In the last full season of MLB action that we've been able to witness, back in 2019, a trio of top-tier starters — Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox, Jack Flaherty of the St. Louis Cardinals and Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves — all delivered highly productive campaigns. Combined, their 2019 record was 42-23 in over 500 innings pitched, with a total ERA of 3.36 for the year.
Just imagine the pain they could inflict if they all played on the same team!
It's not exactly a mystery that they did, in fact, play on the same team. But if you're new to the party, I can tell you that these three legitimate top-tier starters were all high school teammates for the Harvard-Westlake Wolverines, and they were unsurprisingly pretty darn good together. For the first time, the three of them sat down on Jomboy Media's "The Chris Rose Rotation" podcast and shared some stories about growing up together, going through high school and the draft process, and seeing each other now in the bigs.
One story stood out above the rest, though Flaherty was a bystander as opposed to an active participant. As it turns out, that was probably for his own good.
"This was preseason before senior year, and I think I was still kind of getting used to being off a mound again and getting used to my higher velocities I was throwing at," Giolito said. "So we all thought it would be a good idea to have an inter-squad game where Max gets in the box against me."
It was a way for Giolito and the rest of the team to get loose before his senior campaign began, following a junior year in which he went 9-1 with a 1.00 ERA, four complete games and three shutouts. Still, he apparently had some rust to shake off and some adjustments that needed to be made when he faced off against Fried in this particular scrimmage.
"It was 2-0. I went fastball away, fastball away, nowhere close," Giolito recalled. "And then — this is a miss I don't make very often — but I pulled a heater up... but usually when I pull it, it goes down like that, but I pulled it this way (watch the video in the tweet embedded below) and it clipped Max right across the nose.
"I swear, it was horrible. It was one of the worst days ever, and he goes down, like screaming in pain. It broke his nose, there's blood everywhere. I'm standing on the mound like ghost-white, can't move. I'm like, 'oh my god, what did I just do?' Like I just killed him."
It apparently wasn't the first time that Fried had broken his nose, but that didn't mean it was easy for him — who Giolito said had "raccoon eyes" for about a month afterward — to experience.
"I mean, at the time I wasn't expecting to get 96 in the face on a 2-0 heater," Fried said. "But, it's just part of the game. You just gotta get out of the way next time."
Fried recalled wearing a full helmet cage for the next month or so, but it didn't keep him sidelined for long, as he remembered pitching the following week. And it didn't affect him too much as a whole: in his senior year, he produced an 8-2 record with a 2.02 ERA.
"...If I got him in the eye or something like that, or broke his jaw, like that is not good," Giolito said. "You can't play... like, I could have cost Max millions of dollars."
Where was Flaherty during this whole thing? Then a sophomore, Flaherty was at shortstop, where he produced some truly impressive numbers over the course of his high school career. In that 2011-12 season, Flaherty batted .397, the highest figure of his four-year career. That same season, he went 6-1 with a 1.77 ERA from the mound, adding to what would ultimately come out to be a 35-2, 1.19 ERA career at H-W.
"I was actually playing short, and I remember watching it happen. And yeah, he zoomed one up and in," Flaherty said. "I didn't know where it hit him, and you see him holding his face and I assumed the worst.
"Then you started hearing, 'My nose, my nose, I can't feel my nose.' Then... he pulls his hand away and you see blood start dripping and we're like, oh no."
Maybe the injury was needed to level the playing field just a little bit, however. And no, I'm not talking about the playing field in terms of baseball.
"Jack, out of the three of you, who got the most attention from the ladies in high school?" Rose asked Flaherty.
And, without hesitation: "Max."