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Martinez: Culp brothers reuniting on Umpqua baseball field

Heritage High grads found Riverhawks program to their liking

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
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The pandemic cost the Culp brothers one last season together as teammates in 2020.

But in a roundabout way, it brought them back together for one more season, maybe two.

Eastyn and Brady Culp were teammates together for two years on the Heritage High School baseball team and were looking forward to a final year in the spring of 2020.

“That team was going to be loaded with seniors, with a few more juniors,” Eastyn Culp said. “We were going to have one of the better baseball teams at Heritage in I don’t know how long. We were really going to open some eyes.”

But then in mid-March, the season was shut down.

“I was pretty optimistic at first, thinking we’d be down for a week or two,” Brady Culp said. “But that didn’t happen.”

Eastyn was also hoping he could use his senior season at Heritage to showcase his skills for college coaches. But the lost season left him in limbo.

Then in June, he got a call from Evan Brandt, the baseball coach at Finlandia University, a small, private college in Upper Michigan that plays at the NCAA Division III level.

“I asked my coach ‘How did you find me?’ ” Eastyn said. “He said he was scrolling through (prepbaseballreport.com) and found my bio. I think he called me the same day, we talked and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Eastyn spent the past school year at Finlandia, where the shortstop/pitcher played in 32 games and started 29.

While he lived on campus, half of his classes were held remotely.

“And I’m the kind of student that I need in-person learning to do well,” he said.

And the baseball wasn’t much better. The Lions went 0-37 in 2021 and haven’t won a game since 2019, a streak of 59 consecutive losses.

Because Finlandia doesn’t have a home stadium, all of their games were played on the road in Wisconsin.

“I’m the kind of player who likes to play in front of a home crowd,” Eastyn said. “Still, I felt lucky to get to play baseball this year. I have friends who played college ball in California who didn’t get a season this year.”

After returning to Vancouver for the summer, Eastyn’s summer team played a tournament in Roseburg, Ore. There, the family met Jeremiah Robbins, the baseball coach at Umpqua Community College, as Brady was still looking for a college after being an all-league catcher at Heritage this past spring.

“I had some offers, including one from Finlandia where Eastyn was playing,” Brady said. “But I wasn’t excited about any of them. I just kept delaying and delaying a decision.”

The opportunity with Umpqua came up, and earlier this month, Brady made the decision to commit to the Riverhawks.

“It just felt right,” Brady said. “It’s only three hours away. And even though it’s a small campus, it has a big-campus feel. And there’s a dorm just for the baseball players.”

Eastyn was also impressed with Umpqua.

“The coach there had seven players this year move on to Division I programs,” he said. “That appealed to me. So I had a big decision to make.”

In the end, Eastyn decided to join his brother at Umpqua.

“I liked Finlandia,” he said. “I made friends there who I feel will be life-long friends. But (Umpqua) was closer to home, like 33 hours closer to home. They’ve got great facilities, a great weight room. And they said when it snows in Roseburg, it melts off by noon. And in Michigan, when it gets cold, it gets really cold for a long time.”

Because of the pandemic, last season won’t count against Eastyn’s four years of college eligibility. He could play at Umpqua for one season or two.

After playing football and baseball at Heritage, Brady is looking forward to just focusing his athletic pursuits on baseball.

“I’m just really excited to get down there and get started,” Brady said. “I get to play again with my brother, and I get to live with my brother.”

And it’s a win for their parents, Troy and Jessy Culp, who have watched Eastyn and Brady play baseball together from Vancouver Parks and Recreation, Evergreen Little League, Heritage High School and multiple Select teams.

“I’m so proud of them and how they’ve handled themselves throughout COVID,” Jessy Culp said. “Having them go to college and play baseball together is a dream for us. It would be for any parent, so we feel very fortunate.”

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep editor for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, tim.martinez@columbian.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.

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