• Ainslie Lee

Fueling the Fabian Family: Golf, iPads and Brotherly Love

Eric Fabian spent his Tuesday morning like any overstimulated, over-anxious and stressed father would: playing a round of golf.

“In a single word... chaos,” Fabian said of this past week.

“Trying to be in multiple places at multiple times and work and everything else, it’s just been crazy,” Fabian said. “But it’s been unbelievable, nonetheless.”

Eric Fabian was playing a few holes in Ft. Myers on Tuesday morning while waiting for his son, Jud Fabian, to take the diamond in Hoover, Alabama for Florida’s second game of the SEC baseball tournament. And after his older son finished up, Eric Fabian would head to Hammond Stadium, home of the Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels, the minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

There, his younger son, Deric Fabian, was playing for a state championship with the North Marion Colts.

“Our rule of thumb this year has been go with the high school as much as we can because we can pull the iPad out and watch the boys in Orange and Blue on the iPad,” Eric Fabian said between strokes.

And so Eric and Jenny, the husband and wife-duo, tagged along with Deric and the Colts as they tore through the Central Florida area en route to a historic season.

North Marion posted a 15-8 regular season record, before peaking at the right time and going on a postseason tear. Heading into the state championship the Colts were riding the wave of a five-game win streak.

In Ft. Myers, North Marion played Nature Coast Tech (Brooksville) in the semifinal game, which saw Deric add an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning with a sacrifice flyout deep into centerfield.

Deric leads the team with 13 home runs. His deep fly-out would have likely cleared the fence of a high school field. Hammond Stadium’s centerfield fence is 405 feet from home plate.

“I was more happy that I got the job done, honestly,” Deric said when asked if he thought the hit was going to leave the yard.

Deric and the Colts' season ended on Tuesday night as they fell short in the Class 4A championship game where the North Broward Prep Eagles posted a five-run fifth-inning rally to win the title 8-4. Nonetheless, it was North Marion baseball's first championship game appearance in school history.

When Jud Fabian was Deric’s age, he posted an 11-home run season. And as Eric Fabian will tell you, as Deric began closing in on that number, the sibling rivalry-fueled banter intensified.

“There was a lot of jawing going back and forth,” Eric Fabian said of his sons.

“But at the end of the day, when Deric passed Jud, Jud was the first one to call him.”

Next season, Deric’s home centerfield wall will stand 400 feet from home plate – just like his older brother’s did this season.

“You know, in high school, they actually were able to play a year together, so that was kinda cool,” Eric Fabian said. “So you got to see them on the same field, in the same lineup together and who knows, if Jud decides to go back to UF, maybe we’ll see that next year.”

On the day leading up to Deric’s semifinal game, Jud Fabian, UF’s starting centerfielder, was named to the All-SEC first team.

“Yeah, I saw that,” Deric smiled when asked if he had heard the news following North Marion’s semifinal win on Monday night.

Deric is committed to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and play for Kevin O’Sullivan in Gainesville.

But joining the roster with Jud Fabian is far from guaranteed.

In Baseball America’s most recent mock draft, Jud Fabian is listed as a first-round prospect.

The current prediction has Jud Fabian getting drafted 26th overall and heading to the Minnesota Twins.

Through his 2021 campaign, the Gators’ centerfielder has posted a batting average of .252 and has lifted 20 pitches out of the park. The UF sophomore also boasts a fielding percentage of .984 with just two errors on the year.

Jud Fabian’s success is something that’s been talked about since he was a young gun graduating from Ocala’s Trinity Catholic High School, where he played under former UF pitcher, Tommy Bond. There were questions as to if the first of the Fabians would ever step foot on campus, or if he’d go straight to the majors.

“There were talks of Jud being a potential first-rounder out of high school... but part of our thought process is it’s about the journey,” Eric Fabian said.

Courtesy of Courtney Culbreath / UAA

“I don’t want to turn an 18-year-old kid on the loose and have no care in the world and money in his pocket and be taken advantage of, so you do have a little bit more of that, I’d say, chance to grow up with someone who’s going to look after you a little bit. We felt it was best to give the boys an opportunity to go and grow up with that tutelage under there.”

Those same talks have now encircled Deric Fabian.

Fangraphs has Deric ranked as the No. 48 prospect in this year’s draft. The same mock draft has Jud Fabian ranked as the tenth best prospect.

So naturally, people are quick to compare the pair of brothers.

“One of the things that’s hard for us is when people talk to Deric about Jud... he’s his own player,” Eric Fabian said. “When people realize that, it’s been phenomenal the growth they see in Deric because he’s his own man. It’s a totally different tool bag that he carries with him.”

While the eldest brother plays in the outfield, Deric’s post is in the dirt, serving as the captain of the defense.

“The differences in their game are night and day, just because it’s two night and day different players,” Eric Fabian says as the noise of him whacking another golf ball echoes into the phone line.

“You’ve got a centerfielder, who his bread and butter is he’s going to be in centerfield and get every ball he possibly can. And then you’ve got a shortstop who’s captain of the defense who is going to try to adjust alignments on the infield, talk to pitchers... you know, just a different skillset in itself. They’re both mastered the nuances of what they got and in doing so, they’ve become pretty good at it.”

“Pretty good at it” is an understatement, Mr. Fabian.

“Your sons could have gone to play baseball anywhere in the country,” I reminded him.

Though quick to confirm my statement, he was even quicker to assure me that things worked out exactly as their family hoped.

“At the end of the day, when UF called it was close to home, dream school, where they wanted to be,” Eric Fabian said.

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