CLEMSON — Brothers and friends, competitors and supporters — those would be four words in the job description for Clate and Clarke Schmidt’s relationship. Sometimes, teammate has been too, on travel and high school clubs.
These next three days will be unlike any other, as for the first time, Clate and Clarke are adversaries in opposite dugouts. Each a right-handed reliever, the junior Clate and freshman Clarke will help Clemson and South Carolina clash for the 307th, 308th and 309th times in the Reedy River Rivalry’s 117-year history.
Clate and Clarke can’t wait.
“It’s a fun weekend we’re about to have,” Clate said in Clemson.
“I’m pumped. I just can’t wait to get out there,” Clarke said in Columbia.
Their parents are less enthused.
“Dread it,” said the retired Marine Col. Dwight Schmidt. “Absolutely dread it.”
When Peyton and Eli Manning face off every four years, Archie and Olivia Manning can barely watch. When John and Jim Harbaugh met in Super Bowl XLVII, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh felt as much (if not more) pain for the son who would lose the biggest game of his life as joy for the son who would win it.
To that end, it’s not unreasonable Clate and Clarke could each be handed the ball in a critical late inning sometime this weekend (in fact, it’d be mirroring a unique circumstance from just two weeks ago.) One and only one outcome would please the parents.
“The only thing you could ever hope for,” Dwight said, “is they both pitch a perfect game to a no-decision and step off the field, you know what I’m saying?”
It’s not like Clate and Clarke, who have no other siblings, aren’t used to competing. Any pair of brothers can relate to their lifelong game of can-you-top-this.
“We weren’t lovey-lovey; I mean, we loved each other, but it was like, dude I did this, what are you gonna do?” Clate said. “We always pushed each other, and we supported each other.”
So while some team has to win or sweep the series and the other has to lose it, it’ll all be in good fun within the family.
“We talk nearly every day, really. We always bicker at each other, just picking at each other’s skin, having some fun,” Clarke said. “We’re really competitive. I don’t think there will be any bad emotions after that.”
Naturally, Dwight and Renee Schmidt have designed half-and-half jerseys to support their boys as they step on the same ballfield for rival schools for the inaugural time.
“We’re excited for both young men,” Dwight said, “but you hate to see either one lose.”
Most boys know their father’s arrived home from work when the garage door opens. Clate and Clarke, when they were little, used to hear Dad tap the burner of his F/A-18 combat jet for such a signal.
Dwight Schmidt was in the European Marines for more than 20 years, taking flight from in the Persian Gulf and Bosnian wars — doing the latter a day after 8-month-old Clate took his first steps. He used to call home after night sessions and catch up with the boys before their afternoon baseball games.
Meanwhile, Renee owned a home décor store — “anything that collects dust in the home, she sells” — and the boys were close with her parents.
Clate was born in Beaufort, S.C., and Clarke on the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, Calif., but they weren’t military brats. Dwight became a pilot for Delta in 1998, relocating the family to Acworth, Ga., in suburban Atlanta.
Dwight stayed active in the Reserves, flying in Afghanistan as recently as last winter. He arrived home on a Friday night, while South Carolina was rallying to beat Clemson in Columbia, and he and Renee drove up to Greenville’s Fluor Field for the Saturday duel, reuniting with Clate as a then-sophomore.
A year later, the Schmidts enjoyed the rarest of family treats with a bit of luck and timing.
The plan is for Dwight and Renee to split up when both teams play simultaneously (which will be often), but Clate urged his parents to stick together for Clarke’s first college series two weekends ago.
On Opening Day, Clarke entered in the ninth against College of Charleston. Moments later and 100 miles to the northwest, as Dwight heard on his radio earpiece, Clate took the mound vs. West Virginia.
Almost instantaneously, Clarke rung up a Cougar and Clate struck out a Mountaineer. It was Friday the 13th.
“I told Renee, how weird is that?” Dwight said. “We’ll never forget that.”
Clarke has been outstanding in his first three appearances, posting a 1.12 ERA in eight innings of work with seven strikeouts and no walks. He leads the Gamecocks with two pitching victories.
Clate’s got a 6.35 ERA after getting touched up in a midweek start vs. Wofford, but he is available out of the bullpen this weekend. He’s looking for redemption after failing to hold a Sunday lead in last year’s series finale, but he’s also the last Tiger pitcher to defeat South Carolina with seven solid innings on March 2, 2013.
Clarke was there.
“Two great kids, and they come from a great family with great parents,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “They’re both ultra-competitive, they’re both extremely talented. I guess it just adds another dynamic to this rivalry.”
David Caraviello contributed to this report.