Damien Watts, a wide receiver for the University of Central Arkansas team, is very familiar with St. Louis Cardinal pitching sensation Michael Wacha.
He’s given him the ball — a different kind of ball. They played on the same court in high school.
For three years, Watts was a guard and Wacha the star center on the Pleasant Grove (Texas) basketball team near Texarkana.
Wacha never played football and Watts never played baseball.
Wacha has gone on to be one of the stories of Major League baseball’s postseason, entering Wednesday’s Game 6 with a 4-0 postseason record and 1.0 ERA.
"We were close friends; he went to Texas A&M and I went to UCA and now he’s pitching in the World Series," said Watts. "He always said he wanted to be a pitcher in the big leagues and look at him now. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family."
Did he expect such success from Wacha, a teammate since the sixth grade?
"The games I saw him pitch in high school, he was amazing," Watts said. "He was always ‘the guy.’ The key was his preparation and his baseball coach (Craig Jones). Coach definitely saw something in Michael and pushed him to his capabilities.
"But Michael was always a hard worker. He was a cool guy but he always took practice seriously. He never joked around when it was time to be serious."
Watts said Wacha was also an outstanding basketball player in high school.
"He was our district’s best center," said Watts, noting Wacha was a grade above him in high school. "For a 6-6 guy, it kind of surprised me that being so skinny, he could be so physical. We played on some good teams in high school. He contributed a lot.
Watts said that before Saturday’s football game before Stephen F. Austin, he sent Wacha a message on Facebook. I told him, "Good luck and good job,"
Watts said. "He told me the same when he replied back."
So he’s following Watts and his career at UCA?
"I hope so," Watts said. "I do follow him."