ST. PETERSBURG -- It's a long, long road for many to get to the big leagues, but the road seems a bit shorter if you hail from Lakeland High School.
The school is located just 56 miles from Tropicana Field, but in the past year the home of the Dreadnaughts has been a breeding ground for some of the top Major Leaguers in the game. Indeed, five Lakeland High Alums have been on Major League rosters over the past year, and two of them faced off in Friday night's 1-0 White Sox win over the Rays, as Rays first baseman Steve Pearce squared off against fellow Lakeland alum and White Sox ace Chris Sale.
"I've known of him for awhile," said Pearce, who went 1-for-3 vs. Sale. " He played baseball with my [little] brother growing up."
Pearce knew of Sale's talent, but he's surprised Sale turned into one of baseball's elite pitchers.
"Didn't really see that coming growing up," Pearce said. "What he's done is amazing, and I wish him the best of luck. I hope he continues to do what he keeps doing."
Pearce was drafted by the Pirates in 2005, and Sale was selected by the White Sox in the first round in 2010. Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison, Phillies pitcher Alec Asher and Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton -- Lakeland High products all-- have made their big league debuts since 2012.
Pearce fancies himself as the "godfather" who blazed the trail, and he is excited to face a fellow Lakeland product this weekend.
"Pretty rare and exciting at the same time," Pearce said. "I'm looking forward to going to battle with him. I faced him before. It's fun."
Fun for the folks from Lakeland High -- one of the biggest baseball factories on the planet.
Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.