Fryer, Matheny traveled similar paths to bigs

Pair of catchers attended same high school

Fryer, Matheny traveled similar paths to bigs

JUPITER, Fla. -- Enveloped by big league dreams as a youth, Eric Fryer was naturally drawn to the one man who had gotten to where he wanted to be by walking the same hallways and taking lessons from the same coaches.

Fryer had heard stories about the standout defensive catcher out of Reynoldsburg (Ohio) High School who was drafted by the Brewers when Fryer was still in elementary school. As Fryer grew up, he followed the hometown hero, watching the locals' favorite Major Leaguer net four Gold Glove Awards during a 13-year career.

Full squad checks in for start of camp

That man, Mike Matheny, is now Fryer's manager.

The two, though separated by 15 years in age, are forever connected by their roots. Both catchers and both drafted out of college by the Brewers, Matheny and Fryer remain the only graduates of Reynoldsburg High School to ascend to the Majors. They learned from the same youth instructor (Ron Golden) and played for the same high school coach (Dave Starling).

"He's the catcher I always tried to emulate and the guy whose career I followed," said Fryer, a non-roster invitee in Cardinals camp. "He was definitely a big influence in keeping me pushing on."

Expectations, not questions, greet Garcia

From afar, Matheny followed Fryer, too. He kept tabs on the happenings back home and heard stories about the defensively-minded backstop who sounded similar to himself.

The two met in December 2014, when Matheny returned to his hometown to be presented with a key to the city. Two years prior, Fryer had been in attendance as Matheny's No. 5 jersey was retired by the high school baseball program. Now, he's learning from the one he's long admired.

"That's why I came here," Fryer said. "I wanted to grow defensively. Whether that leads to more playing time or down the road being able to coach or teach, just being able to pick guys' brains who know more than you is what it's all about."

Fryer, 30, has impressed Matheny, who noted that "you're not going to have a kid who's going to work any harder." With Yadier Molina sidelined with a thumb injury, Fryer has been able to catch most of the team's projected Major League pitchers. And should Molina not be ready to start the season, Fryer could play his way into an Opening Day roster spot.

He's appeared in the Majors each of the last five seasons, logging 65 games of experience and posting a .243/.329/.318 slash line over 140 at-bats.

"He's wired the right way as a catcher," Matheny said. "It's going to be fun to watch him compete. I followed him early in his career and heard a lot of positive things about him as a catcher. It'll be fun to watch him up close and personal now."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.