STARKVILLE, miss. (AP) – As intrigued as any other observer was watching the second game in Mississippi’s baseball series against Vanderbilt from a hotel room in Minneapolis, nearly 900 miles northwest of Hawkins Field in Nashville.
Yes that’s right.
One pitcher whose Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Minnesota Twins that afternoon on April 24th took a keen interest in the matchup that saw the hottest starting pitcher in college baseball battle a Mississippi State sophomore in an effort to become just that.
The MSU sophomore year was Will Bednar. The pirate in the hotel room was David Bednar, Will’s older brother. Will threw five innings with eight strikeouts and one earned run. The Bulldogs fired Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter for four earned runs in his five innings.
Mississippi State defeated Vanderbilt. Will beat Leader, who suffered his first loss of the season. And David never missed a seat. He never does.
Whether he’s from an airport, a bus, a training table in the pirates’ clubhouse, or wherever life takes him as an MLB pitcher, David watches every start of Will. He saw Will go 4-1 in 43 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 67 strokes.
“I’m just super proud of everything he has achieved so far and will do in the future,” David told Clarion Ledger. “It’s just cool to see what he’s doing now and what everyone thinks they’ll be able to do it in the future.”
Mississippi pitcher Will Bednar has scored 67 hits in 43 innings this season. The second year has a 4-1 record with an ERA of 3.14.
Right back with you, big brother. Will has seen David enter a game in the seventh inning or later in 10 of his 13 relief appearances, administering a 2.31 ERA with 12 strokes in 11 2/3 innings.
“It’s really cool to have him as a role model,” said Will. “I’m really grateful that someone like him keeps his mind up on all kinds of baseball stuff. It was really good for me. “
“YOU CANNOT WRITE IT BETTER THAN THAT.”
The Bednar brothers were born in baseball. Her father Andrew learned to love the game from his father. Andrew was with Cornell for four years. He’s been a high school coach for the past 22 years.
He trained David, 26, and Will, 20, at Mars Area High School north of Pittsburgh.
“I probably wouldn’t play baseball without him,” Will said.
Andrew’s dedication to his sons has helped them as much as anything else. Will competed against Kentucky on Friday, April 2nd. Andrew and his wife Sue drove from Pittsburgh to get there Thursday and Friday. Then they drove to Chicago all Saturday to see David go up against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday.
Will had a season high of 10 spikes in six innings. David threw a goalless eighth inning in relief. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometers on the way, 21 combined outs for their sons, a win and a loss and a priceless long weekend for the Bednar family.
Everything built around baseball.
“You can’t do better than the script,” said Andrew.
‘WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?’
Or maybe you can do better than writing the script.
Will will never forget what happened on January 19th. Neither does David. Or Andrew or some other Bednar.
“A friend of mine I hadn’t spoken to in a while texted me and said, ‘Hey, David, the pirates?'” Will said. “I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Sure enough, I go on Twitter and see he’s in this (Joe) Musgrove deal. We were all crazy and we were all super excited. “
David was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 35th round in 2016. He worked his way through the minors and made his MLB debut on September 1, 2019. He seemed to have a future with the padres.
Then he was given to the team he grew up for.
“It’s getting cooler and cooler every day,” said David. “Every time you put this jersey on, it’s just unreal.”
Andrew thought of watching David play low-A minor league baseball in Lake Elsinore, California and high-A baseball in Pasco, Washington. What a grind. Now David can drive south for 20 minutes to watch his son in PNC Park.
“It’s just completely surreal,” said David.
“YOU MUST KEEP A STEP HEAD”
Will knows how special it is for David to promote the team they worked for as kids. He knows how special it is for David to play in MLB.
It’s a dream Andrew had, but admittedly it wasn’t good enough to make it come true. It’s more than achievable for Will. Much more than for David.
“In high school, I thought he was going to play in the big leagues? They always hope that in the back of their minds, but we were just hoping to get a Division I scholarship, ”Andrew said of David.
He got this scholarship. He played three seasons at Lafayette College, which is not exactly the state of Mississippi. David’s College Stadium had a capacity of 500. There were over 15,000 fans at Dudy Noble Field when MSU hosted Ole Miss in 2014. There have been more than 13,000 fans 15 times in the history of the stadium, including last month against Ole Miss.
Will plays in a place where pitchers get pumped into the majors faster, but he watched every step his brother took to get there by a much more unlikely route.
Both are not a matter of course.
The two of them give each other advice all the time, and often chat while playing Call of Duty on Xbox. After allowing six runs and seven hits in three innings to drain Ole Miss last month (yes, in front of 13,388 people), Will turned on his Xbox.
“I really hated doing bad every second,” Will said. “But after the game I spoke to David and he basically said you can be crazy about it today, but tomorrow you forget it, keep working hard and get ready for the next week. You have to keep a balanced head. “
LIKE BIG BROTHER, LIKE LITTLE BROTHER
Andrew calls David Will’s “guiding hand”.
David is always there for Will, but there have been times in the duo’s journey as pitchers when the majors can’t relate to who’s still in college.
David wasn’t Andrew’s pitcher in the Mars Area until his junior year. Will became this guy in his sophomore year, gassing 95 mph fastballs as a junior.
“He definitely brought Dave to his knees a lot,” joked Andrew.
David didn’t choose Lafayette until the end of October of his peak season. Will entered the state of Mississippi in September of his junior season, fresh from a College World Series appearance and a few months away from another. Andrew said Will will be “the head and shoulders of everyone else” in the Mars Area by then.
In fact, David is the first to admit that Will is a better Call of Duty player than he is.
“And it’s not even close,” laughed David. “But I have team ethics.”
That last part, whether David knows or not, is enough for Will. Younger brother could throw harder than big brother. He could have a wider range of pitches to choose from. These pitches could confuse opposing batters more than those of the big brother.
But the younger brother is still trying to land where the big brother is: on the hill at Wrigley Field and in PNC Park and wherever else he’s called to get out of the pen.
By then, there will be a lot of Xbox chats until Will’s time to play the rubber in places like this, but David believes his brother is well on his way.
“Just being able to see me in the majors and see that it’s possible and very real makes it a little bit tougher,” said David.