Well – not exactly. If that were true, the Los Angeles Dodgers would have picked up a former Bruin named Matt Thayer.

"I guess you could say I am a Dodger fan," Thayer whispered.

Well – not exactly. If that were true, the Los Angeles Dodgers would have picked up a former Bruin named Matt Thayer.

"I guess you could say I am a Dodger fan," Thayer whispered.


Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Thayer

Matt Thayer has been a Southern California guy forever. He grew up in Los Angeles and went to school at UCLA. As if his wish came true, the San Diego Padres drafted Thayer. <br><br> "Hometown team picked me," Thayer said. <br><br> Well – not exactly. If that were true, the Los Angeles Dodgers would have picked up a former Bruin named Matt Thayer. <br><br> "I guess you could say I am a Dodger fan," Thayer whispered. <br><br>

A what?

"Now the Padres are my new favorite team," Thayer quickly retorted with confidence.

Given where he grew up it is not a surprise and fans are more than happy to forgive the misguided youth.

Thayer played centerfield for the Bruins and provided a spark from the leadoff spot. Its great academic and athletic history provided him with a variety of options and comfort level. Settling on UCLA as the school he wanted to go, however, was a different story altogether.

Thayer debated over several schools and even his family thought he would go east. The family, you see, has a history with UCLA and the young Matt was looking to pave his own road.

"I had tons of family that went there," Thayer explained. "It was actually kind of weird. None of them thought I would go after going around to different schools. They all thought I was going to go east. I thought that too but then I went and met the coach – saw the school. It wasn't really too much of an issue. My parents went there. My grandparents went there. I didn't really think about it. It is just where I wanted to go."

Baseball has been Thayer's destiny since he was a kid growing up with mitt in hand. It was what he clung to growing up and he never doubted he would be successful playing the sport he loved.

Choosing UCLA, therefore, had its benefits in more ways than one.

"As a kid I loved playing the game," Thayer said. "When UCLA wanted me to play for them, I saw that as my best opportunity. Knowing their background of baseball players in the big leagues that it would be my best shot at making it."

Thayer batted leadoff and was tabbed as the starting centerfielder for UCLA. It was there that the 22 year old began to carve out his own legacy.

"I came in to UCLA and I played centerfield," said the 5-foot-10 Thayer. "They wanted me to leadoff and I started leading off and last year we had an injury in right field and I spent most of the time playing right and left field actually and didn't spend too much time in center. I didn't bat more than a couple of games in the leadoff spot. I think I batted in every single spot last year in the lineup. Kind of a weird thing. I am flexible with that. Leading off has always been a natural position for me."

As a senior Thayer ended up leading the team in hitting, sporting a .323 average in 63 games. He also led the team in walks with 35 and boasted a team high .420 on base percentage. He was doing his job – getting on base.

On a windy day in February, his status as just a leadoff hitter changed when he hit for the cycle in Hilo, Hawaii.

Thayer doubled in his first at bat in the first inning. In the second inning, he hit a bases clearing triple. In the fourth, he hit a two-run shot over the left field fence. In the fifth, Thayer lined out to the leftfielder. He completed the cycle with a lead-off blooper to center field in the seventh.

"I hit my triple into the wind," a not so bashful Thayer proclaimed. "I hit that into right-center, and somehow that got over the guy because they were playing a little shallow. I didn't even know I hit for the cycle until I got back into the dugout. It was kind of a weird day with the wind. That was really cool though."

It was his ability to pick up his game to a new stratosphere when other players went down with injuries that endeared many to his play and all out hustle.

Now his career begins anew in the Padres' farm system. His dreams of hitting a cycle in the pros are not as prevalent as making consistent contact each time he comes to the plate.

"I am sure they would not mind but it is not their main concern," a laughing Thayer said.

The right-handed hitter who throws left is now in Eugene. He recently returned from a wrist injury that kept him out of the lineup but not out of the All Star game. Growing up in Southern Cal, he is again in a new stratosphere.

He views his departure from the only place he has known as a positive. A chance to get away and forge ahead as a professional baseball player.

"It is real different than Los Angeles," Thayer admitted. "It is kind of refreshing in a way. Time for me to get away from (California). I grew up there and chose to stay in town to go to school. Going away now is not a bad thing. I enjoy it."

Given his stats this year there is no doubt he is enjoying it. Thayer picked up where his UCLA career ended. Through 35 games with Eugene he is hitting .303 and has 15 multi-hit games. Not a bad resume to start his career.

If he continues to perform we can finally purge all memories of being a Dodger fan from his brain.

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