Newcastle twins make pitch for baseball history
6 October 2015
While plenty – perhaps hundreds – of brothers have progressed to Major League Baseball, there has been just a handful of instances of twin siblings making it to the pinnacle of our sport in the past one hundred years.
There have certainly been no twins from Australia who have made it to the bigs in any capacity – much less, though, both as left-armed pitchers initially from a regional association.
While a long and arduous trek faces any person aspiring to breathe the rarefied air of Major League Baseball, Novacastrian twins Lachlan Wells and Alexander Wells have taken the first steps as they embark what may yet be a unique and remarkable baseball journey.
Both outstanding left-armed prospects since they first came to the attention of MLB scouts four years ago, Lachlan and Alexander Wells appeared destined - early on - for either professional contracts or for college opportunities in United States.
Lachlan was the first to ink a deal when legendary scout Howie Norsetter in August 2014 signed him to a long-term contract with Minnesota Twins that enabled the young southpaw to play a first-up season of rookie ball in Gulf Coast League during our winter.
An astute and experienced judge of projectable baseball talent, Norsetter has signed no less than eight of the Australians who have made it to MLB level over the past twenty years. He obviously saw plenty in the Wells twins, at that point more particularly in Lachlan – who, for his age, was clocking impressive numbers on the speed gun.
“I guess what he saw in me was the velocity on my fastball, being able to change speeds and throw a decent changeup,” Lachlan told Australian Baseball Alumni this week.
Also courted by several organisations, twin brother Alexander opted more recently to not follow his twin to the Twins (and thereby generate all sorts of playful linguistic opportunities for baseball scribes). Instead, Alex decided to offer his services to Baltimore (with a US $300,000 signing bonus) – a decision that Alumni Chairman and Orioles Pacific Rim scout Brett Ward says made him personally “very happy”.
“I had a number of options, but I chose the Orioles because I wanted to be my own person and to create my own path in professional baseball,” Alex Wells said.
Now eighteen, the Wells brothers had a relatively unexceptional entry to baseball although both took little time to demonstrate that their pitching skills were indeed out of the ordinary.
“We were playing cricket from an early age,” Lachlan Wells said. “We saw that a local baseball club was running Come and Try days, so we thought we would try the game out.”
“We enjoyed it, so we signed up, kept playing and we have loved the game ever since.”
Both players made rapid improvement in the sport and were very soon playing high quality club baseball and gaining selection in representative and state teams that in turn led to time for both at the MLB Academy Programme and ultimately selection in Australian national teams.
While being left-handed pitchers proffered something of advantage in their developmental years, both players acknowledge the support and assistance of Belmont Baseball Club legends and high performance coaches Stewart Bell and Ian Hook, who guided the twins’ rapid progression through club ranks to higher honours.
“They were major influences on both of us in our early stages of development,” Lachlan said. “They helped us a lot from the start – they pretty much taught us how to play the game and how to get better at what we did.”
While both players attracted serious attention at the 2012 National Youth Championship – as fifteen year-olds - Lachlan became only the second pitcher to gain national baseball selection in a higher age group when he was picked for the Under 18 World Cup, followed up by his subsequent selection for the Under 21 World Cup in late 2014.
Since bursting upon the scene just over three years ago, both have represented Australia and both were key players at the recent Under 18 World Cup in Japan, with Lachlan travelling from Rookie League in the states to join our national team that finished a very creditable fourth against tough opposition.
The recent signing of Alex Wells to a professional contract made him the sixth player from the Newcastle area to do so in the past fifteen years – following in the footsteps of Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Rees, the Moanaroa brothers and sibling Lachlan, who enjoyed a solid 2015 rookie league season in going 5-2 for an ERA of 2.09 over 47 innings that gleaned 49 strikeouts.
“It was a tough experience at first, being so far away from home and not knowing much about what I was getting myself into,” Lachlan Wells said. “Luckily I had a few Aussie boys who helped me when I first got over here.”
“It was difficult not knowing many people and the language barrier was a big one – especially with the Latin Americans. But there were very definite upsides in my first year – like being able to meet a whole lot of new people, making new friends and being able to learn a little Spanish so I could communicate with the Latin Americans better.”
Despite living on different continents for several months this year, the Wells twins inevitably stayed in regular contact, with Lachlan passing on snippets of advice as his own fledgling professional career began to build.
“Lachlan has told me that it is tough in the first month but that you get used to it and it becomes easier as you get settled in and start getting to know your new teammates,” Alex said.
“”Some of things that he has found most difficult have been the time differences between Australia and United States, living in dormitory rooms or a motel – and of course getting homesick.”
“Lachlan has been great in helping me prepare for the years to come,” he said. “I am very excited about starting my career in professional baseball and I cannot wait to see where it takes me in the future.”
Both young men are currently at Instructional League in Florida – Lachlan at Fort Myers and Alex at Sarasota. Both expect to be back in Australia in mid to late October, with somewhat different plans for the Australian summer – including the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in mid-February.
Lachlan has already enjoyed game time with Sydney Blue Sox, while Alex was on the reserves list last season. Both would clearly be welcome additions to the Blue Sox roster and both – pending availability – would surely be under consideration for the All-Star Game in December and for the WBC Qualifier.
“For me it is too early to tell,” Alex said. “It will depend on what the Orioles have in mind. I will go with whatever they have planned. I am likely to be in the Blue Sox roster, but that will probably be subject to limitations.”
“Yes, I will be suiting up for the Blue Sox this season,” Lachlan said, “but not until mid to late December, after I have a break. With the rest that I plan on having I won’t be available for the All-Star Game. When I get back I can hopefully do enough to get selected for the WBC qualifying team. It would be a great achievement to make that team, but we will just have to see what happens.”
As eighteen year-old ball players from an Australian provincial city, Lachlan and Alexander Wells have already enjoyed more travel, greater cultural exchange and more sporting highlights in their lives than most teenagers could ever hope. For Alex Wells, donning the green and gold to play alongside his twin has been a serious blast, while signing a professional baseball contract has added another, almost surreal dimension to his sporting life.
While nominating professional signing as a highlight of his sporting career – and his life – Lachlan Wells already has indelible memories of his national representation.
“Representing Australia is huge, and getting to do that with my brother was such a good experience,” he said. “I will always remember being part of some big games – like the Under 18 World Cup in 2013, when Australia beat United States. That was awesome – especially being the youngest player on that team and watching Lewis Thorpe dominate.”
“In this year’s World Cup, being a part of the team when we beat Cuba in ten innings was huge.”
Both Lachlan and Alexander Wells will be just 23 years of age by 2020, an Olympics year that may yet see Australia qualified to compete in a six-team competition against the strongest baseball nations in the world.
“It is great news that baseball and softball look like being reinstated for the 2020 Olympics,” Lachlan Wells said. “If I get the opportunity to represent Australia that would be pretty special. That feeling you get when wearing the green and gold is indescribable – to do it at the Olympics would be a once in a lifetime thing. It is definitely a longer-term goal of mine to make that team.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Alex Wells, who is clearly just as focused and just as committed to the burgeoning baseball career that beckons both young men.
“I would be honoured to represent my country at the 2020 Olympic Games – or at any other time,” Alex said.
The story of the Wells twins is already unique. It may develop into something hitherto unparalleled in the annals of Australian baseball history. The opportunity to secure a successful professional baseball career does not come along all that often – and it entails a long and arduous sporting journey, what Howie Norsetter defines as “a marathon” to make it as far as Major League baseball.
One has the sense that Lachlan and Alexander Wells certainly have the talent, the potential and they just may have the wherewithal and the personal qualities to make it all the way to The Show – especially if they consistently act upon the advice offered to any and all of us, in any field of endeavour, by Lachlan himself:
“Just don’t give up. Everyone has good days and bad days. It is going to happen – that’s baseball. You may not be the biggest person, or throw the hardest, run the quickest or hit the ball the furthest.””
“But if you work hard you can achieve anything. Don’t ever listen to people who say that you can’t do particular things. Get out there and prove those people wrong.”
Australian Baseball Alumni extends its appreciation to Lachlan and Alexander Wells for their assistance in preparation of this feature. We wish both young men all the very best in their professional careers – which we know will be followed closely by the Australian baseball community.
Alexander Wells (left), Lachlan Wells (right)
Image: Newcastle Herald
Lachlan Wells at Under 18 World Cup