The Hence brothers of the Watson Chapel Wildcats baseball program, Braelin and Blake, both signed their letters of intent Wednesday to further their baseball careers at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff under head baseball coach Carlos James.
Both brothers played two seasons under Watson Chapel head coach Chad Cope, and the bond that they've built within that time is evident.
According to Cope, Braelin was one of the leaders for the Wildcats since he stepped into the program. Braelin led by example on and off of the field, the coach said.
"First of all he's a high character young man," Cope said. "You never had to worry about whether Braelin would take care of his business in the classroom. He showed up for practice everyday and he practiced hard. He's one of those kids that you enjoy coaching, and he's been a great team leader for us since he came over here."
Braelin Hence, 5-feet, 9-inches tall and 170 pounds, played shortstop and second base throughout his time as a Wildcat. A surgery in the off-season forced Braelin to move from shortstop to second base, but there wasn't a drop off in his performance.
"He's played short and second for us," Cope said. "He had arm surgery in the fall so we moved him to second. He's as steady as they come, and I think he only made two or three errors the entire year. When there was a ground ball hit you were hoping it was to him. He played solid for us, and we had confidence in him at his position."
At the next level, Cope believes UAPB is getting a steal in Braelin, and he has no doubt that he'll go out there and give it his all.
"He's got good hands," Cope said. "He's left handed, he's fast, and he's a good athlete. There's no doubt about it that UAPB is getting a good one. He's a high-character kid, and I can't say that enough. The coaches out there won't have to worry about him handling his business. He's going to be successful in whatever he does."
Blake Hence, 6-feet, 2-inches and 195 pounds, has the size that college programs look for. His presence in the Wildcats' locker room will truly be missed, according to Cope.
"Blake moved in here and helped out a lot," Cope said. "Blake is a big young kid, and he played as good at defense as a first baseman has since I've been here. He can swing the bat and he'll be really missed."
Versatility is a big part of Blake's game, with his ability to play in the infield and outfield.
"Blake shared time at first base, and he played some right field for us," Cope said. "That's a luxury he has, the ability to play first base and outfield. Playing multiple positions always helps out as you're transitioning to the next level.
"He's raw. He's only going to get better. The thing about Blake is he has one of the things that you can't coach and that's size. He's a big strong kid, and he can hit it a long way ... he has a bright future ahead of him."
When asked how he was accepted by the Wildcats after transferring from their crosstown rivals, Braelin acknowledged that they treated them like he was apart of the family from the start. Now as he embarks on his next journey of being a Golden Lion, he is confident that he can contribute early.
"They welcomed me with open arms here at Chapel, and it was a great experience," Braelin said. "I had played with these guys since I was younger and it was just like riding a bike. I got a chance to play with my friends, and we built a great team. We fell short on some goals, but overall we had two good seasons."
"I feel like this will be a good upcoming experience for me," Braelin said. "I feel like I have a good chance to go in and play as a freshman, I feel good about it."
Blake is well aware of what coach Cope has meant to the development of his game, and also as a better person off of the field. Now he's ready to get to UAPB and show the coaching staff there that he's willing to work and do what it takes to win.
"I was groomed as a better player, a better man, and a better student in the classroom," Blake said. "I appreciate coach Cope for all his help and what he's done for me, he's a real good man. Cope taught me in college you'll have to play more than one position to get on the field," Blake said. "Playing different positions has helped raise my baseball IQ. Coach James just wants me to come in and work hard, be a good student, be a good teammate, listen, and do what I have to do to help the team win," Blake said. "My plan is to go out and do my best by working hard, being dedicated, and loyal to my teammates so I can help us win."