Randy Caden is well versed in dealing with twins; the Riverhead Tomcats manager has twin boys. Still, when it comes to telling apart brothers Mike and Mark Donadio, two outfielders suiting up for the Tomcats this summer, Caden admits it’s often a toss-up.
“You can’t tell them apart unless you know the number,” he said. “Sometimes I think I have one and I turn and it’s the wrong one.”
The Donadio brothers grew up just a few miles to the west in Mount Sinai, where they were standout football and baseball players for the Mustangs. Fans of Shoreham-Wading River surely remember them well. As seniors in football, they combined for a formidable running duo, leading the Mustangs to the Division IV county championship game.
For all their success in football, their marquee sport was always baseball.
Both signed to neighboring Division I schools: Mike with St. John’s University in Queens and Mark with Fordham University in the Bronx. For two brothers who grew up playing on nearly every team together, it was a rare time apart last year as college freshmen.
“It was a little weird at first,” Mark said. “But we got used to it as the year went on.”
The brothers have reunited in the outfield this summer for the Tomcats, where they’ve helped lift the team to a strong start. Through 15 games, the Tomcats are 9-6, good enough for first place in the seven-team league.
Mike leads the team in batting average at a blistering .408, the fourth-best average in the league so far. His 10 RBIs are third most on the team. Mark has batted .250 through 14 games with one triple and 6 RBIs.
“It’s good to be on the same team again,” Mike said. “It’s just good playing with each other. He’s always got my back.”
Mike has played center field for Riverhead while Mark plays left field. Mike played left field this past spring in college, but he said his coach asked him to play center in the summer.
Growing up on the East End, the brothers said they were familiar with the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.
“We really wanted to play here going into college because it’s by our home,” Mike said. “And it’s good competition.”
As it turned out, neither had much of a choice in playing summer ball. Both players said their college coaches assigned them to play in the Hamptons League.
Luckily enough, they ended up on the same team.
“One of my [college] assistant coaches is a coach on one of the teams out here, so he put in a good word for us and helped us out,” Mike said.
Danny Benedetti, an assistant at St. John’s, is the Sag Harbor manager.
Mike and Mark have been a welcome addition for the Tomcats.
“They know the game,” Caden said. “They can field, they can hit, they can run. They have the tools to play the game. And they’re great kids.”
At St. John’s this past spring, Mike started 55 games and batted .328. His 5 home runs were second most on the team. He also drove in 45 runs, which was second most on the team. His .487 slugging percentage led the team.
At Fordham, Mark earned a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team. He started 37 games, batting .259 with 19 RBIs.
For all their similarities, they have one notable difference in their game: Mike bats left-handed while Mark bats right-handed.
The difference played a factor in their recruiting. “Some schools just wanted me because I’m a lefty,” Mike said. “But his school’s only 20 minutes away from mine, so we get to see each other.”
During the summer league, both players hope to improve their base running.
“Getting more aggressive jumps, stealing more bases,” Mike said. “Even working on my bunting game.”
“I’m trying to add some more power,” Mark said. “Hit balls into the gap.”
The close proximity to home makes it easy for family to watch the two play. Their mother watched last Thursday, when the brothers helped lead the Tomcats to a doubleheader sweep over Southampton in Calverton, and their dad often attends on the weekends when off from work.
At least there’s one person at the game who can tell the brothers apart.