It’s a regular routine for Rick Berryman.
Whether logging on to the computer in his Canton, Michigan, home or scrolling through his cell phone, the veteran baseball coach at Livonia Stevenson High School finds out how the latest Bristol Pirates game turned out.
Evan Piechota and Chris McDonald are the pitchers he’ll search for as he carefully scans the names in the nightly boxscore.
They are just two of the hundreds of young players toiling in the Appalachian League, but they are a unique pair with a shared history.
What are the odds of two players from the same high school team getting the chance to play professional baseball? Pretty long, right.
What are the odds that the two players from the same high school are teammates on the same professional baseball team? Probably astronomical, right.
This duo is chasing the dream alongside one another.
Evan Piechota, Stevenson High School Class of 2011, and a right-handed pitcher for the Bristol Pirates.
Chris McDonald, Stevenson High School Class of 2012, and right-handed pitcher for the Bristol Pirates.
They grew up in the Detroit suburbs, began playing on the same youth league team as 12-year-olds and were teammates in a collegiate summer league.
They live just three miles from one another back home in Michigan and are roommates and teammates nine hours away in Bristol.
“I think it’s really special,” Piechota said. “Having Chris here for the experience, that’s great. Having a familiar face you’ve known for a long time, it’s just comforting.”
Bristol manager Miguel Perez can also take comfort in the fact Piechota and McDonald are among the team’s top pitchers.
Piechtoa has a 3.20 ERA over the course of six outings with the BriBucs and has issued just two walks in 24 1/3 innings of work. He’s been both a starter and reliever.
“I’m just glad to pitch whenever they want me out there,” Piechota said.
McDonald has a 2.04 ERA in six appearances of his own and opponents are hitting just .227 against him.
It’s just like old times, even though pro scouts weren’t exactly flocking to Stevenson games and the spotlight wasn’t the brightest when Piechota and McDonald were pitching for the Spartans.
“Two guys growing up in Michigan, it’s not exactly the most common thing to be pro baseball players,” McDonald said. “It’s not a huge sport up there. It’s a lot of hockey and football. I played hockey growing up.”
Having gravitated toward baseball, both became star players for Berryman’s squad.
McDonald had a 16-3 career record on the mound, while Piechota was 8-1 with a 0.72 ERA as a senior to go along with a .360 batting average.
“I knew both would do well in college and thought they had an outside chance to go further,” Berryman said. “They both demonstrated the work ethic and commitment to excel.”
Piechota and McDonald actually headed their separate ways in college.
Piechota ended up at Madonna University, a NAIA school in Michigan.
McDonald played at Hillsdale College, a NCAA Division II school in Michigan.
Having both gone undrafted, they ended up on opposing teams in the independent United Shore Professional League in 2016. That’s where a Pittsburgh Pirates scout saw them and was impressed enough to sign the twosome.
“We got signed on a Sunday,” McDonald said. “The Wednesday before that we had pitched against each other.”
Piechota played for Bristol and two other teams in the Pittsburgh farm system last season, while McDonald spent the summer in the Gulf Coast League.
Now, they are enjoying this reunion in Bristol.
“We get along,” Piechota said. “We never fight and he’s pretty much got the same interests as me. We like to golf and just hang out with friends back home.”
Shared success has been neat too.
“Evan’s a really, really good pitcher,” McDonald said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone that has the control he does. He can place the ball wherever he wants and on top of that, he’s a really good person.”
Piechota offered a scouting report of McDonald as well.
“He’s a competitor on the mound and has a nasty change-up,” Piechota said. “If there’s one person on the team that I’d want backing me up, it’d be him because I know he’s got my back. I’m happy to have him on the squad.”
While the two have yet to pitch in the same game this summer for the BriBucs, Berryman will know when they do after he checks the boxscore.
“The most important thing is the true bond of friendship that has developed and still goes to this day,” Berryman said. “These two young men exemplify why coaching can be such a rewarding experience.”