Ledbetters' bond fortified on field

Texas prospects push each other toward big league dreams

Ryan and David Ledbetter played in Indiana's High School Championships in 2010. (Ron Ledbetter)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | February 3, 2014 10:00 AM ET

They weren't ready.

On the day that their first-born son was drafted by the Texas Rangers, the Ledbetter family was not ready. It was Day 2 of the 2013 Draft, and the family had just turned the computer on to follow along with the third round.

"With the 99th overall pick, the Texas Rangers select Jeffrey Ledbetter."

After the confusion over the use of David Ledbetter's true first name -- as he goes by his middle name rather than Jeffrey -- surprise was followed by joy.

"We were looking at each other like, do they mean you? Are you kidding?" said Sherrie Ledbetter, his pleasantly surprised mother. "We thought David would be like in the 10th round or something, so we were shocked."

The Ledbetters could breathe a sigh of relief. David was drafted. But the stress of Draft weekend was far from over. There was another son waiting to get the call.

When they were just a year old, David and identical twin brother Ryan moved with their parents to Milwaukee, away from many cousins and children their own age. There, the two developed a special bond and a language called "twin talks."

While David and Ryan grew out of the private dialect, their connection and ability to read each other's minds never wavered. They'll turn 22 in a couple weeks.

When they grew old enough, the boys began to play baseball, starting at Little League where their father, Ron, would pitch, and through travel ball and high school baseball, they developed into pitchers themselves. Year after year, game after game, three things remained constant for the Ledbetter sons -- their faith, their bond and their love of baseball.

It was because of those three elements that the twins ended up at Cedarville University (Ohio) together. Unfortunately, Ryan wasn't able to play his freshman year because of Tommy John surgery the previous fall. A week after his brother's surgery, David was hit by a truck and needed ACL surgery.

Once again, Ryan and David were side by side as they rehabbed back to form. First David, then the following season, Ryan was ready to be back on the field.

The missed season put Ryan a season behind David skills-wise. The agents the Ledbetters hired going into the Draft said if the younger -- by one whole minute -- twin did not get drafted high enough, he could always re-enter in 2014. So at the end of Draft's second day, the Ledbetters went to bed with just one son selected.

David wanted his brother to be drafted with him. When scouts would talk to the 5-foot-11 righty, he would remind them of his brother, who stands 6-foot-1 and also throws right-handed.

When the two hurlers arrived in Arlington to meet with Rangers scouts, they both decided Texas was the place for them.

"My boys came home and they were like, 'We want to go there, we really like them,'" Sherrie Ledbetter said. "They liked some other ones as well. But Texas really spoke nicely and just really had some nice things to say to the agents and just said, 'We like both of them.'"

With the idea of wearing Rangers jerseys together, David and Ryan pushed each other more than before. In the weight room, on the track and at the ping-pong table, their competitive drive have fueled each other to do better -- better than each other and better than their competitors on the field.

While scouts said the probability of having brothers drafted by the same team in the same year were slim, Ryan was still determined to be a Ranger with his brother. Again the family nervously gathered around the computer on Day 3 of the Draft.

In the 19th round, the brothers became professional teammates.

"It was surreal," said the 580th overall pick. "It definitely felt like a 'meant-to-be' kind of moment."

Soon after joining the same organization, the two were split up for the first time in their lives. David was assigned to the short-season Spokane Indians and Ryan went to the Rookie Arizona League.

"It was awesome," Daivd said about separating for the first time. "We thought it was going to be kind of bad, but it ended up being very good for us."

Living apart, they were able to find their own identities and learn how to deal with problems on their own. For the Indians, David went 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 13 starts, while Ryan contributed three wins in his 15 appearances as a Rangers reliever.

After being reunited for Spring Training this month, the brothers understand that they could be on separate teams again, and even separate organizations. But no matter the name on the front of their jerseys, a part of them will always be those toddlers with their twin talks.

"It's fun to have someone go on the journey with you, but in the end, you're going to have different destinations," Ryan said. "But life's a lot more fun with someone next you who is always pushing you."

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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