The Mang brothers have been baseball leaders in double-takes for most of their lives.
Younger brother Connor is a little bit taller (5-foot-11) than his 5-9 older brother, while Jared sports a slightly longer reddish beard. Other than that, similarities outslug the differences between the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the University of New Mexico’s batting order.
Both Mangs weigh in at 200 pounds, both bat right-handed and both are among the most productive hitters in the Mountain West Conference this season. Jared goes into this weekend’s home series against UNLV leading the MWC with 72 hits, while Connor ranks fifth with 62.
It’s business as usual for the Mangs, Los Alamos products who have been playing together off and on since Little League. But with Jared’s senior season with the Lobos winding down, the brothers know their final game as teammates could be fast approaching.
“I’ve kind of taken it for granted over the years,” Jared said, “but this season I’ve kind of taken a step back to think about what a blessing it’s been. How many brothers have been on the same college team, batting right after each other? I don’t know if that’s happened very often.”
Connor said playing college baseball with his brother was a longtime dream.
“It’s something we always thought about when we were younger,” he said. “I don’t know if we really thought it would be a reality, though. Having a front-row seat to watch each other play and support each other, it’s been unbelievable.”
The Mang family atmosphere at UNM’s Santa Ana Star Field doesn’t stop there. Parents Joe and Jacki Mang attend nearly all of their sons’ home games, and Jacki easily gets the nod as the Lobos’ most vocal fan.
Her supportive calls, “Come on, Mango!” for Jared and “Let’s go, Con-man!” for Connor, can easily be heard all around the stadium or over the Lobos’ radio broadcasts.
“We might miss her as much as her boys when they leave,” Lobos coach Ray Birmingham said with a chuckle. “She’s a diehard.”
Joe and Jacki Mang could be back in the stands next season rooting for Connor, a corner infielder who is a redshirt sophomore on UNM’s roster but is draft-eligible as a third-year college player.
“I guess I’ll have options if I get drafted,” Connor says, “but I’m trying not to think about it right now.”
Jared’s career at UNM already has gone on longer than expected. The standout outfielder was an All-Mountain West selection as a sophomore, when he batted .373 with 90 hits and 62 RBIs in 57 games. But a pair of hand injuries derailed his junior season and 2018 draft chances.
Jared has more than made up for lost time. He leads the Lobos in batting average (.387), hits (72), RBIs (49), doubles (23), triples (4) and stolen bases (14). (Connor ranks second in each of those categories except steals, where he’s third.)
Jared’s doubles total is just one off the national lead. He also is tied for UNM’s team lead in homers (five) with Jeff Deimling – one ahead of Connor. It’s the only stat of which he’s aware.
“Yeah, that’s such a small number it’s easy to keep track,” Jared said. “But I’m not a big stats guy. I’m more worried about playing the right way and letting that stuff take care of itself.”
Surprisingly enough, the Mang brothers have both posted strong numbers in spite of a statistical oddity: They rarely seem to hit well on the same days. Much more often it’s been one or the other doing damage.
“I don’t know what that’s about,” Jared said, “but it’s true. We haven’t really gone off at the same time.
“Hopefully, that’s still to come.”
With six games remaining (and potentially two makeup games against Air Force), the Lobos (20-25-1, 8-13-1) still have an outside chance to qualify for the four-team Mountain West tournament. That, not next month’s draft, remains first and foremost on the Mang brothers’ minds.
They have, however, considered what the future may hold for their parents should Jared and Connor end up playing professional baseball.
“They might just have to buy an RV and start touring the East Coast to watch us play,” Connor said with a smile. “Hopefully, they’ll have a decision to make at some point.”
SMART GUYS: Jared Mang and fellow senior Jeff Deimling were named Thursday to the All-Academic district team. Mang carries a 3.89 GPA and Deimling, of Albuquerque, 3.58, both in Liberal Arts.