Traveling paved the way to bonding for Wyatt Trautwein and Jordan Fedro.
Their paths had crossed when Fedro pitched for Prospect against Trautwein's Barrington team in a Mid-Suburban League baseball game last spring. But they didn't really know each other until they ended up on the same summer travel team in the Top Tier program.
Trips to Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri helped Fedro and Trautwein quickly develop a good friendship.
"We clicked from the beginning and had a lot of things in common," Trautwein said.
"He's awesome," Fedro said. "I'm really happy we're both going down there."
Fedro was alluding to the future trips throughout the Missouri Valley Conference they will be making as teammates at Bradley University. They both made their verbal commitments to accept scholarships during the summer and will make it official during the early signing period for letters of intent that begins Wednesday.
Fedro committed first in late July. And then he turned into a recruiter to try and help persuade Trautwein to follow suit a few weeks later.
"I told him he should do what he wanted to do, but I thought it would be pretty cool if he went down there," Fedro said. "I feel a lot more comfortable about it since I played a whole season with him and traveled with him."
Fedro said he also had interest from Valparaiso and West Virginia before choosing Bradley. Trautwein also had a scholarship offer from Creighton and said he had received some interest from Indiana and Louisville.
The fact they're also friends with Bradley freshman Matt Dennis, who led Rolling Meadows to last season's MSL title, contributed to their decision to play college baseball in Peoria.
"Jordan was texting me all the way down to Peoria," Trautwein said of his visit to Bradley a day after Fedro received his scholarship offer. "It's just cool to have multiple friends you know are going there. It was definitely a factor."
What Bradley hopes will be cool is for the two lanky right-handers -- Fedro is 6-feet-6, 185 pounds and Trautwein is 6-3, 175 -- to keep progressing and bring plenty of heat to MVC hitters.
Fedro said his velocity has jumped about 5 mph to where he is consistently averaging 89 and topping out at 93. Trautwein said he's gone up about 3-4 mph to 87-88 while topping out at 89.
But improved command should also make a big difference as both of them enter their third varsity seasons. Fedro had 29 strikeouts and only 6 walks in 17 summer innings for Prospect after a spring with 37 strikeouts and 26 walks in 342⁄3 innings.
"He made some really big strides over the summer," said Prospect coach Ross Giusti. "One thing he's figured out is to use his defense, because we have a pretty solid defense coming back, and to not have to feel like he has to strike everybody out has certainly helped his game.
"You can tell he's much more relaxed and confident and it's great to see. He has a lot of upside to his game and I think he's going to continue to grow as a ballplayer and individual."
Trautwein struggled with his command on the varsity two years ago and went back to the sophomore team. But last year he went 6-3 overall with 67 strikeouts in 63 innings, and in conference games he was 3-0 with a 2.58 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 19 innings as Barrington won the MSL West crown.
"He continued to grow and mature on the mound," said Barrington coach Pat Wire, who was in charge of the sophomore team two years ago and worked with Trautwein. "He's shown tremendous growth and it's very rewarding to see that. That comes with time and maturity."
Wire said Trautwein has also learned how to manage his own high expectations in a family where his father David made it as high as Triple-A in a six-year pro pitching career, his uncle John pitched in 9 games with the 1988 Red Sox in his seven-year pro career and his grandfather Jack also pitched in the minor leagues.
So, Wyatt Trautwein and Fedro are hoping not only for big things at Bradley but also after their time is done in Peoria. And that could just as easily be off the baseball field since they have another nice similarity with scores of 27 on the ACT.
They are both also glad to have eliminated the uncertainty of their college decision before their senior season. And they are both gearing their off-season work toward a big finish where they would both get a kick out of the chance to battle each other on the mound.
"I'd love to," Fedro said. "It would be great to pitch against him. I love that kind of competition."
And then the friends can start focusing on pitching for the same team at Bradley.
"We both can't wait to get there," Trautwein said.