When Kaleigh Schrock and Kyle Day were growing up in the Georgetown area, their backyards almost connected, which made for a wonderful playground. Besides having refrigerator rights at each other's houses, they played hockey, baseball, basketball, stickball and any other games they could make up.
``We hit a lot of tennis balls,'' Schrock said. ``We'd foul balls behind and into our neighbor's pool, and they wouldn't give them back, so I'd have to sneak over there at midnight and get them back.''
Though Day was two years younger, he was just as competitive as Schrock, and that is partly why they are such good friends and why both boys became such successful professional athletes. Schrock has won two championships with the Komets, and Day won a baseball championship last summer with Winnipeg of the American Association, an independent league that would be the equivalent of the Central Hockey League.
``I don't know why I didn't play hockey,'' Day said. ``I think I'd be well-suited. I'm quick, I've got good hand-eye coordination, I know I can skate and I like hitting people, too. We had a lot of good games in the basement. Maybe I could have been a defenseman.''
After graduating from Snider, Day played four years in the Cincinnati Reds' chain as a catcher, but they had a pair of No. 1 draft picks ahead of him. No matter how well he played, Day wasn't going to move up, so when his contract expired he played one year of independent ball before hanging up his spikes. He recently finished his kinesiology degree at Michigan State.
It may be a little surprising to see two best friends and neighbors who become professional athletes, but neither Schrock or Day is surprised. They helped prepare each other and had a part in the other's success.
``I think that's a big reason why I'm so competitive because we didn't like losing to each other,'' Schrock said.
``We haven't played anything competitively lately,'' Day said. ``Now that we've got more chances, I'll have to start whipping his butt again.''
``If we played one-on-one right now, I could take him,'' Schrock said confidently. ``I'm even willing to go stickball in the backyard. I used to kick his butt. I used to hit bombs.''
And then they both about rolled off their chairs with laughter. Only Schrock could have the bravado to take on a former professional baseball player at his own sport.
The games never stopped in the backyard, the driveway or the basement. Both families took out loans to cover the cost of light bulbs in the basements and to replace the fences that got torn up because neither boy would use the gate.
They are best friends, but in reality, Day and Schrock are the brothers they never had. Whenever they'd face disappointment or go through a rough spot during their careers, they'd call each other before their parents.
``Obviously, I always wanted to win and he did, too,'' Day said. ``We got in fights a few times. It was good for me and good for him, and it drove us both. It doesn't surprise me that he's been so successful. We both wanted to do what we ended up doing.''
A lot of that success was built in their unfinished basements. It was somewhere two active boys could challenge each other and the room without damaging too much. Schrock had a hockey net in his, and Day had a basketball setup in his.
``I can't tell you how many times I went downstairs and said, `What was that?' and there would be these two angelic faces looking back at me saying, `Everything is fine,' '' Kaleigh's mother Kathy said.
Recently, Schrock bought a home in the same neighborhood, and Day retired as a ballplayer and is hoping to find a job in Fort Wayne.
``He kind of told me last year that this was going to be his last year to play,'' Schrock said. ``When I went to see him play, it was kind of tough for me to watch and realize that. I grew up my whole life watching him swing a bat, and I'm glad he got to go out by winning a championship. It kind of prepared me because one day that's going to be me, and that's going to be a tough day, too.''
They are still finding ways to help each other.