While winning 90 games together since starting as freshmen on the Orange High School baseball team, pitcher Bryse Wilson and catcher Brad Debo always have maintained a competition within a competition.
The competitive bond between the two is a daily thing.
During a practice Saturday, Debo stepped up for warmup swings while Wilson was pitching. Usually, Wilson has the standard fielders behind him just like in a game, but coach Dean Dease had something else in mind.
“Bryse, you don’t need any fielders to get him out,” Dease barked. Looking to challenge both Wilson and Debo, he ordered all of the fielders to take a knee, leaving Wilson vs. Debo in a true one-on-one situation.
Debo laced a line drive to a deserted center field on Wilson’s first offering.
“I’m glad I don’t have to pitch against him on another team,” said Wilson.
The competition between Wilson and Debo while being the most successful battery in school history has been an underlying theme of their relationship since they were sophomores, when Wilson committed to North Carolina. Debo committed to South Carolina.
Whether either player winds up actually playing in college is a lingering question.
Major League Baseball scouts have been regulars during Wilson’s starts this season, lining up behind home plate with an array of radar guns.
Wilson’s perfect game against Eastern Wayne on Wednesday night, along with his two other no-hitters this season, haven’t tempered expectations that he’ll be selected early during the MLB draft on June 9.
Last week, Wilson was ranked 93rd on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list.
Debo was named an All-American by USA Today in March.
Money is a factor, even for players who aren’t selected in the first round. Last season, the 100th player selected in the draft, Florida outfielder Harrison Bader, received a $400,000 signing bonus. Players picked in the 10th round agreed to listed signing bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $125,000, according to the MLB website.
Wilson and Debo won’t say whether they’re leaning one way or another, only that they’ll face a difficult choice next month.
“I don’t know at this point,” said Debo, whose father, Tony, was once a sportscaster at WTVD. “I really won’t know until the time happens. I try not to think about it that much.”
The process, however, is unavoidable.
On Monday night, a New York Yankees team psychologist visited Wilson’s house in Hillsborough for a 90-minute interview that included such questions as, “How will you react if you wind up on a team bus playing for a small-town, minor-league squad next year?”
“I’ll be fine. I don’t know how my parents will handle it,” Wilson responded.
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
Debo spent last weekend watching South Carolina face Kentucky on television. If anything speaks to the power of television in recruiting, it’s Debo committing to play in Columbia without ever having seen a South Carolina game in person. However, the campus visit made him a believer.
“You’re like a king on campus down there,” said Debo. “In pro ball, you don’t really get any fame until you get up (to the majors). I felt really comfortable with the (South Carolina) players. Down there, it’s like a whole different world. SEC baseball is the best.”
Of course, Wilson probably disagrees with that last sentence. On April 15, UNC whitewashed South Carolina 15-0 in Charlotte, something Wilson brought to his catcher’s attention the next day in practice.
“He had a few words to say,” said Debo. “And I said, ‘Look at our ranking, and look at the competition we have to play every weekend.’ ”
“There’s not much I can say to that,” Wilson replied with a smile.
No matter when Orange’s season ends or where the two wind up, the competitive bond between Wilson and Debo won’t break anytime soon.