At a travel ball tournament this summer, Sycamore Scorpions coach Dedric Wright penciled in Brian Fuentes at third base and Beiker Fuentes at second.
It was a big moment for the Venezuelan brothers, who live in Crystal Lake. The duo reunited on the baseball diamond for the first time since 2013, even turning a double play that weekend.
Brian, 18, is finally back together with his younger brother Beiker, 16, after living a continent away for the better part of a year and a half.
Brian was an all-state performer on the Crystal Lake South baseball team that won the IHSA Class 4A state championship this spring. The senior, who graduated in May, moved to Crystal Lake from Caracas, Venezuela, in spring 2016.
Since then, he has lived with his uncle, Damil Reyes, some 2,500 miles from Beiker and the rest of his family in Caracas.
That is, until Beiker moved to Crystal Lake about a month ago.
“He’s doing pretty good,” Brian Fuentes said. “He’s picking up the language quicker than me. In a month, I think his English is better than mine when I came here.”
Brian did not play with the Gators his junior year after transferring. He joined up with the squad for summer ball last year and played under Wright for the Scorpions on the travel circuit.
“When I saw him in person, the first thing we noticed was his power,” Wright said. “During BP, he probably hit six or seven out of Sycamore Park. From watching him hit, I told a player who hadn’t met him that this kid’s the real deal.”
Wright remembers how Brian’s English wasn’t so good last year. Brian quickly struck up a friendship with Wright’s son, Jordan Wright, who was also on the Scorpions at the time.
This summer, Brian has made a point to integrate Beiker into his friend group. Brian remembers what it was like to come to America knowing hardly anyone.
The language barrier is less noticeable on the baseball field.
“It’s kind of funny,” Wright said. “Baseball is universal, baseball language. [Beiker is] kind of quiet. He’s still feeling his way with us and the team.”
Before this summer, the Fuentes brothers last saw each other over Christmas break, when Brian traveled home to Venezuela.
Beiker, through Brian’s translation, said he and his brother have a connection on the field.
“We support each other,” Beiker said. “We’re always talking out on the field. When someone makes a mistake, we try to correct each other. We’re always playing hard.”
Wright has seen what having a brother nearby has done for both Fuentes siblings. Beiker has played with the Scorpions for only two weekend tournaments.
Even so, Wright has seen a difference in Brian.
“You see a lot of joy in him,” Wright said. “Brian loves the game of baseball. If someone said to Brian, ‘Hey, we’ve got a game at midnight,’ he’ll be there ready to play. It doesn’t take much for him to get up for a game.
“You see him playing with his brother, you’re getting a little bit more out of him. I think the same thing with Beiker.”
Beiker will attend Crystal Lake South starting in August. He is entering his junior year.
Brian said his brother has a great arm. In addition to second base, Beiker plays some outfield. At a recent Prep Baseball Report showcase, Beiker was clocked throwing 90 mph from the outfield and 86 mph in the infield.
He is a different style player from Brian. Brian said Beiker is faster on the basepaths, too.
Beiker doesn’t possess the power Brian does (Brian hit .451 with six home runs and 21 doubles for the Gators this spring). But Wright said Beiker might be a more well-rounded baseball player.
“From a baseball standpoint, I think he’s ahead of Brian,” Wright said. “He doesn’t have the power that Brian has. Overall, he’s 16, he’s a little bit ahead of Brian just as an overall baseball player.”
Brian leaves for Wabash College, where he will play baseball, on Aug. 12. For now, however, he’ll enjoy a little more time at home with his brother.
“Oh yeah, I missed him,” Brian said. “I have been here without my brother, who’s like my best friend. He’s always talking to me. It’s very exciting to be together again.”