MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nolan Gorman was on the ninth green of a round of miniature golf when he noticed a missed call from his childhood best friend and teammate.
The Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor High School graduate and No. 2 in the St. Louis Cardinals organization quickly completed his round and called back. In charge was Matthew Liberatore, product of Glendale Mountain Ridge High School.
“We’re teammates again,” he said. “We can do all the things we talked about all our lives growing up.”
The left-handed pitcher had just been traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
“The stars are all aligned” MLB.com‘ said Jonathan Mayo. “I don’t remember that ever happening. There have been stories of close friends being reunited in the big leagues, but there’s no other instance that comes to mind of guys who were that close in high school (the top two prospects) in the organization were and they played the same level.”
The two started playing together when Gorman was 4 and Liberatore was 5. From then on, they were teammates, with the exception of high school baseball and the first year and a half of their pro career. Both were involved with the Arizona Wildcats before deciding to go the pro route.
This season, they play for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds.
Some of Gorman’s fondest memories from playing with Liberatore include all the victories they achieved together and their ability to travel around the country with baseball.
To this day, the two are successful individually and together. Each player has risen through the minor league ranks at lightning speed.
“He’s a guy who will give you 100% every day,” Liberatore said. “If you give up a run, you feel like if his spot comes up in the lineup, he’s going to get that run back for you.”
So far, Gorman has done just that.
After starting the 2022 season 0 for 9, Gorman has hit 11 homers in a 16-game hitting streak, a career-high for the infielder. Gorman is the No. 2 minor league ranked by the St. Louis Cardinals MLB.com.
Liberatore, the No. 3 in the Cardinals minor league system, has dominated his last three starts and was named Triple-A International League Pitcher of the Week April 19-24. The left-hander has a scoreless streak of 17.0 innings and in his last two starts he has hit 16 batsmen over 14.0 innings.
The two were selected within three picks of each other in the first round of the 2018 MLB draft and had something beyond the normal physical abilities of high school draft picks. They just knew the game and had a love for the game that acted as a glue to hold their resumes together.
“The two coming back from high school just had a fun combination of obvious fun and a real understanding of what it takes to excel at the highest level,” Mayo said.
Their chemistry can easily be seen off the field. In the offseason following the MLB draft, in which everyone was drafted in the first round, the debut of a new ping-pong trick was released on Liberatore’s Twitter account.
Gorman spun around, right arm outstretched. At the same time, Liberatore delivered a fastball towards his soon-to-be target. With perfect timing, Gorman snapped the orange ball right into his palm.
This chemistry breeds pride in the field and a desire to help others succeed.
“I’d like to say no matter who’s on the hill, I always go 100%, but it’s definitely different when he’s out there,” Gorman said. “I want him to succeed on the hill. Whatever I can do behind him or at the plate to help him win a ball game is what I try to do.
Liberatore is looking forward to the journey.
“It’s a really cool feeling to be stepping on the hill and not just competing with it, but feeling like it’s going to contribute to my success.”