Jaff Decker: It was unbelievable. I wanted to get drafted and this was the organization I wanted to be picked by the entire time. Spring Training is right down the road. It was the first game I went to as a kid, watching the Padres with Tony Gwynn and all of that. It is pretty special.
It has to be pretty awesome to begin your playing career right down the street from where you live.
Jaff Decker: Yes, it is about five to 10 minutes away. It is pretty sweet.
Something the Padres said to me was they felt you were the best high school hitter in the draft. When you hear something like that, how does it make you feel?
Jaff Decker: It is a feeling you can't explain. All that hard work, time you spent in the cage, hitting every day off the tee, my dad coming out and throwing to me – I have a lot of people to thank for where I am today.
What do you believe the strength of your game to be, especially as a kid who also pitched.
Jaff Decker: I think hitting is the best part of my game. It is something I can do and feel comfortable with. I believe every time I step up to the plate I can get a hit.
One of the things I had seen, and I do not know if this is fair or not, is that you were considered a below average runner.
Jaff Decker: I don't think that. I run a 6.8 60. Not below average. You can't catch it with your eye but what I have been told is I have good instincts playing baseball and can run the bases well. I don't think it is true. Let other people think what they want to and I will just go out and play.
We talked about the hitting being your strength. What is it about being in the box that makes you feel so comfortable?
Jaff Decker: I have this unique stance that I have and it just relaxes me. I feel like I can get a hit at any time. I feel like I can go to all fields. It is that right thing you have and feel comfortable with and that is hitting for me.
You played center field in high school and they had mentioned you would move to a corner outfield position. That is a power position. Is that something you will be able to handle?
Jaff Decker: I believe so, yes. I hit 18 home runs this year. It is something I have developed over the years, and I believe I can do it at the next level.
Talk about your discipline at the plate. I know they pitched around you some this year but you can almost fall into bad habits when you say, ‘They are just not going to throw me a strike so why even look.'
Jaff Decker: It was tough but the way my coach explained it – he helped me out a lot. I have always been patient taking walks but 56 walks this year kind of built up on me to not be able to put a swing on the ball and help the team win. He made me realize that walks are just as important as a base hit.
‘You get on first base, you steal second and you steal third and we are up 1-0.'
I kind of took that. If they are going to walk me, get on base and steal bases.
How about your arm in the outfield?
Jaff Decker: I think it is pretty good. I have been pitching for so long that I have developed arm strength. I can have the arm strength from right field.
What do you look forward to as you head into professional baseball?
Jaff Decker: Being around pro players. This is a job now. It is not high school where you have the kids that just play and don't really want to be out there. They can play baseball so they play. It is a job now. Everyone is out there to move up and make it to the big leagues.
You are going to have better coaches and guys that have been there and know what it takes to get to the top. I can't wait for that. I can't wait to put that pro jersey on for the first time and walk onto that awesome playing surface and not have to worry about bad hops.
What is it about the game of baseball you love so much?
Jaff Decker: It gets you away from everything. It is the one thing I love besides family. It is something I have always done. Going out there every day and playing ball – the game that I love.
Is there a guy in the major leagues that you model your game after because of the way they play?
Jaff Decker: Eric Brynes – I like the way he plays the game. He might not be the best player out there but he gives 100 percent. That is something I have learned over the years.
I don't like guys that Cadillac during the game. It is hard watching pro baseball sometimes because you watch a guy jog it out or don't even leave the box. Play the game 110 percent and run through walls. I love watching that. My dad doesn't ever let me take a play off and that is something I have built upon.
When you look at your game, is there an area that you need to improve upon to become the player you want to be?
Jaff Decker: I need to get a little faster so they don't doubt me on my running. That is something I will work on. I have been working on it since the beginning of this year. I don't want doubts in anyone's mind when I step on the field.
Is that first-step quickness or an instinctual thing? That plays in the outfield as well as out of the box.
Jaff Decker: I think it is just quickness. They say I have good instincts and that is why I can run down balls. Once I get going, I think I am fast – average, above average. That first-step quickness, seeing the ball off the bat and getting a good jump when you are stealing a bag – that is what I am talking about.
Are you going to miss being able to pitch?
Jaff Decker: A little bit but I can't see myself playing one day a week. It just bothers me. It will be tough because I might sit there in a close game when I am usually coming in to shut the door and it will be somebody else.
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