During my stay in camp I was lucky enough to sit down with Mets 2010 fifth rounder OF Matt den Dekker -- or as many have recently come to know him, @UpperDekker. The 23-year old Fort Lauderdale native -- and proud former Gator -- was stellar in his pro debut last summer with Savannah, batting .346/.404/.471 all while featuring major league-caliber defense in center.
We spoke about playing for Florida, his fast start in the pros with Savannah, differences between professional and amateur baseball and more. Click on the 'Play' Button below to listen in!
Click past the break for a transcript of our chat:
Rob: We actually spoke during the offseason, right at the tail end of the year. Since then how have things been? How was your offseason?
den Dekker: It was good. It actually went pretty quick. I lived in Gainesville -- that's where I went to college. And I worked out with the [Florida] Gators team out there for a little bit. Got a chance to work out in the Mets weight room a little bit. So it was a good offseason, worked hard, just trying to get ready for spring training.
Rob: Now you mentioned that you played for the Gators. Obviously that's a big-time program, it's a great school to play at; why don't you talk about that a little bit.
den Dekker: Yeah, I was there for four years, got a chance to play in the [College] World Series, went to a couple of Regionals. So it was a good experience. Got to play some good compeition and I think it got me ready for professional baseball.
Rob: Making that transition into professional ball, why don't you talk about what the draft was like. What were your feelings around draft time and how did you feel when you finally were drafted?
den Dekker: It was a good feeling. I was drafted my junior year and decided to stay. I knew senior year I was going to get to sign and when I got drafted by the Mets I knew it was a good organization. I was real excited, my family was excited. And you know, I was just happy to be picked up.
Rob: So you start the [professional] year, you end up in Savannah where you started out on fire. You were just a jolt for them, hitting the ball all over the place, playing a great center field. What was that all about?
den Dekker: I was playing well at the end of the college season and I just took that from where I was playing there and took it to professional ball and tried to play hard. That's usually how I go about my business; you play hard and things usually work out.
Rob: Did you see an difference between pro ball and playing amateur, any big differences?
den Dekker: Yeah the pitching was probably a step up. You're playing every day, in college you play three or four times a week. When you're out there playing six or seven times a week it takes a toll on your body so you've got to really prepare and be mentally ready for the long season.
Rob: Going forward, looking at 2011, do you have any expectations or goals set for yourself about what you want to do this year?
den Dekker: I mean, I was fortunate enough to be invited here early for the early [S.T.E.P.] camp and hopefully I can make a jump from where I was last year. I'm gonna work hard and see where they put me.*
*Since we spoke, Matt has declared -- via Twitter -- that he'll be starting the 2011 season in Hi-A Port St. Lucie. If you haven't noticed, den Dekker is quite the tweeter and he's pretty funny, recently declaring a #tweetrace against Mets minor leaguer OF Cory Vaughn (@Insulin Bombs) to 1000 followers -- for the record, both are in the mid 600's -- as well as predicting that he's going to hit more homers in 2011 than Vaughn and SS Robbie Shields (@Robbielshields).