Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Thayer

Hitting a round ball with round bat doesn't sound quite as appealing when you really look at it. Add in this little fact: the ball travels anywhere between 80 and 100 miles per hour on the way, dips left and right, up and down, and the prospects of actually putting wood on the ball dip to historically low proportions. Of course, that is why we read about it and others have the talent to accomplish the feat.

Some just happen to have a flair for doing it better than others. The great hitters can make the connection with regularity.

Yet, we haven't even touched the surface. Once hit, it must go to a spot where no defender is, drop it between two lines to be considered "fair" and leg it out, getting to a base before the defender can get pick up the ball and throw it to another player stationed at the first of four bases.

Sounds easy, right?

Now imagine you get on base one in four tries – that is considered below average in today's game. Doing it once in every three times makes you great again.

Dizzy yet?

When guys are fighting for their baseball careers in the minors, the task can be daunting. The early returns of Matt Thayer, a UCLA product that the Padres drafted in 2004, say he may have the talent to become great.

It began when Thayer was asked to bat leadoff, a role he was unaccustomed to. But with his combination of plus speed, ability to take a pitch and most importantly get on base, it became a role he blossomed in.

"It is a different role for me," Thayer admitted. "I get a lot more opportunities. That is what they want me to do. Get on base and get into position for the bigger guys to drive me in. I guess I had a few more opportunities (to steal). It is a combination of both. They wanted me to do it and I was getting opportunities to do it.

As a leadoff hitter, he ended his Emerald season batting .326 with an on base percentage of .386.

In his first twenty games with Eugene, Thayer hammered out eleven multi-hit games and was batting .354. Things didn't stay that rosy, as he ended up with 17 multi-hit games in 46 total games for the Emeralds but the foundation for success became apparent.

"The change was probably good for me," he said. "You get one hit in a game and you put that aside, bank that one, and then you go up there again and try and do the same exact thing you did last time. Once you get that first hit your confidence is pretty high. You try and feed off that and get the second one in the game. Once you get that you have the opportunity for another one. It is a confidence thing, taking one at bat at a time."

And Thayer didn't even begin his career as a Padre when the short season began. He showed up late because he was still in school when he was drafted, still had finals to take and ended up signing late. That made him miss mini-camp and when he arrived he was still in the process of getting oriented to his new team.

He proved quite capable along the way, finding a way to hit the round ball with his round bat enough to earn a late season promotion to Fort Wayne. He went 2-for-3 in his debut with the Wizards and will likely patrol centerfield for them next season.

Becoming a professional hitter isn't easy but when you have been laying the foundation for your whole life, proved you can do it at the collegiate level and have gotten off to a fine start in the minors, the mental anguish that goes with the low times become easier to handle.


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