Originally created 06/08/06

All in all, Wieters looks like another star on Jackets' wall



ATLANTA - Matt Wieters sat as far away as possible from "the wall" in Georgia Tech's players' lounge, as if anticipating the obvious question.

So, Matt, do you belong among the best players in Yellow Jackets baseball history?

Wieters just looks up and shrugs. "The wall" features photos of Georgia Tech's major leaguers. They include Jason Varitek, Mark Teixeira, Jay Payton and Nomar Garciaparra - four hitters Wieters, just a 20-year-old sophomore, is constantly compared to, even by his coach.

"He's right there with them," Danny Hall said. "There are guys, and there are special guys. And he's a special guy."

Wieters has many specialties. He leads Georgia Tech into this weekend's super regional series against College of Charleston as the team's top hitter, its closer and the starting catcher.

He is, in the words of Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, an "All-American" and a "major leaguer."

"He's like a pro hitter," Corbin said. "He's not going to chase, and when he does get the pitch he wants, he hits it. ... He can shed the (catching) equipment, toe the brick and throw 95 (mph)."

Wieters' numbers show he could become the best player in Georgia Tech history. If he plays four years for the Yellow Jackets and continues at his current pace, he would break Varitek's RBI mark and Jim Poole's saves record. His batting average would rank among the top 15 and his ERA would be in the top 10.

He is unlikely to make it to his senior year, though. He is projected as a first-round pick in next June's draft.

Teammate Jeff Kindel said Wieters is the best hitter he has played with at Georgia Tech, which includes as many as four players destined for "the wall": All-Americans Micah Owings, Eric Patterson and Tyler Greene and slugger Matt Murton.

"I can't compare him to any hitter I've played with," said Kindel, a fifth-year senior. "Something about him makes him a little better than those guys. I couldn't tell you what it is."

It starts with genetics. Wieters' father, Richard, played college ball at The Citadel and spent several years pitching in the minor leagues with the White Sox and Braves organizations.

Richard threw heat but lacked a breaking ball and never made it past Class AA. He retired from baseball before Matt's older sister, Rebecca, was born.

"He always said he was more of a thrower on the mound and a swinger at the plate," Wieters said of his dad. "That's why he says he doesn't know how I got my eye at the plate or the control I have on my pitches."

Richard Wieters coached his son throughout his youth league career. When Matt went through a mini-slump earlier this year, hitting coach Josh Holliday called Richard for advice.

He told Holliday that Matt needed to shorten his swing. Matt has raised his average 64 points since April 1, from .296 to .360. He is hitting .417 with five home runs this postseason and reached base 14 times in 15 at-bats in last weekend's NCAA regional.

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or adam.vanbrimmer@morris.com.