In the realm of high-school athletics, two brothers playing for the same team is not uncommon.
But more often than not, enough of an age or talent gap exists that one ends up on the bench or playing JV while the other plays a more prominent role.
With Josh and Chris Klug, those gaps don’t exist. The two have played baseball together since they reached high-school age and both have proved to be difference makers for the Manhattan High varsity baseball team and now the American Legion Manhattan Manko senior 17ers.
Typically, Josh will man first base while Chris handles third, though Chris has seen action as a pitcher as well.
Teammates and coaches agreed it’s easy to tell they’re siblings.
“They definitely act like brothers,” Manhattan coach Luke Snyder said. “They’re always warming up with each other, they’re always getting after one another, but they compete. Neither one wants to give an inch to the other. It’s fun to have those two around.”
Sometimes the competitive spirit can get the best of the Klugs on the field. As with most siblings, the two are harder on each other than they would be with any other teammate after a mistake.
“We don’t really argue that much,” Chris said.
“Well, yeah we do,” Josh interjected. “We get on each other on the field, but that’s because we’re serious about it. We want to win.”
The two brothers nearly shared the same birthday a year apart. Instead, Chris was born 364 days after Josh. The proximity in age has always helped keep the two close, but an emphasis on family would have done that anyway. The Klugs have a sister who will enter eighth grade this fall and they are close with her as well.
The Klugs started their baseball careers together in tee-ball at age 4. After graduating from that level, the two split and played on different travel teams until high school, which complicated the family’s schedule.
“Sometimes I’d have a tournament in Branson and he’d have one in Hutch, and it was really difficult to deal with,” Chris said. “But it worked out.”
When both reached high school, Chris had to move from first base because Josh had the position locked down. Now, the two spend most of their time playing in the infield together, which has helped the defense.
“It’s been who we are, playing on the same team, playing in the infield together,” Chris said. “I’m usually at third, he’s at first — we’re comfortable there. I know I can throw it anywhere and he’ll go after it and catch it. It’s a lot easier at third base knowing I have someone who can bail me out at first if I need him to.”
Josh said playing with his brother all these years has been unique.
“It’s been incredible,” Josh said. “It’s been more than a game now, just playing with your brother. We get on each other, but that makes us better. It pushes us. You don’t want to be worse than your brother.”
While both have adjusted to playing together over the years, Josh will be moving on after this American Legion season. A graduate of Manhattan High, the older Klug will be attending Kansas State in the fall while Chris finishes out his senior year of high school without him, though Chris will get the chance to reclaim first base.
“I’m going to K-State, majoring in engineering,” Josh said. “I’m going to miss baseball a lot, but I guess it’s time to move on. Staying in town, it will be really good family-wise. We can stay close.”
Snyder said both brothers have been ideal players in the summer program.
“Josh is consistent, he’s a competitor, he’s smart, he’s talented,” Snyder said. “He’s always working on getting better — he’s everything you want in a young man at this level.
“Chris — he’s very talented. Josh has always been a good contact hitter, whereas Chris provides a little more power. Chris has had his ups and downs as a hitter, but he’s getting better, and it’s that Klug work ethic. He works at what he does, and he’s slowly been getting closer to the top of the lineup. He’s been really good with guys in scoring position, and he’s a good two-out hitter.”
When asked about Josh’s greatest area of improvement, Chris pointed to defense without thinking twice.
“I would say probably defensively, because he never has errors,” Chris said. “He’s just really strong defensively and has gotten a lot better. He’s always been good there.”
Josh pointed to Chris’ versatility and willingness to fill whatever role the team needed most.
“He’s just gotten gradually better and really accepted whatever has come at him,” Josh said. “As a sophomore he pitched, and last year he didn’t pitch much but was our starting third baseman. So just taking into the role that he needs to — he’s been very good at that.”