Brothers of the Diamond: Higbe brothers making their way in baseball

Published 6:01 am Monday, July 31, 2017

Sometimes it all comes down to who you know.

Duell Higbe, a 2007 AHS grad, has his hands full as general manager of the Sioux Falls Canaries, but when he needs a tip on a certain player he’s looking to acquire or go against, he has a secret weapon — his younger brother Preston.

Preston, who graduated from AHS in 2010, is a seasonal Major League video assistant with the Florida Marlins, and he’s used his scouting skills to help Duell analyze a player he was looking to acquire or was about to play against.

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“Since we have a small ball park, we tailored our roster for sinker ball pitchers this year,” Duell said. “That’s where Preston really came into play and he came up with some different statistics that aren’t available to the general public.”

Preston’s duties have kept him involved in the video room in the clubhouse, where he goes through data on players and he also works on advance scouting reports. This is his first year working with an MLB team after he spent the last couple of seasons working with the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system.

While he’s embracing the experience he’s getting with the Marlins, Preston has had to invest a lot of time into his craft this summer. From the span of Feb. 15 to July 9, Preston had just two days off.

“It’s a nice role to get some exposure in the clubhouse and in the front office. I’m getting my feet wet in a little bit of everything,” Preston said. “It’s a grind and you need somebody to vent to sometimes. Duell and I talk frequently about baseball and life.”

Preston and Duell were able to get together during the All-Star break in Miami July 11. It was a rare chance for them to sit back and relax as brothers and embrace the game they love.

Preston said he rarely gets a chance to simply  watch baseball anymore. Duell is able to watch Canaries games and analyze the team, but everything in between those games is a massive workload for him.

“I’m basically married to the ball park from March to the end of September, especially when mother nature doesn’t cooperate,” Duell said. “In season, Preston and I are both putting in 80 hours a week, so it’s tough to keep in touch with anything outside of baseball during the season. You don’t get to catch up as much as you like. It makes you appreciate each other a little more.”

While Preston has been buried in the film room for much of this summer, he has enjoyed being behind the scenes with an MLB team. He especially enjoyed watching Marlins catcher AJ Ellis, who is 36-years old, serving as a mentor to catcher J.T. Realmuto, who is 26-years old.

“It’s cool to see players help other players,” Preston said. “You don’t see that in the minors, where players rely on coaches more.”

Preston wants to continue to advance in his career, but he’s not sure whether or not he wants to be a general manager, a director of scouting, or some other position with a team. He does know that he is driven to put himself in a position where he can help steer a team’s decisions.

“It’s increased my hunger to obtain more in the profession,” Preston said of his summer with the Marlins. “I want to be comfortable, happy and I want to have my opinion directly affect the direction of the infield product of the organization.”

Duell, who is in his third season as a GM, said that he has learned the importance of preparation with his job. He’s stayed busy, but he’s been able to organize his workload.

“Every day is a little bit different. That’s a good thing. One day I’ll be helping on the field, the next day I’ll be balancing budgets and another day I’ll be sitting on the field watching players,” Duell said. “Someday down the road when I hopefully move up to the big league level, I’ll hopefully have one responsibility instead of 13 or 14 responsibilities.”

Both Higbe brothers have gained respect for those who pursue careers in big league sports. They’ve seen just how much work it takes to get to the top.

Duell said the experience has been eye opening, but not deflating for him.

“People don’t really realize what they’re getting into when they sign up to work in sports,” Duell said. “There are some really awesome parts to it, but there’s a lot of not so glamorous stuff that goes into it. You gain a lot of respect for the people that do it for a lifetime. If you can’t work 15 to 16 hours for 7 to 8 days in a row, it’s not the job for you.”

Duell and Preston both have degrees in sports management.

The Canaries play in the Northern Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.