The lofty projections, Goldman said, were based on what Wieters had accomplished as an amateur and a minor leaguer. The fact that he hasn't lived up to those gaudy offensive numbers — and most likely won't, Goldman believes — is what landed him on the list. Wieters will have "at the very least a very solid career," Goldman says, but it's disingenuous to think that an average bat and above-average defense is what the Orioles and baseball fans envisioned when he was drafted.
Wieters laughs off those sentiments, but others aren't so dismissive.
"I get on the Internet and I'll read the blogs, and I probably get a lot madder about it than he does," said Wieters' father, Richard, a fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves' in 1977 who spent five seasons in the minors. "A lot of people rip on him, and they don't realize what kind of player he is. So much stuff was put on him so early, and nobody can meet those expectations. But, really, he doesn't let it bother him."
Perhaps that's because Wieters seemingly was born to be a baseball player — and a switch-hitting catcher.
"I knew from playing baseball that if you could catch and switch-hit, you'd have a shot," Richard Wieters said.
Coached for years by his father, the young Wieters often played with teammates several years older. But it wasn't until a tournament in Atlanta when Wieters was about 16 that his father realized how special of a player his son might become. He entered a game in relief with the bases loaded and no outs and struck out the side on nine pitches. A scout told Richard Wieters the pitches were clocked at 95 mph.
Wieters began drawing attention from colleges and went on an official visit to Georgia Tech, where longtime coach Danny Hall met with him and his parents and explained how the team wanted to use him — that he would get time at first base, catcher and pitcher.
Wieters displayed no emotion during that discussion, just took it all in. When he later met with his parents back at their home in Goose Creek, S.C., he said he was positive that Tech was where he wanted to go. It floored his mother, who had been watching her son during the interview and had gotten no indication of which way he was leaning.
"He will not do something before he thinks it through," his mom said. "And he wanted to make sure it was something we could support."
The poker face fooled Georgia Tech, too. They called the next day and upped his scholarship offer.
Don't think that Wieters is always emotionless, though. In a recent loss to the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Showalter said, no player was more visibly angry than his catcher.
"Tough game, tough loss. And Matt purely [was fired up] in the dugout when the game ended," Showalter said. "Some guys will just give that to you, an act, but he is sincere. I'd love to see my daughter walk through the door with someone like that."
That sincerity is perhaps why it's easy to believe him when he said all the right things after learning of his All-Star selection. He first asked whether any of his teammates — such as Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy — had made it. He called it a reward for the work he has put in this year but not license to stop improving. And he said he didn't look at it as a vindication of his young career.
"The expectations I more would like to meet are the expectations of bringing this team back to the playoffs, bringing this team back to the World Series," Wieters said. "If we can keep getting players who are going to buy into this system and if we can keep improving, I feel like that can happen. And I think that will be more valuable than any amount of All-Star games."
He quickly added that he still felt making the All-Star Game is "a great honor."
Growing up as a Braves fan, he loved watching the game and the Home Run Derby when his amateur baseball schedule would allow it. He said he looked forward to this week so he could pick the brains of other players such as Braves catcher Brian McCann on balancing hitting and defense and the Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay on preparation.
He also said he hopes to add to his meager baseball memorabilia collection, which includes one item that's not from his career: a signed Chipper Jones jersey he bought at a charity auction.
Otherwise, Wieters expects this week to be a low-key one. Case in point: His posse joining him at the event consists of his wife, mother, father, grandmother, sister and brother-in-law.
When Wieters asked Hardy, another understated Oriole whom he has bonded with, about what he should look for during the All-Star festivities, the shortstop, a 2007 selection, said: "Soak it all in; take in as much as you can."
That shouldn't be hard for Wieters. Because, along with playing sports, that's what he has been doing most of his life.
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