Feb. 19, 2014
Sibling pairs, whether male or female, often clash and establish a sort of rivalry that lasts until they learn either to cope with one another or go their separate ways. Those forks in life's journey are formed when college decisions are made, jobs are accepted and sometimes even further down the road when one of the two gets married.
Lauren and Casey Alcorn's fork was formed in their college decisions. Lauren, who is two years older than Casey, is the starting senior third baseman at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany in New York's capital, approximately 150 miles north of Manhattan. Casey just began her sophomore season as a shortstop at East Carolina, and will have the opportunity to play against her big sister when their two squads face off in their first game at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic at Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports in Kissimmee, Fla.
"I'm definitely going to be excited. We haven't played together since her senior year of high school," Casey said. "We might communicate with looks before the game, but I don't think we'll talk."
Anticipation will be at an all-time high for both players, but they're embracing the opportunity more than they're strategizing or trying to get inside one another's head before the first pitch.
"There will definitely be a lot of emotions," Lauren said. "I don't think I could have asked for a better way than to play her during my senior year. I get nervous before every game, but I need to perform in this one or I'll never live it down."
The matchup won't be just another summer camp or playground softball game either. Their parents, Steve and Kim, 16-year-old sister Shelby and grandmother are flying down from their home in Pennsylvania and will be in attendance for the sibling showdown. Lauren and Casey wouldn't want to have it any other way.
"The good thing is we're [Albany and East Carolina] both purple and gold, so my mother said she'll just wear purple and cheer for whoever is up to bat," Casey said.
Lauren agrees with the excitement of the family's presence.
"Hopefully we'll be able to go out to dinner," Lauren said. "It's going to be surreal and the fact that my grandma gets to see this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
As student-athletes, it might be hard to accept the premise that the Alcorns are everything but rivals. In fact, they're the complete opposite. They're best friends.
"We both laugh at the same things," Lauren stated. "We've been through everything in our lives together and we've done it through humor. The humor completes us because we could sit in a cardboard box and have the most fun. She's the one person that can make me laugh until I cry. We get each other through with laughs."
And beyond being best friends, a blind person or anyone on the opposite end of a phone line would have a hard time telling the difference between the two because they're so much alike.
"We're the exact same person right down to the sound of our voices," Lauren said. Some people have asked us if we're twins. We're the same soul in two separate bodies. It's so accurate and we talk about it all the time. Having all these things in common has brought us closer because we can relate. We balance each other in what we lack individually."
Casey's response to what made her and Lauren so similar is almost startling. They describe their camaraderie using the exact same metaphor.
"We always say that we're like one person in two bodies. We're always on the same wavelength and thinking the same things," Casey said. "On the field in high school it was the same. She played a lot of second base and I played at shortstop, so we had a really special relationship there."
The bond is indeed special. Casey went on to describe the last time she was on the field with her older sister, and it was the final game of Lauren's senior season at Lower Dauphin High School. The game was all but lost with the final outs transpiring in front of them. Among the other sights, sounds and cheers surrounding the field, Casey recalls holding up her index and pinky fingers and yelling in Lauren's direction "Two outs!" The two made eye contact and tears began rolling down their faces because it was thought to be the last time they would play together on the same field.
"That was definitely very sad," Lauren said somberly. "I think this will be a good way to kind of get back what we had when we played together. It will be really nice to be on the field again because we really did love it. It will be different playing against each other but I think we'll still feel the chemistry we had when we played together. I don't think it's going to matter that we are on different teams. Just being on the same field again is going to be awesome."
Two years after Lauren's departure for Albany, it was Casey's turn to pick among several interested schools. Among the offers she received was the chance to reunite with Lauren at SUNY Albany. Casey's dream was to play in the south, and that's exactly what she did when she picked East Carolina.
"It was a huge decision," Casey recalled. "Not many people get the chance to play with their sister at the college level. I think in the end I wanted to go and do my own thing. In high school, Lauren and I had the same friends and we were always together. I thought it was good to go our separate ways so that when we get a break and get together, we'll have different stories and experiences to share."
In yet another one of the countless sentiments they agree on, Lauren is at peace and can sympathize with Casey's decision to create her own prong on the forked road.
"When I left for school, that was one of the hardest things I had to do," Lauren said. "I remember the thought of her coming to Albany was amazing. I think going to separate colleges were the best decisions we could have made."
Their chosen colleges might be the only thought process the Alcorns didn't share. Even their aggressiveness on the field aligns in parallel fashion. As opposing infielders, there may come a time when one is playing the field and the other is running the bases. If a close play at second or third base develops, their objectives are identical in nature.
"I'm definitely going in hard," Lauren said of running into a base Casey might be covering. "It's a job and I'm expected to do that same thing no matter who we're playing. I'll have to do it, but I'll do it with a smile on my face. It would definitely be a fun slide."
Thinking on the same wavelength couldn't have been a better description when Casey processed what Lauren might try to do in the given situation.
"It's her job to slide hard," Casey said. "I don't think she'll try and hurt me, but I know she'll want to get in there safe. I would do the same thing. We'll get her out."
With the tables turned and Lauren is on the receiving end of her younger sister's slide, she has a good idea as to what she might attempt.
"She can get a little feisty with me, so. I might be a little scared," Lauren said. "I don't know what she would do, but I bet she would come in hard. We might give each other a secret high-five. We might get in trouble."
Lauren and Casey might show up on different buses, wear different uniforms and stand in different dugouts in their first and likely last college game together, but one thing will remain the same once the final out is made: they will still be sisters.
"We went through it once in high school and didn't think we would have to go through it again," Casey said of her final game against Lauren. "It's going to be weird. I'm excited to see her after the game."
Lauren accepts that all good things must come to an end, and unlike high school where no one knows which game might be the last, she is forever grateful for her chance to prepare for the final game and at least have a chance to see it coming and enjoy the moment.
"It's a little sad, but I'm also very thankful that I get to go out this way. My senior year is already emotional and to be able to have my sister beside me for one of those games is really special."