Justin Smoak and Matt Wieters, the pride of Goose Creek, S.C. The two grew up together and played high school ball at Stratford High School. Long before that, however, each knew of the other when they were playing Little League.
“He was the biggest guy in the whole entire Little League, Dixie League, everything. He could absolutely hit and was a really good pitcher too,” Smoak said of Wieters, the Orioles’ 24-year-old catcher.
“I can remember when I was 12 and he was 11, we were each probably the better players in our leagues, and I heard all about him,” said Wieters.
They played high school ball together with Wieters being a year ahead. Smoak batted ahead of Wieters in the lineup. Wieters finished second in State three times, Smoak won a championship. Wieters went to Georgia Tech, Smoak to South Carolina.
“Our goal in high school was to play against each other in college in Divsion I schools,” said Wieters. “I don’t think we thought as far as going to the big leagues together because so many things have to go right and you have to be so fortunate to be able to get here. Especially for two guys from Goose Creek to be able to do it? It is pretty special.”
Both had successful college careers with each earning numerous honors. Both went pro after their junior years. Wieters was the the fifth pick in the 2007 draft and Smoak the 11th pick one year later.
On draft day no one was rooting for Wieters more than Smoak.
“I was fired up. It is awesome to see someone you grew up with and played with and against and I think it was a dream come true for both of us,” said Smoak.
The two stay in touch and can count on getting a text from the other if they have a big game. In the offseason they fish and golf together. They are competitive with each other on the golf course, but Smoak concedes that Wieters is the better golfer.
When it comes to baseball each has an appreciation for what the other brings to the game. When asked what he would take anything from Smoak’s game, Wieters answered:
“It’s always been his power. Ever since he was a little ninth grader and I was a sophomore we would always compete every day to see who could hit the ball the furtherst and more than not he would win. I think his power was something I have always had a little bit of envy to see how far he could hit the ball even from a young age.”
What does Smoak envy about Wieters’ game?
“Everybody knows he is a great hitter and a great player,” Smoak said, “but the one thing for me that stuck out the most is how he knows the game. He’s smart. He knows how to call the game, he knows every situation possible that could happen. Having his baseball mind would be cool.”
Both players are still developing and both have had to deal with the expectations that come with being a high draft pick. It appears that both have put that behind them and have settled in. Both could be huge impact players for their organizations going forward.
As always, they seem to be following the same path.
Note: You can listen to Smoak and Wieters discuss their friendly pitching rivalry in high school here.