June 19, 2012
By Jon Cooper
It’s hard to say where Matt Wieters made his greatest impact in his three seasons at Georgia Tech (2005 through 2007).
He was a superb closer, having earned 16 saves , while pitching to a 3.83 ERA. Of course, his pitching career is thrown off some by his junior year, when he pitched in a career-low 12 games (one start), and had an uncharacteristic 7.53 ERA.
Over his first two seasons, Wieters the closer, made 47 appearances, converting 13 saves and allowed only 25 runs in 72 2/3 innings, a 3.10 ERA. In 2006, he averaged 9.95 strikeouts per nine innings.
Of course, Wieters could always swing the bat. He hit at a .359 clip for his Yellow Jackets career and never batted below .355.
In 2005, he hit his college-best, .366, with 10 homers and 68 RBIs, in earning First-Team All-ACC and ACC Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2006, the year he hit his apex, he had career-highs in hits (92), homers (15), doubles (20), RBIs (71), and runs scored (72). He even set his stolen bases high with three. His reward was earning his first of back-to-back First-Team All-America honors and joining Jason Varitek as the only Jackets catcher to earn First-Team All-America honors. Ironically, Wieters was named Second-Team All-ACC in 2006.
He’d take home first-team All-America and All-ACC honors in 2007, as a junior, batting .358, with 17 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and 59 RBIs.
Personal awards were nice, but what mattered more was team success and Wieters got to experience plenty of that as well. The Jackets won the ACC Tournament in 2005, then, in 2006, punched a ticket to Omaha to play in the College World Series.
Wieters left Tech after his junior season season, during which he was named a Johnny Bench Award Finalist and a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist. The Baltimore Orioles selected him fifth overall in the 2007 June First-Year Player Draft and he has become one of the top catchers in the Majors, earning his first All-Star berth in 2011 and winning his first Gold Glove.
Sting Daily had an opportunity to talk with Wieters during the Orioles’ recent stop at Turner Field for a weekend series with the Atlanta Braves. He had plenty to talk about, including his joy over the ’12 Jackets ACC title, his déjà vu during the ensuing NCAA Tournament and his advice for current catcher/closer Zane Evans.
STING DAILY: What were your thoughts on Tech’s ACC Championship?
Matt Wieters: It was a great run. Any time you can win an ACC Championship it’s a great accomplishment, especially going in as the eighth seed. To be able to put together four good games and be able to get a championship for your school is pretty special. I made sure that after they won, I sent Coach Hall a little congratulations text. It’s a pretty good accomplishment.
STING: How close do you keep in touch with Coach Hall?
WIETERS: We’ll send text messages throughout the year. He’s great. He always says to me that any time I need anything to let him know. But it’s nice to just stay in touch and know make sure that everything is going good.
STING: Did Jake Davies’ hot streak remind you of anybody on your ’05 champion?
WIETERS: In ’05 we always had different guys step up and I think that’s what you’ll see from teams that do make runs. It’s never going to be just one guy. One guy can carry you for a game or two, but it’s always going to be different guys that step up. I was fortunate to play on some good teams where we had a lot of good players and it seemed like it was somebody else every day.
STING: Tech won three one-run games in taking the 2005 ACC Tournament. How intense was that run as the closer?
WIETERS: College baseball is intense. The one difference between pro ball and college ball that really stands out is you’re not playing every day. So everything is a little bit more of an adrenaline rush and a little bit more of energy pump. It was something where we were able to get the win and I was able to be on the mound for the last out, which was pretty cool.
STING: What do you remember about your `06 run to Omaha?
WIETERS: It was something where we came close my freshman year. We were a couple of outs away from taking a 1-0 lead on Tennessee in the Supers but we didn’t quite get there. To be able to get back there the next year and have that opportunity, we were very fortunate to be able to get out there.
STING: In 2006 you beat College of Charleston in the Super Regional. This year, Tech beats the Cougars in the Regional. Was it kind of déjà vu for you?
WIETERS: It will make you flash back a little bit because that was the one series I remember the most because that was the series that was able to get us out there.
STING: Zane Evans has followed in your footsteps, catching and closing. What was the experience like for you and what advice do you have for him?
WIETERS: It was great for me. I always wanted to hit and always wanted to catch but getting out on the mound was an adrenaline rush and anything I could do to help us win a game at the end of the game got my blood pumping a little bit. My advice for him would be just have fun with it. It’s something to where you have a lot of responsibilities in doing both but at the same time, you’ve got to be able to have fun with it and enjoy what you’re doing.
STING: Did you find it advantageous to catch for eight innings then close?
WIETERS: It’s something to where when I got out on the mound I kind of forgot everything I prepared for catching. Catching you’re thinking about so many different things to try and help your pitcher out. When I was on the mound it was more of get the ball and throw it. It was something to where people would always say, ‘It must have helped you being a catcher being a pitcher’ but I think it helped me more as a catcher being a pitcher than vice versa.
STING: What does Coach Hall’s program do so well in getting guys prepared for pro ball?
WIETERS: That’s one of the things that led me to Tech, not only that it’s a great school but that he runs a very professional program, where he’s going to run a program that’s competitive in college and you’re going to have a chance to win and get to Omaha every year. It’s also a program that’s going to be able to give you your best opportunity to get to the next level. I think for most college kids that want to get to the next level Coach Hall does a great job of giving them every piece of preparation they need to get there.
STING: How much to you enjoy seeing other Tech alumni around the Majors?
WIETERS: It’s always great to play in New York and see [Mark] Teixeira. We’ll always talk Tech Baseball. That’s the one common point that you’ll have with the guys.