MadFriars' Interview: Cody Decker

SAN ANTONIO: Cody Decker was taken in the 22nd round of the 2009 draft out of UCLA. Decker, who in his four year career, was twice an All-Pac-10 selection at first base, was not that highly regarded because of his age at the time of the draft, 22, height - around 5'11" - and perception that he would be limited to either first base or DH.

One thing no one counted on was how well Cody would hit as a pro. In 2009 he was the MadFriars player of the year hitting .354/.421/.717 in the Arizona League.

The Padres were impressed enough to skip him a few levels and sent him to High-A Lake Elsinore in 2010 where he tied with San Antonio's Matt Clark for the organizational lead in home runs with 28 to go along with 35 doubles and 90 RBIs.

In San Antonio the twenty-four year old Decker has gotten off to a fast start in April as he drove in twenty-two runs in twenty games with fifteen of his twenty-five hits going for extra-bases.

We caught up with Cody at the beginning of May to go over his non-Padre like approach at the plate, mistaken perceptions and what he is looking to do for the future.

We've been doing this for awhile and haven't really seen anyone go from the AZL all the way to High-A Lake Elsinore. Did you have any problems making that big of a jump?

Cody Decker: No, not really. I just went out and tried to play my game. I knew the hitting coach, Bob Skube, and just stayed with my plan.

You are an aggressive hitter who takes quite a few big swings. The Padres are always preaching about patience and being selective. How do you fit into that plan?

Cody Decker: When I'm at the plate I try not to think too much. Honestly it is just see ball, hit ball. When I'm going well that is really the mentality that I have.

So you are not looking for the ball in a certain zone?

Cody Decker: Sometimes I am but I am really not conscious of it. Occasionally I will take some first pitch strikes if I don't feel I can get the barrel on the ball.

True the pitches are coming in around the low to mid-90's

Cody Decker: [laughs] Exactly, if I am thinking at all I am thinking way too much.

You are not really looking for spin or how it comes out of the hand, more like it is here I am swinging.

Cody Decker: There are a lot of guys that are able to do it, everyone has their own little hitting technique. For me I work on what I know I need to work on before, but when I go up to the plate I want it to be reactive.

If you read reports about you, the description always comes across as "squatty" and even "fat". When I saw you for the first time in person last year in spring training and this year – you don't fit any of those descriptions. You actually are in pretty good shape.

Cody Decker: [laughs] Well, yeah go figure. I've always been in pretty good shape and at UCLA it was the same thing. I even requested once to pay to get my jersey tailored because it was always so tight around my chest but blowing around in the gut. It just looked awful, the bottom just flailed out so I looked fat.

I remember the whole draft process and had meetings with scouts and they all said the same thing; I looked it much better shape than they thought when they saw me in street clothes. And I thought well, I work out quite a bit and eat pretty well, so yeah, I'm in good shape.

When you talk about working out and getting bigger and better than you were last year, how do you do that or more specifically keep the gains that you worked so hard for in the off-season. For example it isn't like the game starts at 7 and you guys roll in around 6 take some BP and go play. You guys are pretty busy from about 1 PM and really your night doesn't end many times until nearly 10.

Cody Decker: During the off-season I really push myself hard and I doubt anyone lifts as much as I do. Well, probably they do - but that makes me feel better to say it [laughs]. But seriously, I lift a ton. During the season you may only lift twice a week because baseball is every day. I try to lift after the game many times so I don't lose too much muscle mass.

You tend to do more reps than go for power correct?

Cody Decker: I make sure I'm doing three sets of ten and really don't max out that much.

How about the conditioning?

Cody Decker: The diet doesn't stay the same during the season because I know I will be burning more calories, but I'm still careful about what I eat.

Just taking ground balls for twenty minutes can take more out of you than you would believe.

I try my best to get as much chicken in me as I can. Fruit and salads also are great. My nutritionist I work with at UCLA is really great and she would kill me if I showed up out of shape.

As a power hitter you have talked about cutting down on your strikeouts. As someone who likes sabermetrics usually you see power hitters like yourself have more walks than you do because a source of their power is that they force pitchers to come to them; hence they take a lot of pitches.

How are you able to generate the power you do with your approach of basically see it and hit it?

Cody Decker: It is something I was told in college when I was having a bad week by my college coach Rick Vanderhook. If you are going bad nothing can stop you from putting a good swing on the ball. If you put a good swing on the ball, good things can happen and that is the approach that I have always taken.

You talk about cutting down on your strikeouts but that seems like a tough thing for you to do because your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength. How do you do that without curtailing your aggressiveness?

Cody Decker: Its hard and its tricky. This off-season my main goal was to cut down on my strikeout and I haven't done it in April.

You are also tied for the minor league lead in home runs, so it hasn't been that bad.

Cody Decker: [laughs] Yeah, it is a give take thing. I would like to cut down on the strikeouts. No one in the organization has given me a hard time about it but I'm sure they would like to see more walks too. I walked a lot in college, but pro ball is different.

When I get my pitch to hit, I want to hit it.

You always come across to me as a baseball player, not just a guy that is locked into first base. How do you go about trying to get more playing time at other positions without annoying people?

Cody Decker: I don't want to bother anyone or step on anybody's toes. They know I can play third, and I have been taking ground balls there and I've played in the outfield in the past. I think I can be just fine in any of those spots. I've caught before and caught some pens in the past, so I can be an emergency catcher too. Last thing I want to do is step on anybody's toes but I also want them to know I am not a limited player.

What were your biggest goals coming into the season?

Cody Decker: As cliched as it sounds, I really just want to have fun. I play better when I am having fun. We are all having a blast. This is great team and I can't think of another team where I could have a better time with.

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