 6: Wins this season for ace Ty Madrigal, Nick’s twin brother.
▪ 7: Number of section D-I North titles under coach Jeff Carlson since 2002.
▪ 15-4: Career record for Ty Madrigal over three seasons.
▪ 26: Stolen bases and runs in as many games for Nick Madrigal.
▪ 1.63: ERA for Alex Zalasky to go with his 6-1 record.
▪ .461: Batting average for Nick Madrigal.