Friends of the year

It’s rare for a pair of brothers to win Player of the Year honors for separate sports in the same year. While this year’s Shelby County Reporter Players of the Year, Briarwood pitching ace Ben Bracewell and Oak Mountain soccer star Chandler Hoffman, aren’t brothers by blood, they might as well be.

Since age 4, the two have grown closer as teammates and friends, being nearly inseparable until Hoffman left Briarwood for Oak Mountain in middle school.

“It wasn’t a matter of if we were going to spend the night, it was whose house was it going to be at,” Hoffman said. “I was another son to his dad, and Ben was like my dad’s second son.”

The two families attended the same church, went to cook outs, invested in a beach house and coached together. The bond is so close that when Hoffman’s parents see a story about Bracewell in the newspaper, they clip it out just like they clip those of their son’s.

It’s that closeness that Hoffman believes pushed he and Bracewell to be their best.

“As best friends, we were very competitive, and I think that’s what helped us pick up our games at a young age,” he said.

Last month, Hoffman was named Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year and Bracewell was runner-up for baseball — one step closer to living their dreams.

“It’s a little bit hard to grasp, but it’s pretty awesome when you think about it,” Bracewell said of their success.

As the two move on to attend college, with Bracewell headed for Mississippi State and Hoffman bound for UCLA, they’ve made a pact for the future.

“We made a promise that we would keep up in college and that if either one of us makes it professionally, then the other gets free tickets,” Hoffman said. “Hopefully we’ll both be getting free tickets.”