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From Georgia to Pittsburgh, Pirates' Frazier and Steelers' Mettenberger share bond

| Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 5:51 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Adam Frazier talks with his grandfather, Warren Adams (right), during batting practice before a game against the Braves Monday, March 13, 2017, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers back up quarterbacks Landry Jones and Zach Mettenberger throw during practice Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Adam Frazier doubles during the fourth inning against the Braves Monday, March 13, 2017, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — In some ways, not much has changed between Adam Frazier and Zach Mettenberger.

Both professional athletes playing for Pittsburgh teams, they talk about each other not unlike they did growing up on youth baseball teams near Watkinsville, Ga.

“Adam, he's a great athlete,” said Mettenberger, a Steelers backup quarterback, late last season. “And he's got that swagger. That's a cocky, little (guy) right there. He'll do whatever it takes to win for his team.

“It's too bad he didn't play football, but he just didn't like to get hit.”

Frazier, a utility player, got a chance to respond from the Pirates' spring training clubhouse at LECOM Park.

“Yeah, I didn't wanna get hit. That's because (Mettenberger) was getting our guys killed,” Frazier deadpanned. “I would have had to have been his receiver, and I didn't want to go out there. Our guys were getting whammed when he'd throw it over the middle.”

The 25-year-olds both graduated from Oconee County (Ga.) High School, which regularly produces SEC-caliber athletes and some minor leaguers. But rare is the major-league athlete from the 1,170-enrollment school.

So it was serendipitous the two high school friends would not only both make it to the highest level in their respective sports, but they would both end up doing so for teams in the same city.

And both arrived in Pittsburgh in the same calendar year.

Frazier had his contract purchased by the Pirates on June 24, 2016. The Steelers claimed Mettenberger off waivers Aug. 31.

“He was the first guy I called,” Mettenberger said. “And I actually went to a (Pirates) game the next day. So it was very cool getting to not only get to see your buddy play but to go to the venue. So to watch him play, that was awesome.”

It was the second time since high school that circumstance connected the two in the same city. During the previous offseason, Frazier made his home in Nashville, Tenn., where his girlfriend lived. At the time, Mettenberger played for the Tennessee Titans.

“We always hung out,” Mettenberger said. “We don't come from a very big town. … Successful guys, I guess, kind of stick together.”

Though they played on youth baseball teams together, Mettenberger and Frazier don't share much in terms of body type (Mettenberger is 6-foot-5, Frazier is 5-10) and never played on a varsity high school team together.

Frazier was a standout basketball player in addition to baseball. Though he enjoyed basketball, after hitting .524 and earning all-state accolades as a senior, Frazier became a standout at Mississippi State.

Mettenberger, meanwhile, also played in the SEC at LSU, though he initially enrolled at Georgia and spent a year at junior college after he was dismissed from the Bulldogs for a violation of team rules.

The Titans drafted Mettenberger in 2014 in the sixth round (No. 178 overall). Frazier was also a sixth-round pick, and just a slot later at No. 179, in June 2013.

Mettenberger sits behind Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones on the Steelers' quarterback depth chart. Frazier is also a backup — for now. With his versatility, his role in 2017 figures to increase. Frazier has started games at five positions this spring after starting 27 games at four positions in a three-month span during last season.

“He's going to get his at-bats anyway based on what he did last year,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Frazier, who hit .301 in 66 games as a rookie and has a .462 average in Grapefruit League play this spring.

“He's a good player. We like what he's doing.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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