The Shadow of Brother Matthew Jensen

It's a warm Saturday night at Packard Stadium, home of the Arizona State Sun Devils. The cuts have been manicured to perfection and the infield watered. The smell of hot dogs, garlic fries, and freshly mown grass floats through the air. At the crack of the bat, Jake Peevyhouse takes off on a dead sprint for the hill along the leftfield line, his 5’ 10” frame hurtling along a dangerous collision course with the wall.

It’s a partially overcast Tuesday at Pinnacle High School, home of the Pioneers. When it decides to peek out from behind clouds, the sun glints off rows of metal baseball bats leaning against the dugout nets. Luke Peevyhouse and the junior varsity are scrimmaging their varsity teammates. After picking up his signs, Luke’s 6’ 2” bulk steps back into the box with a 2-2 count, tapping the opposite corner of the plate with his bat and swinging it to his shoulder.

The right-handed pitcher opposite Luke steps into his windup and hurls a pitch directly at Luke’s face. Many baseball players, professionals included, would flinch and shy away from the pitch, but Luke stares at the spin until the curveball breaks over the plate. He allows it to travel deep in the zone and then flicks his hands to drive it to the right side. As the ball flies through the air the sun disappears behind a cloud and the world goes dim and cold.

Before he reaches first base, Luke already knows he’s out and the familiar feeling of inferiority floods his face. He slows his stride and watches as the ball’s trajectory takes the right fielder one step to his left and sails into his glove for an easy catch and out. After touching first Luke removes his helmet more forcefully than required and cocks to slam it down, but instead just grips it harder and allows it to fall to his side, staring at the ground with a clenched jaw. Then after a couple more steps towards the dugout, he throws it against the dugout wall where the helmet resounds with a loud crack and falls to the ground in halves.

Jake is close enough to see the spin of the laces but he can also feel the dirt of the warning track underneath his pumping feet. Before this can fully register as a problem, his upper thighs collide with the wall behind 190 pounds of sprinting force and he topples headfirst into the bullpen, throwing his glove hand in the direction of the ball. As he lands the tumble standing on both feet, glove in the air squeezing the baseball, he is only looking at the umpire, waiting to hear, “That’s an out!” He isn’t thinking about what he just did or who he is, he’s just doing it, being a Division I athlete, a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, a brother with a bigger shadow than most.

"I came here to make a name for myself in a state where nobody knew about my family."

The nearly 1500 miles spanning between Phoenix, Arizona and Forest Grove, Oregon is a tale of two worlds, one Luke Peevyhouse has proudly written himself into. Every August, Luke trades in perpetual sun for perpetual rain, desert for forest. He trades the big city for a small town, financial freedom for hefty tuition bills, legacy for anonymity. With a grin on his spectacled face and a Routine Baseball cap covering his blonde hair, Luke packs his silver F250 to the brim with baseball gear, furniture, and clothes, eager to embark on another twenty hour road trip, solo. Once he hits I-5 he will stop only for In-N-Out and bathroom breaks.

Luke is a student at Pacific University in a place whose claim to fame is the world’s tallest barber pole. He pays over $200 in gas money just to drive there and once he arrives he pays over $500 a month for living expenses. He pays over $20,000 a year to pursue a journalism major he knows will not yield proper financial support unless he lands his highly competitive dream job with ESPN. He pays over $100 a year for his team's athletic attire because if he didn’t he wouldn’t be allowed to play Division III baseball.

“Why are you here, Luke?”

Luke sinks into the couch on the other side of the coffee table, fingers laced in his lap, wearing a black Pacific baseball sweatshirt and glasses underneath a Brixton snapback. Comfortable with the transition from interviewer to interviewee, he pauses and looks down, then back up, “I came here to make a name for myself in a state where nobody knew about my family.”

“You came here to make a name for yourself…”

“For me.”

“…Luke Peevyhouse, in Oregon because nobody here knew who you were.”

He crosses his leg, “That was pretty much the gist of it.”

“How many people knew who your brother was?”

“Here? As far as I knew, nobody.”

"No coach has ever hated having my brother on their team."

Jake Peevyhouse

Division I Baseball Player, Arizona State University

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Sophomore

2014 34th Round Draft Pick, Arizona Diamondbacks

Missoula Osprey

Hillsboro Hops

Czech Republic Professional Baseball League

Luke Peevyhouse

Division III Baseball Player, Pacific University

"If you worked as hard as your brother you could be something special."

It was no secret that Luke’s older brother, Jake, was an immensely talented baseball player. It was no surprise when he committed to play at Arizona State. It was a problem that Luke didn’t follow in his footsteps. Luke was only seriously recruited by two schools, and that was a problem. Neither of them were Division I colleges, and that was a problem. Luke only played in four varsity games as a senior in high school, and that was a problem. Every little detail that separated Jake from Luke was a problem, and the biggest was that they all came from the same place.

People said, “You’re little Peevyhouse.”

People asked, “Why aren’t you as good as Jake?”

People said, “Little Peevyhouse isn’t as good as I thought he’d be.”

While those outsiders fed into Luke’s ego, into his intense need to be his brother, they weren’t the source of his problems. Nor did the problems come from Luke’s inner circles, his family and friends. It was Luke. Luke was the source. Luke’s mindset was the reason he shattered eight helmets during his high school career. Luke's mindset was the reason he continued to drown in the failure of living up to unrealistic expectations. He had begun to hold himself to a higher athletic threshold, the threshold his brother played at, and expected to achieve the same greatness without putting in the work required. He didn't work out, and every time he failed it was the end of the world. Every pop out meant his dad wouldn’t love him the same. Every groundout meant his brothers wouldn’t look at him the same. Every strikeout meant his friends wouldn’t respect him the same. Every mistake amplified Luke’s inferiority, fueling this mentality all the way through high school and on to Pacific.

“Nobody really knew why I was always so upset when I just got out, or just made an error. Why was I freaking out, it’s not like it’s the end of the world, but to me it literally was. I went 0-3, my dad thinks I’m a lesser person, my brothers won’t respect me. That’s literally what went inside my head. I’m on the car ride home just pouting and crying. My brothers would come up to me and say it didn’t matter what I did baseball wise, they didn’t care. I wouldn’t believe them. I would say it mattered to me. I had to be as good as them. I had to make them proud. That was my mindset. I didn’t care what they said to me, I was going to believe what I wanted to believe and that drove me down an awful path.”

“It was junior year of high school, back when I was getting better. One of my good friends from the summer before killed himself. We had become really close. The kid had a lot going for him but the reason he killed himself was over judgment because his girlfriend dumped him and went online and said all this shit about him. He let judgment get into his head. He had tried to talk to me three weeks, four weeks prior and I didn’t answer. It wasn’t me being selfish, like I didn’t want to talk to him because I would’ve. I was in a rush. I was busy and I just never got back to it. So when the time came when I could keep letting all the judgment eat at me or switch it around and start doing what God gave me the ability to do, I just thought of Andy and how he doesn’t have that ability anymore. I am blessed to be able to play baseball every day. I don’t care what happens anymore. I don’t care if I go 0-4 with four Ks and we lose the fucking championship. I’ll be upset, but I’m not going to think I’m any less of a person anymore. I’m not going to let anybody tell me I’m any less of a person anymore. I know at the end of the day my parents still love me the same, my brothers still respect me the same, and I’m still the same person I was yesterday. That whole thing helped me change when I got here. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but in all my hats I write G2VSH2, which is just a quick reminder that I get to versus I have to. Every morning when I wake up to go do a crappy 7:00am tarp pull. Shit man, I get to do this. There are so many people who don’t have that choice, who’ve had that option taken from them. People who’ve gotten sick or can’t play anymore or people like Andy who let other peoples’ lives damage their own to the point they commit suicide. Every little annoying thing that I have to do to play college baseball, I’m going to do it with a fucking smile because I get to, I don’t have to. That is something I realized my sophomore year here. That is the main reason why I always try to have fun now. So many people would kill for this chance. That was one of the main factors that made me play college baseball, the fact that there are so many people like Andy.”

Created By
Matthew Jensen
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