HANNIBAL – Ask Gabe Worthington and Will Whitaker what their favorite memories playing sports with each other during their childhood gets different responses.
For Worthington, the favorite was playing basketball in Whitaker’s driveway when they were in grade school. It was common for the two of them to lower the rim so they could put on their own slam dunk contest.
"I always think back to that," Worthington said. "We’d do dunks on that, and we’d be out there for hours."
Whitaker, however, gets his favorite memory from the football field.
"Just football in general and the connections we made with him being the quarterback and me being the receiver," Whitaker said. "Rarely did we not connect on a pass. It was just a fun thing. I knew he was going to put the ball where it needed to be."
They had numerous memories over the years, and neither can date how long ago their friendship started. They’ve made those memories on the football field, basketball court and the baseball diamond all the way from youth leagues through their senior year at Hannibal High School.
They hope they get to make one more memory together when they represent Missouri in the seventh annual Missouri vs. Illinois All-Star Baseball Game Saturday night at Veterans Park.
"We’ve always been a duo as long as I can remember," Worthington said. "It’s cool we get to play in these all-star games together. We’ve been talking about that for awhile how this is the final ride.
"We’re just enjoying it while we can."
The ride getting here was memorable, too.
Both turned in stellar athletic careers for the Pirates. As seniors, Worthington quarterbacked the Pirates to a Class 4 quarterfinal appearance while throwing for 1,699 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also ran for 638 yards and scored 11 times. Whitaker was his favorite target, who caught 30 passes for 741 yards and seven touchdowns and ended his career rewriting the career receiving yards in program history.
Both were crucial roles in helping the Hannibal boys basketball team capture the North Central Missouri Conference championship, and in the spring turned in impressive performances for the baseball team. Their junior year, however, was the most impressive as the Pirates had arguably their best season in program history.
Both of them knew the days of playing sports together would end. That’s why they relish the friendship they’ve built over the years.
"That’s the biggest thing," Whitaker said. "We hang out a lot outside of sports. It’s definitely bigger than sports."
Even then, they’ll find some way to play sports together in the future.
"Maybe some slow-pitch softball or something," Whitaker said with a laugh. "He’s more of a golfer than I am, but I can drive the ball pretty well. So maybe we can get a two-man team going."
But for now, they’re focused on Saturday.
"I’m just looking forward to playing with and against these guys," Worthington said. "It’ll be cool to play a less intense game and just go out there and enjoy ourselves and make a good memory out of it."