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Brotherly love abounds



Published: Mon, April 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- Question: When is a team considered a family? Answer: When you play baseball at Chaney High.

"We get maybe 40 kids who try out for baseball, and most of it is family," said junior John Shaffo, a first baseman and pitcher.

"There are a lot of us who have family ties."

Within the Chaney program, there is a combination of 12 players and coaches who are tied together as brothers, making the Cowboys a family -- literally.

"Who could be a better mentor than a brother?" Chaney coach Mike Popio said.

Special bond

Consider Gary Boris, a versatile senior. He has two sophomore brothers on the varsity team -- Aaron, a shortstop, and Adam, a third baseman. It should be noted that Aaron and Adam are also twins.

"We fight, just like brothers, all the time," Gary said.

But it's so much more than that. By example, Gary tries to live up to his role as the older brother and leader of the team.

"You always try to play a step up from them because if you mess up, they're going to be right on you," said Gary, who is a pitcher, catcher, shortstop and third baseman. "They're always trying to play better than I am, and I have to keep above them."

That's not always easy, either. There is an awful lot of pressure involved.

"Sometimes," said Gary, when asked if he feels that pressure. "When we go home, we argue about what one did, what the other one did. It gets rough at times."

Most of the time, though, the relationship between the Borises is strong.

Gary feels fortunate to have that opportunity to play baseball with his brothers for the first time together on the varsity team.

"I'm trying to teach them and make them play better than I have," Gary said. "They've been getting better.

"I enjoy seeing them every day," he added. "This is my last year, and I'm glad I could spend it with them."

Continued connections

The Boris brothers serve as an example of what the Chaney baseball team is about. But that relationship is also shared by four other sets of Cowboy brothers.

Take Shaffo, the junior first baseman and pitcher, whose sophomore brother Jeff plays middle infield for the Cowboys.

"Growing up, we've pretty much been on the same team, since we started playing ball," John said.

"I've always tried to do better than him, but now that we're older I'm glad that he's doing good," John added. "It's just something you grow used to."

Being the older brother, albeit slightly, John doesn't feel it's his job to critique Jeff's game. Instead, John has shown confidence in his brother.

"I just give him some words of advice," John said. "I really don't want to get on him, because he knows when he's done something good and when he's done something wrong."

Junior Chris Hlinka's relationship with his younger brother Ricky, a freshman shortstop on the junior varsity team who dresses for some varsity games, can be heated at times.

"We fight a lot -- over games or whatever," said Chris, a right fielder for the Cowboys. "It gets pretty bad sometimes."

Still, Chris admits, the relationship can be productive in that they learn from each other -- in baseball, football and life.

"I teach him some things; we talk about things," Chris said. "We learn a lot from each other."

So do two other sets of Chaney brothers. The Kopachy family includes sophomore Bryan, freshman Lou and older brother Mike, part of the team's coaching staff; and freshman Tom Enyeart, whose older brother Bob is a coach on the junior varsity team.

On the field

With all of the brotherly connections, it's hard not to wonder the impact that closeness has on the team (10-5) during games.

"We've at least played with one or two of us all of our life, so we feel togetherness, even if it's between two of us," John Shaffo said. "It's nice having someone you've been through baseball with."

But 12 different brothers on one team?

"I guess," John said, "it's something to be proud of."

richesson@vindy.com




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