Skill paired Jeff Gelalich and Beau Amaral together at UCLA. Fate brought them together again at the professional level this summer in the Pioneer League.
And if desire, hard work and a little bit of luck pay off, the Billings Mustangs' rookies will play alongside one another in the same outfield for the foreseeable future.
"Coming into professional baseball is a pretty intimidating experience," said Amaral, the Mustangs' center fielder and leadoff hitter. "And being able to have somebody else to share it with and go through the hard times with is pretty cool.
"We've gone through a lot these last three years, and to be able to experience it now is pretty special."
The relationship between Gelalich and Amaral goes back to when they first set foot on the UCLA campus as freshmen in the fall of 2009. They were young, but they grew up fast, making an immediate impact for coach John Savage and the perennially contending Bruins.
In their three years in Westwood, Gelalich and Amaral helped UCLA to back-to-back Pac-12 Conference titles in 2011 and '12, and aided in two College World Series appearances, including a run to Omaha this past season.
Career-wise, Gelalich hit .316 with 15 home runs, 74 RBIs and 106 runs in 159 games with the Bruins. Amaral -- whose father Rich played 10 years in the Majors -- had a .322 career average and departed as the school's all-time postseason leader in games (24), hits (33) and at-bats (99).
Incidentally, both were chosen by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2012 Draft in June: Gelalich was a supplemental first-round pick (No. 57 overall) while Amaral was taken in the seventh round (No. 232 overall).
Mustangs manager Pat Kelly says he is most impressed with the maturity both Gelalich and Amaral have shown as first-year professionals. The familiarity factor plays a big role for each guy, too.
"I think a lot of times when you go some place new, nobody really knows you," Kelly said. "But those guys have watched each other play the last [three] years. That's huge. I think they definitely feed off each other."
Entering Aug. 8, Gelalich was hitting .213 (17-for-80) in 21 games. He belted his first two career homers on a late-July road trip. Amaral was hitting a modest .274 (34-for-124) in 31 games. He had scored 35 runs, which led the team. Both had flashed solid defensive skills, combining for six outfield assists and only four errors in 80 total chances.
Gelalich and Amaral will be key for the Mustangs in the second half of the season, especially as the team looks to snap a three-year postseason drought. They'll be invaluable to each other, too.
"The first day we were here we kind of looked at each other, and it felt the same," Gelalich said. "It was just a different uniform. It was kind of funny seeing each other in a different color than the blue and gold we were used to seeing each other in.
"But it's the same game. And I'm excited to be out here with Beau, and I'm glad we can be able to do this together."
RBI machine: Missoula slugger Michael Perez took over the league lead in RBIs from Orem's Michael Snyder after driving in five runs against Helena on Aug. 6. Perez had 19 RBIs in a nine-game stretch between July 27 and Aug. 6, including five multi-RBI games.
Dealing: Idaho Falls LHP Sam Selman hasn't allowed an earned run in his last three starts, a stretch of 15 innings. Selman, a second-round Draft pick out of Vanderbilt in June, was the No. 1 pitcher in the league as of Aug. 8 with a 5-0 record and a 1.31 ERA through 41 1/3 innings.
Hitting halted: Billings 3B Seth Mejias-Brean saw his league-best hitting streak snapped at 22 games when he took an 0-for-4 against Great Falls on Aug. 6. During the streak, Mejias-Brean batted .404 (38-for-94) with five homers, 28 RBIs, 20 runs scored and had 10 multi-hit games.