MadFriars’ Announcer Series: Matt Mika

During the season Matt Mika worked as both the Assistant for Media Relations and was the on-field reporter for the El Paso Chihuahuas recording pre-game interviews with the players.

As with most people who work in the minor leagues these were only part of his duties as he also wrote and edited press releases, was engaged in social media for the team along with other promotional activities.

Matt was a former Division I pitcher for the University of Akron before transferring to St. John Fisher College where he continued his baseball career and education before starting in a new direction with broadcasting.

As a former pitcher you had to be impressed by Jason Lane. How would you describe him as a pitcher, his strengths and weaknesses?

Matt Mika: He was a gamer. His baseball IQ was incredible, he was able to break things down when he was on the mound or in the batters box and it seemed he knew what his opponent was thinking even before they did. He was very smart on the mound, he located extremely well and used all of his pitches well in different times in the count.

Matt Wisler came to El Paso as the top pitching prospect in the system. He struggled initially, but his numbers improved every month. What caused him to improve as much as he did?

Matt Mika: He slowed the game down. Sometimes he let the game become too fast and that ultimately caused some struggles at the beginning of the year. Yet, he is a bulldog and a true competitor with great stuff, so when he slowed things down and started to pitch to contact he was dominant, and he gained confidence with each start he had.

Juan Oramas has always been a bit of an up and down performer. I liked what I saw of him when I was in El Paso, what did you see from him this year?

Matt Mika: I saw a ton of potential in Oramas. He has a great mix of off speed pitches that can make hitters off balance. He was third on the team in strikeouts (93), and innings pitched (110.2) so he has endurance and can get out of jams with big strikeouts. That being said he was second on the team in walks (45), so he needs to work on commanding the zone but that will come. All that being said, I believe Juan Oramas has a bright future ahead of him.

Two bullpen arms – Jerry Sullivan and Dennis O’Grady had solid years. Can you give us a brief scouting report on both pitchers?

Matt Mika: Jerry Sullivan is a big, athletic guy who has a very explosive fastball. He excelled in big moments, closing out games with runners in scoring position.

Dennis O’Grady is a very athletic pitcher who can field his position very well. If there is a man on base and a batter attempts to lay down a sacrifice bunt, O’Grady has the athleticism and quickness to field his position and get the lead runner out.

Cody Decker may be one of the better known baseball players in all of minor league baseball for what he does off of the field, and you had some interesting interviews with him. Help fans in San Diego understand what type of player he is on the field; both offensively and defensively.

Matt Mika: (Laughs) Yeah, Cody and I had some great chats where he broke down his “dueling” philosophy. He is great guy to have in the clubhouse. Cody keeps the team loose, which is exactly what a team needs, especially in baseball because it is such a long season, and such a grind during the dog days of summer.

On the field he is a tremendous power hitter who has incredible patience. He was second on the team in walks (51) and he is the type of guy that a pitcher cannot stand to face because he will grind out an at-bat until he either walks or delivers with a huge hit. Defensively, he can play multiple positions making him extremely valuable. He is athletic, has great footwork, and has great hands as well allowing him to track in sharply hit ground balls.

Jace Peterson bounced up and down between the big leagues like a pogo stick but still ended up with some good overall numbers. (1) Do you think he has the range to play shortstop and (2) what did you think of him at the plate?

Matt Mika: Jace Peterson is a fantastic athlete. Some of the plays he made this year were mind-boggling. Sometimes I thought to myself, “Did I really just see that?” Yet, it comes to no surprise because he is one of the most athletic guys in the Padres organization.

He has soft hands, a great glove, and at the dish Peterson has a lot of promise. He can cover the plate well and his bat speed is a plus. With a .306 batting average to end the year, I think Peterson has the making of being a great ball player in the big leagues.

Rocky Gale had his best season at the plate in his career. He has always been regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the system. Do you agree and why?

Matt Mika: Rocky Gale has an outstanding arm. He is extremely quick with his pop time and he is very accurate. There were times when no one would dare to try and run on him because he was locked in. He calls a great game as well and he has a great instinct throughout the game. He knows what runners are thinking, giving him a huge advantage. Also, the crowd loved Rocky. He was a fan favorite no doubt about it. Every time he came up to the plate, the crowd would start chanting, “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!”

Taylor Lindsey came over in the trade with the Angels for Huston Street. He was considered one of the top prospects in the deal, but didn’t hit very well. What do you see for him going forward?

Matt Mika: I saw him gain a lot of confidence. Towards the end of the season, he started to settle down and he was more comfortable at the plate and in the field. One of the last games of the season he made a tremendous diving play that saved the game for the Chihuahuas. Going forward I can see him being a huge factor in the Chihuahuas success.

Last question, who was the top position and pitching prospect that you saw in El Paso this season?

Matt Mika: Pitcher, I would say Matt Wisler. He has amazing stuff and the sky’s the limit for the Ohio native. Position player would have to be Rymer Liriano. Granted he was only in El Paso for a short time before being called up, but what I saw from Liriano was something special. He is big, athletic, quick, can hit for average as well as power and he can steal bases. He is a five-tool player in my opinion and I look forward seeing what his career has in store.

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