"I had a friend who was a big baseball player back in High School." - Bruce Springsteen
I played high school baseball with three players who went on to play at Princeton University and others who played at smaller, Division 3 schools such as Brandeis, Williams College and Trinity College. I faced Big Leaguers Rich Hill, Mike Smith and Jonah Bayliss and was invited to participate in regional combines and team tryouts like the Area Code Games. All in all, I think I was exposed to some decent baseball.
But Jesus of Nazareth, I could not imagine facing the Long Beach Poly baseball teams of the mid 1990's with one potential future Hall of Famer, Chase Utley, and another standout, Milton Bradley, who is coming off a 163 OPS+ season. Bradley was taken in the second round of the 1996 Amateur Draft and signed immediately with the Montreal Expos. The Dodgers selected Utley in the 2nd round the very next season but Utley chose to go to UCLA instead of signing. Since, Bradley has shown flashes of greatness when he could stay on the field while Utley has had a steadier developmental timetable. He was never truly spectacular until his breakout 2005 campaign. Since, he's been as good as most any other second baseman in baseball history.
There have been other notable, productive high school teammate combos in the Major Leagues. Jason Giambi and Jeremy Giambi played alongside the late Cory Lidle, Shawn Wooten and Aaron Small at South Hills High School in West Covina, California. That's right, FIVE Major Leaguers on one high school team. Recent first rounders Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez played on the same team at Chatsworth High School; they were the first pair of position player teammates to be drafted in the first round since 1972, when Jerry Manuel and Mike Ondina were taken out of Rancho Cordova High School in California. High School teammates were also selected in the first round in 2002 (Scott Kazmir among them), 2000 and 1997 (including Michael Cuddyer).
Now, however, there is a new premier duo ready to take their talents to the Bigs. Baseball America released their top-100 prospects yesterday and numbers 1 and 23 batted 3 and 4 for Stratford High School in Goose Creek, SC. Matt Wieters is a 23 year-old, switch-hitting catcher who has hit .355/.454/.600 in his brief Minor League career. He might be the best player in the American League right now. Justin Smoak hit .304/.355/.518 in a brief Minor League stint after being drafted by the Texas Rangers last year but to give you a more complete sense for his potential, he is a former Cape League MVP who hit .383/.505/.757 in his final year playing for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Both should be contributing to their respective Major League teams this season.
Gregg Zaun currently stands in Wieters's way as the Baltimore backstop, but that won't last long. Wieters will be starting for the majority of the year. The path for Smoak is a little less clear. Chris Davis has earned a shot as the starting first baseman and Texas has moved veteran Hank Blalock to designated hitter. Smoak stands to begin the season down on the farm but will get his chance at one point or another. He will have to make the most of it if he wants to stick for good at the outset.
What I am interested in is some of the high school teammates that I am missing. Who are the best high school teammates to come out of your local area? Are there other Major Leaguers who played high school ball together going back further that I am not considering? Please feel free to share in the comments section.