SARASOTA, Fla. - This spring’s camp has provided a few more reminders that the baseball world is a small one, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.
(Hat tip to Steven Wright).
We learned that Ubaldo Jimenez and Alexi Casilla played in the same Little League as kids in the Dominican Republic. Probably half of the players in the clubhouse have been teammates of Nelson Cruz.
Matusz, pitching for St. Mary’s High School, allowed an unearned run and lost 1-0 to Alderson’s Horizon High School.
Alderson was a sophomore, two years behind Matusz. They both were first-round draft picks - Matusz the fourth overall selection by the Orioles in 2008 out of the University of San Diego, Alderson the 22nd overall selection by the Giants in 2007 out of Horizon.
Now they’re teammates, with the Orioles re-signing Alderson as a minor league free agent over the winter. They acquired him from the Pirates last season for infielder Russ Canzler and kept him in the organization.
We’ll begin with Matusz’s recollection of the high school showdown.
“The one hit against him happened to be a double in the gap by myself,” Matusz said with a smile. “Not to mention my third at-bat being intentionally walked. But, yeah, I think the run they scored on me was an unearned run and they ended up pulling away for the victory. But pretty cool that we’re playing together on the same professional baseball team.”
Matusz provided more specifics for me. The double went down the right field line. He flied out in this second at-bat, with the center fielder running down the ball in the gap. And then came the intentional walk.
Or did it?
“I did not walk him at all,” Alderson said, his eyes widening. “No. I guarantee that I didn’t walk him, but he did get the double. That was the one hit.
“It was a good game. I was a sophomore and he was a senior. For me, it was kind of a coming out party. There were a lot of scouts there to see him throw and we ended up both throwing really well. I was able to kind of get my name out there early and kind of compete against him head to head. Gave me a lot of confidence, just being a young guy in high school.
“I had a chance to do something special and it was just a huge night for me.”
I told Matusz that Alderson insisted he never issued an intentional walk.
“Liar!” Matusz shouted, his eyes growing just as wide and the smile on his face revealing that he would deal with Alderson later.
Alderson said he tried to track down a box score, but had no luck. Matusz, who starts today against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, isn’t changing his story, either.
They stayed in touch over the years before fate - and a trade - brought them together again.
“He still lives in Phoenix and I’m still out there and he comes by the field every now and then,” Alderson said. “He knows a couple guys who work out at the high school at Horizon. I see him from time to time. And it’s awesome to be able to play with him again, to be on his team, because I didn’t like facing him.”
Matusz won’t dispute this part of the story.
“Tim still trains over at his high school and I have a buddy of mine who’s a trainer at Horizon, so I go over there and throw and work out with those guys,” he said. “Tim and I, we’ve been in contact.”
In a weird coincidence, and in that small baseball world, the Giants traded Alderson while their former Double-A affiliate, Connecticut, was playing in Bowie.
“The night I got traded from the Giants to the Pirates, I was supposed to start against Bowie, so I ended up just sitting in the stands the whole game because I couldn’t go out to pitch that night and I had to wait until the next day to fly out,” Alderson said. “I saw him pitch against us the day before - he did really well - and I didn’t get a chance to throw against him, so I had to wait and hang out in the stands.”
Naturally, Matusz just happened to be in the stands operating the radar gun that night.
“Tim had just gotten traded like an hour before and he’s sitting in the stands like, ‘Dude, I just got traded. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what to do,’ ” Matusz said.
“It’s funny how it all comes together.”
Horizon won the state championship the year that Alderson outdueled Matusz. There may or may not have been an intentional walk.