As longtime friends and former high school teammates, it's not surprising that Brett Phillips and Joey Krehbiel have had a reunion of sorts in the minor leagues.
After a few years apart, the pair are no longer baseball teammates, but foes who play for opposing teams in the Midwest League.
"It's funny now because Joey and I grew up playing ball together and we're still best friends to this day," Phillips said.
During their three years together in high school, the Seminole Warhawks were regulars in the postseason, including a showing in the 2010 region finals.
According to then-coach Greg Olsen, Phillips was the team's vocal leader and the quieter Krehbiel led the Warhawks by example.
"Brett was one to encourage his teammates, to push them, but he also kept our team in line," Olsen said. "Joey's a little bit of the opposite personality, but everybody on our team looked to Joey because they respected the way he played."
The duo's baseball careers did not end upon graduation.
Krehbiel, a reliever who graduated in 2011, was taken by the Los Angeles Angels in the 12th round of the MLB first-year player's draft. Phillips, a centerfielder, had to wait an extra year to hear his name called by the Houston Astros in the sixth round.
In Krehbiel's first full professional season, the right-hander compiled a 2-2 record with a 5.12 ERA for the Orem Owlz of the Pioneer League.
"In the league I was in, it's a little different than high school; these guys came out of college and there's more traveling and being away from home," Krehbiel said. "I think after all that was done and 2013 came around, I was another year older, one more year experienced, and I just matured more."
With the adjustment period over, Krehbiel was promoted to Los Angeles' Class A affiliate, the Burlington Bees. Once there, he willingly adopted a role as the team's set-up man.
Krehbiel's 2013 season showed much improvement as he went 6-5 with an ERA below 2.75.
The first part of this season has seen the righty take over the Bees' closer role. Through Monday, Krehbiel had a 1.93 ERA and totaled five saves for Burlington, which is among the league's western division leaders.
Phillips made his professional debut in 2012 but settled in with Houston's Class A affiliate, the Quad Cities River Bandits at the end of the 2013 season. He appeared in only 12 games and put together a .231 average in 39 at-bats.
The 2014 version of the River Bandits has relied much more on Phillips. He has a .304 average this season with four home runs and 33 runs driven in. Phillips' speed has been an asset for the team as well as he already has 10 triples and 12 stolen bases.
"I'm making pretty good adjustments now," Phillips said. "This game's all about doing that and right now I'm really in a groove."
These numbers were good enough to earn Phillips an invitation to the East vs. West All-Star Game on June 17. Phillips started in centerfield for the western division's team and collected one hit in three plate appearances; he also drove in a run.
The friends have already met once this season. On June 6, Phillips bested Krehbiel, hitting a triple off him as his River Bandits took the victory.
"I got on the mound and looked at him, and we just started smiling and laughing," Krehbiel said. "… He hits a pop-up to right field and our rightfielder gets under it, looks up for the ball and loses it in the sun. (Phillips) gets a triple and is all hooting and hollering over at third base."
But a little good-natured ribbing doesn't diminish a dream realized.
"Playing professional baseball was our goal as children and to be doing it against your best friend is pretty cool," Phillips said.