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The Not-So-Odd Couple

March 14, 2010

by Jon Cooper, Associate Editor

ATLANTA — There’s a special bond between a pitcher and catcher. There has to be for the battery to achieve success.

The bond between Georgia Tech ace Deck McGuire and catcher Cole Leonida goes beyond that criteria — way beyond.

They’re roommates, they’re teammates, they’re best friends. At times, they’re so locked in that it looks like they’re playing catch, as if the only two people on the field.

“We work really well together,” said Leonida. “Sometimes we get in a little groove where he’s thinking what I’m thinking and I’m thinking what he’s thinking. We really did build our friendship first. I’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to catch Deck on a regular basis.”

This season that opportunity has arisen. The serendipitous pairing and its contribution to the Jackets’ success, makes the story special. That story added a chapter Friday night, when McGuire threw his first career complete game to Leonida, beating Wake Forest, 9-1, in Tech’s ACC opener, while Leonida went 1-for-3 with an RBI.

What makes this story even more special is the friendship that developed while waiting for the opportunity to open up.

It began three years ago. McGuire, from Richmond, Va., and Leonida, from Aurora, Colo., have been friends pretty much from Day One on campus, when they were thrown together as part of a roommate grouping with outfielder Chase Burnette and pitcher Taylor Wood, both Georgia natives. The out-of-towners soon found themselves with plenty of spare time together.

“Chase and Taylor went home a lot, so we were stuck there together and he had a car. I quickly became friends,” recalled McGuire. “But we’re really similar personalities, we have really similar goals, and we like to do the same stuff so it made it pretty easy to get along.”

Building their solid friendship required surviving the usual tests that go along with being roommates and being freshmen — especially learning and learning to tolerate each other. That was aided by both being management majors.

“Our first two years I think we had every class together, but we’ve sorted of parted a little bit just for personal preference on when classes are because this guy likes to sleep like a bear in hibernation,” Leonida said of McGuire. “I don’t think he’s ever been awake before me. In fact, until recently, I think I WAS his alarm clock. But, he’s gotten better. He’s nearly missed some classes, missed some rides because his alarm clock, me, didn’t go off. He’s had to learn.”

It’s all good these days for the roommates, who don’t know of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, but know who would play which role in their fiefdom. While Leonida refused to air any of McGuire’s dirty laundry, he did talk about dirty dishes — one dish in particular, that still keeps both of them laughing.

“I made a sign, I put it above the sink, it said, ‘Do not put the dishes in the sink. Put them in the dishwasher.'” the catcher recalled. “I put arrows and everything, a little diagram. I watched him one day go to the sink, put his bowl in the sink, look up at the sign, read it, look down at the bowl, look over his shoulder at me, look at the bowl, and put it into the dishwasher. He looks at me and just smiles. True story. It happened. There’s no defending it. It happened.

“I played ‘Mama Cole’ for a couple of years,” he added, with a laugh, joined by McGuire. “But he’s gotten a lot better. It’s taken some work, but we’ve broken some ground this year.”

While this year has seen McGuire break ground in putting away dirty dishes, Leonida has broken ground getting behind the dish, cracking the starting lineup after two years playing sporadically and waiting for his opportunity. In that time, McGuire, who was joining the ranks of the nation’s elite pitchers, did what any true friend would do — he served as a constant support system.

“He never really got down about it. He accepted his role and just tried to excel when he got his chance,” said McGuire. “I was just there to bounce stuff off whenever he needed it, help him. We’d come [to the cages] and I’d just flip to him while he hit and stuff like that and we’d just talk.”

Talking is something they do a lot. Not surprisingly, the way they do it plays to each one’s strengths.

McGuire is talkative — something Leonida is fine with — while Leonida’s sarcasm is something of a pet peeve but hardly a big one.

They talk about everything from classwork, where their paths have diverged somewhat, to baseball, where their paths have merged. Usually it’s while sitting around in front of one of their shared prize possessions, the 37″ Vizio in their surrounding recliners. Or maybe it’s while playing Call of Duty — McGuire is better, but is a much more frequent player.

“We have school and everything, but we have no problem just sitting around. We’ll watch baseball games on our days off and just hang out,” said McGuire. “It’s what we do, it’s what we know, so it’s easy to talk about.”

“We talk a lot of baseball,” agreed Leonida. “A lot of times it’s not even about the team. It’s about a great play we saw on TV or the Florida State game last week. That’s the thing, we can talk about anything, any game, it doesn’t matter. That’s what’s great about us.”

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