Denman brothers have helped Battle Creek to big season
Nick Buckley • The Battle Creek Enquirer • Published July 26, 2009
According to the baseball almanac, over 350 sets of brothers have made it to the major leagues.
The list includes some of the more notable names in the sport, like DiMaggio (Joe, Vince and Dom), Aaron (Hank and Tommie), Ripken (Cal Jr. and Billy) and more recently Upton (B.J. and Justin).
The Battle Creek Bombers’ Alan and Craig Denman are hoping that list will expand to include their name some day.
The brothers from Blackhawk, Pa. have been a big part of what has been the best season in Bombers team history.
“It’s been great,” said Alan, the older of the two. “The last few years I’ve kinda missed playing with my brother, and just playing up here is an experience all its own. And sharing that with my brother just makes it even better.”
Alan began his collegiate career at Gardner-Webb before transferring to South Carolina Sumter to play for current Bombers manager Tom Fleenor. When Fleenor accepted the job in Battle Creek, the 6-foot-3 Alan seemed like an obvious choice to help the skipper build something special.
Craig, a 6-foot-1 freshman infielder at Mercyhurst, almost didn’t come to the Cereal City.
“It was like a last minute thing, pretty much,” Craig said. “Alan was coming up here with coach Fleenor, and a couple of guys backed out at the last second, so he just asked Alan what I was doing this summer. I was just going to play with a local team, but I decided to come up because it’s a great opportunity, and it’s been great so far.”
Craig started on a 10-day contract with the Bombers, but quickly found his niche with the club through his constant hustle and improvement. Once his original contract ran out, he was signed through the season.
“He’s been great,” Fleenor said of Craig. “He’s getting better and he’s learned how to play at this level. He brings to the table speed and he plays the game hard and runs the bases very well.
“And I know Alan pretty well, having coached him the last two years. And he’s really starting to find his stride now, and hopefully the people of Battle Creek and the Northwoods League can see what I’ve seen the last two years out of him. I think he’s on the cusp of potentially carrying us. And he’s got that capability.”
Alan is hitting .253 this season as the team’s everyday first baseman. He is third on the squad with seven doubles, and has one homer (inside the park) and 16 RBI. Craig is batting .215 in spot duty as an outfielder and has five stolen bases in seven attempts.
The two last played together as prep stars back in Blackhawk.
“It’s a lot more intense, we’re definitely together a lot more, even more then when we were in high school,” Alan said. “So it’s a lot different.”
Craig added, “Being up here every day with him, I haven’t gotten to hang out with him in like two years, so it’s been great.
“We spend a lot of time together – mostly because we have one car – so if one person goes out we both go out. But we hang out with the other guys too, it’s not like it’s just us hanging out together.”
Bombers second baseman Greg Fujii (San Jose City) has enjoyed playing with the Denman boys, noting their generosity off of the field.
“Them coming from Pennsylvania and me coming from California, we’re actually pretty similar in personality,” Fujii said. “We listen to the same music. Craig’s pretty cool. He let me borrow his iPod for the three-day road trip up to Thunder Bay, and Al-D here lent me his shirt for the All-Star banquet, so the brothers have been pretty nice to me so far.”
The Denman’s and the rest of the Bombers are hoping to extend their stay in Battle Creek this summer, as the team is in the hunt for its first ever postseason bid.
Alan and Craig both realize it may be their last chance to play together in such a competitive atmosphere.
“It’s been the same as our whole lives pretty much, and I love it,” Craig said. “I’m glad I got one more chance to do it.”
Alan added, “It’s been pretty cool. There’s no one else I’d rather share the host family with and been hanging out with the whole summer with, so it’s all good.”