Baseball a family affair at Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. – Northwestern baseball coach Paul Stevens hears someone shout, “Hey, coach,” and he turns around.

There in front of him stands his own son Cody and Trevor Stevens can’t help but laugh.

“I hear that more than dad,” Stevens said. “I’ll hear that, ‘Hey, coach,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay.’ That’s just his personality, and the relationship we have.”

Bonded by blood, the Stevens family is also now connected by jersey numbers. Dad wears No. 5. Cody, a freshman infielder, wears No. 4. Trevor, a junior shortstop and center fielder, wears No. 3.

“It was very special when Trevor got here three years ago, and I got to kind of see how he has evolved as an individual at Northwestern and on the playing field,” Stevens said. “I’ve been really blessed that way. He’s been a lot of fun to watch in that way. His younger brother is going along that same path.”

It was Stevens’ dream to coach his two sons at Northwestern when he was hired to be the Wildcats head coach in October of 1987. Back then, he didn’t even have children yet. It would be a few years before Trevor, his oldest, was born.

Throughout their childhoods, Cody and Trevor were fixtures around Northwestern’s baseball teams. They chased balls, were bat boys, went on occasional road trips and were treated like little brothers by the players and sons by Northwestern’s other coaches.

“I watched them crawl around, get in everyone’s way,” 18-year Northwestern pitching coach Tim Stoddard said.

Cody and Trevor starred at Glenbrook South High School, and both proved they could play at the Big Ten level. Trevor was the team MVP as a senior and hit .378 with 24 stolen bases. Cody hit .381 in his junior season.

Trevor did briefly consider playing somewhere other than Northwestern. Trevor understood it wouldn’t always be easy being the son of the head coach.

“I was looked at differently in a different light than others where they’re just thought of as another player,” Trevor said. “For me, ‘That kid’s dad is the baseball coach at Northwestern.’ There was definitely that side pressure.”

What Stevens and his sons knew they didn’t have to worry about was him being lenient on them because they were his children. If anything, Stevens was concerned he’d be too hard on them because of that.

Stevens and Stoddard figured out a plan to resolve that.

“We had talked when his kids were coming here how difficult it is not to be tougher on them than the next guy,” Stoddard said. “We made an agreement that I would sit and monitor it if I thought he was yelling at them more than the other guy.”

Trevor remembered once as a freshman playing catch in the outfield with a teammate and throwing the ball as if a pitcher. Stevens saw it and immediately sent Trevor to do laps.

“I was never held above anything,” Trevor said. “If anything, I was the target.”

Stevens tries to make all of his players accountable for their actions, but he does hold his children to a greater standard. It’s something his own father taught him.

“I see and hear a lot of things in youth athletics,” Stevens said. “Everything gets deflected. It’s never your fault. It’s someone else’s. That’s something that’s never been accepted in our household. I think there’s a set of values and a ton of character that need to be instilled in our youth as a whole.

“What you have to be willing to do is face your mistakes, tackle them head on and not avoid them. My dad always said character is what you do when no one is looking. You’re walking a hallway that has a Coke machine open. Do you take the Cokes or do you shut the door?”

As Stevens’ son, Cody understood those lessons in one way. Now as his player, he does in another.

“I see a lot of the things he’s instilled in my whole life with this team,” said Cody, who is probably the family’s largest Northwestern diehard fan. “It’s not about being the best baseball player and the strongest. It’s about being a good person. I feel like he’s teaching a lot of the things he taught me in my life on this field.

“He’s the coach of this team, but he’s also a father figure jut because what he’s teaching them and trying to do. He’s trying to coach them, but he’s also trying to make them great people.”

Cody and Trevor possess a lot of those qualities from their father, but they do also have distinct personalities. Cody takes more after his mom and is always smiling and trying to make the best of any situation. Trevor follows more in his father’s footsteps where baseball is a game played with a straight face.

“My brother is like the happiest person,” Trevor said. “He’s always running around especially when he’s on the baseball field with just a huge grin, just always happy. Me and [my dad] are more of the same, always serious. You do something good you’ll get a little smirk out of me and him, and it’s back to business.”

On the field, Trevor has distinguished himself as one of the Big Ten’s top players. This season, he’s hitting .312 with 53 hits, five doubles, three triples, 17 RBIs, 39 runs, 26 walks and 13 hit by pitches. Cody is still adjusting to college baseball and has played in 26 of Northwestern’s 47 games. He’s contributed two runs and three RBIs.

Before college, Cody always saw his older brother as his athletic rival. He wanted to top whatever his brother had achieved. Now that they’re on the same, Cody is more willing to accept advice.

“There used to be times where he would say things to me, and I would be like, ‘Okay,’ and I’d shove it under the carpet and not worry about it,” Cody said. “Now that I’ve gotten to be here, I’ve started to listen him a lot more because he’s been here the two years ahead of me, and that’s what’s been really big. It’s no longer about who’s better. It’s about the team.”

Stevens has witnessed his sons mature in those sort of ways over the current season, and it’s why he’s so grateful to being coaching them.

“It’s fun to have them here,” Stevens said. “Sometimes it’s a little stressful, but at the end of the day, it’s well worth the opportunity to see them grow and develop and do a lot of things that I normally wouldn’t see them do.

“You feel so fortune and so blessed for them to not only be playing for you at a fine institution, but at the same time getting this type of education. My wife and I feel very fortunate.”