Brandon Betancourt and Javier Hinojosa have been playing baseball together for almost one decade.

From youth ball to summer travel teams to helping the Brownsville Veterans Memorial Chargers win three District 32-5A titles during their four-year careers, the duo worked toward reaching a shared goal: to play college baseball. On May 12, Betancourt and Hinojosa both reached their goal and signed to play together a little bit longer for Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.

“It felt great. This is the best opportunity I’ve received in my whole life, and I’m beyond blessed to play at the collegiate level with my teammate since Little League,” Betancourt said.

Added Hinojosa: “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was really small. It was a special day to have my parents there beside me and to see the smiles on everybody’s faces. It was a great day.”

OLLU competes in the Red River Athletic Conference in the NAIA. This season, the Saints won their first conference championship in program history. Getting to join a program on the rise is an exciting opportunity for both Chargers players.

“I’m ready to go do great things over there and help them win more. I’m putting in this hard work during the offseason, trying to get bigger, stronger, faster, and I can’t wait to get over there and do my job,” Betancourt said.

Hinojosa added: “It really does fire me up. Ever since (OLLU coach Bryan) Aughney took the helm over there they’ve really been doing a great job, and I’m really excited to be playing for them for the next four years. … The skills that I have are going to get even better under that coaching staff, and the things I need to work on are going to turn into skills with them.”

Betancourt will be vying for a starting spot at any position in the outfield. Hinojosa, the Chargers’ third baseman, aims to be “a two-way player” and help the team on the mound and anywhere on the field. Brownsville Veterans coach Adam Vera played for Aughney at the University of Texas-Brownsville, and much of Vera’s coaching style derives from his time with the Saints’ skipper. Vera thinks that familiarity with Aughney’s style will help his former players adjust quickly.

“I think it’s really cool that they’re going together and get to continue playing with each other at the next level,” Vera said. “I think they both have a good chance to earn playing time. … They’re going to have to work hard to earn it, but I know both of them do work hard and they’re up for the task.

“A lot of the stuff that we do at practice, like the tedious stuff … it all kind of goes back to what I remember doing a lot at UTB. When they get there they’ll have a good idea of what (Aughney) does. They’ll be used to a lot of his verbiage and the way he does things, so hopefully it’ll be a smooth transition and they’ll know what he expects,” Vera added.

Betancourt and Vera both said one of the outfielder’s best assets is his speed. As a center fielder, Betancourt’s speed helped him play like a “headhunter” and patrol the outfield. Vera credited Betancourt with being alert and dangerous on the basepaths, and that aggressive baserunning will be beneficial for the Saints.

Vera praised Hinojosa for his work ethic. He said Hinojosa is the only player that would beat him to practice. “Doing the little things right,” like showing up early, keeping his grades up and playing hard every day are tips Hinojosa picked up from the long line of successful baseball players in his family.

It’s something of a family tradition for Betancourt and Hinojosa to be playing college baseball, and they both take a lot of pride in having the opportunity to represent themselves, their families and the Chargers as they try to keep the Saints on top.

“Ever since I saw (my older brother Oscar) go through this process, it made me want to go through it and make my family proud and follow his footsteps,” Betancourt said.

Said Hinojosa, “My dad played, and all my uncles from my dad’s side played, so I’m blessed to keep that legacy going.”