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A BOND BETWEEN BROTHERS: Stuemke, Robbins families have a special bond with baseball right in the middle

May 30—ALTAMONT — Traditions pass on.

For the Robbins and Stuemke families, baseball is that tradition.

Altamont seniors Ethan Robbins and Nathan Stuemke have baseball in their blood.

Both of their older brothers suited up for the Indians the last time they had postseason success. Now, Jacob and Tyler Robbins and Brayden Stuemke get to witness their younger brothers do the same, albeit at a venue they were one win away from getting to — Dozer Park in Peoria.

"It's pretty special to watch," Tyler said. "It's a great group of guys with him."

"I think it's special for all of us players in the past, the community, the families, to see those boys get the opportunity," Jacob added.

"Makes me feel old, No. 1," Brayden laughed. "You always remember how it felt whenever you won those types of games, but to see him succeed is another thing. You don't realize how cool it is whenever you're doing it, but then whenever you see other people doing it and, especially little brother, it makes it a lot more special."

Altamont defeated Elizabethtown (Hardin County) Monday afternoon to advance to the state tournament.

When Jacob and Brayden were on the team, they lost to Goreville in 2018 and Steeleville in 2019.

Tyler didn't play as much of a role on the 2019 team; he was a freshman that year. What he does remember more than anything else, though, is the camaraderie he built with his team.

"The whole trip. Starting out, the road trip up there and all the guys," Tyler said. "I didn't play much, but it was still a great experience, seeing the team go as far as they did."

Jacob Robbins was a junior in 2018 when Altamont advanced to the super-sectional for the first time in school history.

"Incredible experience. To be the first in history to show up there and have our chance at it," Jacob said. "I remember rolling up in the bus more than I do the game. Seeing the tents out and the bags out. The families, the parents getting food cooked, tailgating.

"The fact that they all care that much to support the team, support the Indians and show up for us every year, every game, I think, is something special."

Altamont lost in 2018, 19-2, and then again the following year, 11-7.

This year's contest was a bit more nerve-racking.

The Indians pulled out a 7-6 walk-off win thanks to a bases-loaded free pass.

Brayden wasn't able to attend the game due to obligations at work.

"That was definitely a stressful two hours whenever he was playing," he said.

That reaction is the same kind anyone would have when a sport is more than just a game, but something that brings you closer to one another, which is more than the case for both of these families.

Forging a relationship early

Brayden can't remember a time he and his brother weren't playing catch.

"As long as I can remember, we've (always) been playing catch in the front yard. He was always catching me and whenever I was a senior and he was a freshman, he ended up beating me out for a catching spot and I got moved around the field and he ended up catching," Brayden said. "I don't know if I had much to do with that; he's always had a grind and always wanted to catch and it's the same thing with his hitting approach."

Nathan called Brayden "one of my No. 1 fans," though they play nearly opposite of one another.

Nathan refers to himself as more of a "stocky, big catcher," whereas Brayden was a "speed demon."

"He was a speed demon and could hit the ball, spray the ball around, steal," Nathan said. "He had like 30 stolen bases one year. He was good anywhere. I'm more of a stocky, big catcher that can hit."

The one thing they do have in common, however, is the leadership they show on the field.

Whenever a big play is made, Nathan is one of the first to show it.

"I think so," said Brayden on if he was as loud as Nathan when he was playing. "I never really showed it that much in games. I feel like I'm a lot more level-headed now than I was back then, but I definitely think he gets it from me and our family."

Learning from the elders

Ethan has had a breakthrough season for Altamont, especially on the mound.

So far this year, he boasts a 1.11 ERA in 38 innings. Ethan has a 4-1 record and has allowed 18 hits, six earned runs and 22 walks to 58 strikeouts.

Tyler wants to think that he helped him craft his skills.

"I'd like to say a lot, but he's started picking it up the last couple of years and he's doing a great job," said Tyler with a smile.

Ethan said he has always looked up to his older siblings.

"They've had a huge impact on me," he said. "On and off the field, making sure I know that I got to keep up with school and putting just as many hours in the classroom as I do on the field. Always being able to motivate me."

Ethan believes Jacob is more of a mentor to him than anyone, though.

So much so that he even wears his jersey number.

"Having (Jacob) be a huge mentor, probably the best first baseman I've ever watched play baseball and it's awesome to see him and wear his big No. 16 on the field," he said.

Extended family members

Though Nathan and Ethan look up to their brothers, they, too, are like family in a sense.

The pitcher-catcher battery is a relationship that never gets discussed or highlighted quite enough.

"I like the fact that he never backs down from a hitter. I like that he will always come back when he inevitably gets down 3-1," Nathan joked. "I like that he throws strikes, gets groundballs, weak contact and I like that he's confident on the mound and we work together to get hitters out."

The relationship between the two started in sixth grade when they both attended Altamont Lutheran Interparish School.

"It goes down to starting up, thinking, 'Alright, let's try this out,' and seeing how this pitching thing goes," Ethan said. "Starting that work in sixth grade and throwing with Nate every day and building that trust and that commitment."

All that trust has since resulted in a state berth and yet another trophy coming back to the hallways at Altamont High School when this weekend is over.