Photo: Perfect Game

Hard work nets Decker Classic nod

Steven Walters

Published: Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Many players have a knack for playing the game of baseball, but not all of them have the work ethic of Perfect Game All-American Nick Decker, who decided that playing baseball was a dream of his as a kid.

“I started when I was real young. It’s always been a dream to be an MLB player, and people have told me, ‘Oh, you’re crazy. You don’t know how hard that is,’ and I mean it’s extremely hard but I’ve worked really hard and baseball’s been my life and I enjoy every second of it,” Decker said.

Decker, the No. 36 player in the class of 2018, is lauded for the power that he possesses from the left side. The Southhampton, N.J., native has posted some of the best Diamond Kinetics hitting metric numbers in his class, including max barrel speed, impact momentum and max acceleration, which back up his hitting ability.

“I take the most pride in the way I hit,” Decker said. “Every time I step up to the plate, I want to hit the ball as hard and as far as I can, but I mean you can’t try to do that every time, or it’s not going to happen. It’s the game of failure, and you’ve just got to stay relaxed at the plate, but ultimately that’s the goal, but you can’t try to do it or it probably won’t end up happening.”

“He’s gifted, physically, he’s a big kid, and when you combine that with the [work], and the daily effort day in and day out,” said Guy Lynam, Decker’s coach at All Out Baseball. “He’s just a tremendous, explosive player with a lot of power at the plate, and I always say to people too, he’s 17 years old and he continues to get better at the plate.”

Decker, who has been working almost daily on his hitting since he was 9 years old, has been able to tangibly see his work pay off through his time with Lynam. A former Marlins Minor Leaguer, Lynam, began using hitting metrics well before acquiring the technology that is available today, measuring different parts of Decker’s hitting skills in each of their sessions.

“When I train our guys, our mindset is, ‘If you don’t know where you’re at, you don’t know where you’re going,’ it’s just that simple, so before the HitTrax was out or anything like that, we always tested Nick,” Lynam said. “You’re talking about when Nick was 9 years old, that was when you would bring up exit velocity, guys wouldn’t even know what that term meant. What we would do is we would always have the radar gun, and we would put the ball on the tee, and I would stand either in front of Nick, or behind Nick and every single session we would test him and see where he’s at.”

Knowing where he was at in his hitting, Decker then focused on doing exercises that targeted specific hitting muscles that he knew he needed to improve upon. The routine includes forearm exercises, medicine ball drills and tire taps that Decker does daily.

“We would do our daily routine,” Lynam said. “We would always work on our hip flexors, and what we call them ‘vitamins,’ so how you take your daily vitamins and it’s good for your health, we would talk about vitamins as hitters as well, and when you do your daily routine and you do these daily exercises, it’s a process.”

On the hitting side, Decker incorporates a 36-inch, 46-ounce bat, his regular bat and a little league bat into his training, something that Lynam said helps train the hands to be quick. Utilizing all three, Decker hits off the HitTrax machine that pumps fastballs up to 105 mph, while also simulating breaking balls.

“We’ll start hitting at like seven, we’ll lock down the place ourselves, we’ll leave at close to midnight. The time that he puts in for me, I appreciate it and he’s been there for me the whole way,” Decker said.

“The other day when Nick was in there, he just got his personal best of 108 mph and 421 feet [on HitTrax],” Lynam said. “So when you get a kid that continues to get better at 17 years old, that’s when you have someone special.”

Decker continued to improve as the years went on and began seeing all of his work pay off after his freshman year in high school, getting a cup of coffee with the varsity team and having another good travel season with the All Out Pack.

“That summer going into my sophomore year, that’s when everything started to click,” Decker said. “That’s when I got all of my offers and committed that year and I just felt that everything was going in the right direction. When I committed I felt like alright that’s one thing down and I’ve got a lot more that I want to accomplish, so it just made me want to work even harder.”

Maryland was a school that targeted Decker, who even had offers from Vanderbilt and Virginia but decided on Maryland for the fit for him. In 2015, the Terps switched over to the Big Ten Conference and have posted a winning conference record in all three seasons since, including a 15-9 conference record in 2017, showing that they can compete at that level.

“Ultimately it was the coaching staff which made me make that decision,” Decker said. “I know [John] Szefc left to go to Virginia Tech, but [Rob] Vaughn was the main reason I went there. Him getting the head coach job really made me make my decision to stay, and just the moment I met those guys, they’re great, I really bonded with them and I just can’t wait to play for them and hopefully compete for a national championship.”

This past June, Decker was invited to the PG National showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., launching balls deep to right field in JetBlue Park and producing an exit-velocity of 99 mph, one of the best in the event. The 6-foot, 200-pound slugger displayed that hitting ability in the games, producing loud contact throughout against some of the top arms in the country.

“That was an awesome experience playing the top 300 players in the country,” Decker said. “I mean every pitcher we faced was 90-plus and top tier. It was only me and a couple other kids on my team from the Northeast, and everyone else was from California, and t was just cool getting to know those kids that I hadn’t met before and if I didn’t go there, I wouldn’t have met and build those relationships. It was just a great experience to see the top talent.”

His performance at the showcase and hard work with Lynam paid off, as the 17-year-old was named to the Perfect Game All-American Classic in the weeks following, cementing him as one of the top 50 high school players in the country. The game itself will be televised on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017 at 5 p.m. PDT, but the event is even more than just the game, including a weekend of activities such as visiting Rady Children’s Hospital.

“It was an unbelievable feeling. It’s always been a dream to play in this game. I’ve watched it the past three years wishing I would be in that game, and for that to come true, it’s just the greatest feeling and I’m blessed to be able to play in it, and not only just to play in that game, but to help these kids at Rady’s Children’s Hospital. Watching that video last year of all those guys talking about that experience, I can’t wait to do that to put smiles on kids’ faces like that,” Decker said.

While the Classic nomination is just one of the accomplishments that Decker has achieved, he knows that the hard work does not stop there, as he looks to continue to work hard and show others his skills on a baseball field in San Diego and beyond.

“I just can’t wait to meet these kids and just build relationships that I won’t forget.” Decker said. “I mean this game and this experience is going to last a lifetime.”

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