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Sports

Biggio brothers bond through baseball

| Monday, April 28, 2014

Like many younger siblings, freshman second baseman Cavan Biggio spent much of his childhood tailing his older brother, Conor, now a junior outfielder for the Irish. But unlike some older brothers, Conor never seemed to mind.

Irish junior Conor Biggio attempts to avoid the tag at the plate against Quinnipac on April 21, 2013, when Notre Dame claimed a 5-1 victory. This season, Biggio shares the team lead with seven stolen bases. Ally Darragh | The Observer

Irish junior Conor Biggio attempts to avoid the tag at the plate against Quinnipac on April 21, 2013, when Notre Dame claimed a 5-1 victory. This season, Biggio shares the team lead with seven stolen bases.

“I consider him my best friend,” Conor said. “We do everything together, we always have, and it’s kind of fitting that we went to the same college together.”

But that almost didn’t happen. Cavan originally committed to Virginia in June of 2012, but changed his mind during his senior year of high school and decided to reunite with his brother in South Bend.

“I looked at too much of the baseball part and not enough at the school,” Cavan said of his initial commitment to Virginia. “Notre Dame is just such a great place, and I just knew I loved Notre Dame and I’d be happy here.”

Now in his second semester, Cavan has settled into the Irish lineup, starting in all but one of Notre Dame’s 43 games. He and junior first baseman Blaise Lezynski are the only two Irish players who have played in every game this season. Conor has an on-base-percentage of .386 — tied for the highest on the team — in 65 at-bats.

Not that it’s a competition.

“They weren’t really competitive with each other,” their father and former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio said. “They’re two totally different kids. They probably had — and their mother would probably tell you the same thing — they had maybe a handful of fights, if that, ever growing up. And that doesn’t happen — brothers are always fighting. But they never really fought.”

And one more unusual thing about the Biggio brothers: As the children of a highly successful major leaguer, they spent a good portion of their childhoods in the Astros clubhouse.

“’[The Astros] were very supportive of that, but there were certain rules and guidelines that the kids had to abide to. The number one rule was guys are there to work and get ready for a game and do their jobs,” Craig said. “In our house, it was always, ‘Listen, we are very fortunate and lucky to do what I do; let’s not ruin it for everybody.’”

Conor and Cavan had the opportunity to get to know their father’s teammates (both mentioned former catcher and current Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus as a favorite) and see the sort of work ethic required of professional athletes. Then there were more painful experiences: During one batting practice at Wrigley Field when Cavan was seven or eight, he was hit in the chest by a line drive and was carried off the field by Sammy Sosa.

And it wasn’t always a breeze to go through Little League with such a famous last name.

“Whenever you’re a professional athlete, people are going to expect your kids to be just as good as you are, and that comes with the territory a little bit,” Craig said. “Is it fair? No, it’s not fair, but that’s just kind of the reality of what it is. So they have to deal with some things growing up as far as on the athletic field, on the baseball field, that the other kids really didn’t have to deal with.”

Cavan said he was always able to keep the extra pressure at bay.

“Growing up playing, especially on travel teams because your name’s on your back, everyone recognizes the name and everyone wants to play their best against you and they want to say they beat you or struck you out,” Cavan said. “There was always that edge of competition against me. I always just kind of ignored it and played baseball. It wasn’t that hard to do.”

Craig retired from the Astros in 2007 and became his sons’ baseball coach at St. Thomas High School in Houston. And while Conor admitted to chaffing at taking instruction from his father at first, both he and Cavan agreed the most important lesson they learned from their father was a simple one.

“Just have fun, play the game the right way and don’t take anything for granted,” Conor said.

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