Regular readers of this blog (hi Mom) are aware that I have a predilection for both stats and spreadsheets. When it comes to baseball stats, there are two websites that are essential when covering any baseball, but are especially helpful with minor league information. Baseball Reference and Fangraphs are my writing bibles. Which is why I was intrigued, when given my first glimpse of the Canadians roster on media day, with one name in particular. I had predicted the C’s catching quota to be filled by Tucker Frawley, Dan Klein, Mike Reeves, and Seth Conner. I still believe Conner will arrive in Vancouver, so am giving myself a 75% prediction success rate. The name I got wrong, was, of course, Matt Hitt. What made my error even more interesting, was the fact I had never heard of Matt Hitt, nor could I find him in either of my bibles. Hence the reason I nicknamed him The Ghost.
Before I get to his story, and it’s a good one, let me make another thing perfectly clear. As much as I love a high draft pick and the limitless potential/upside/athleticism they possess, I probably have more of an affinity for the lower picks. The guys who got tiny bonuses and are having to grind their way to the top. It’s part of the reason I did my Kevin Pillar Sleeper Prospect List and still call lower rounds the ‘Aaron Guiel‘ picks. Guiel is a local boy who did ten years in the minor leagues, including a stint away from his family in Mexico, before making his big league debut. You just have to admire the dedication these kids possess and the sacrifices they make.
Matt made his affiliated pro debut on Wednesday where he went one for three with a walk, while backstopping Eric Brown to another win. So, yes, he is technically no longer a ghost, and is now in the bibles. Still, I’m going to call him The Ghost, and told him that when I caught up with him after the game. I wanted to get his background. Just wish I’d brought a tape recorder with me.
In 2011, after an injury plagued junior season at Easter Michigan University, a Division One school in the Mid-American Conference, Hitt went undrafted, despite the belief he was at the level of others drafted out of the MAC (as per the link, ex C and current Dunedin Blue Jay was a ’11 MAC draftee). That summer the Indiana native helped the Battle Creek Bombers to a Northwood Summer League title. During the celebrations he got a call from the Detroit Tigers asking if he’d come in the next day to catch some of their draftees. I can just imagine the thought process…’hmm, I’m planning on doing an all-nighter with my teammates, but ya, why not.’
He pulled into Comerica at about 7am, and after finishing his catching duties, talked his way into a full workout. The Tigers were impressed, flying him down to Lakeland for a medical before signing him to his first pro contract. Unfortunately, Detroit’s medical staff were not impressed, as the broken hamate bone in Hitt’s hand which disrupted his 2011 season still hadn’t healed yet. Rug yanked out, Matt went back to school for his senior season where his slugging percentage jumped by over one hundred points, leading the team in home runs with seven.
Passed over in the draft once again, Hitt started calling all the baseball contacts he had, eventually getting a recommendation from the Arizona Diamondbacks which led to a pro contract with the Arizona Centennials in the independent Freedom League.
Someone in the Phillies organization must have taken notice as Hitt was offered and signed a contract with Philadelphia for the 2013 season. During his first pro spring training he was traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations and there you go. The long journey to Vancouver was complete.
I think it goes without saying, but will do so anyway. Matt Hitt is pretty excited to be in Vancouver. He doesn’t want it to be his last station though. After the journey he’s had, Hitt believes there are many more stops in store.
As a footnote, after chatting about his baseball history, I learned that Matt’s roommate in extended spring training was Anthony Alford. I summarized my history with Alford in a post three weeks ago. Three things about Anthony had me worried about his future in baseball: 1) the on campus arrest. 2) The fact he still wants to play football despite having to redshirt a year after transferring schools. 3) His willingness to switch from quarterback to safety to prolong his football career.
Hitt was able to provide a bit of clarity on those issues:
Regarding the arrest. I don’t think I’ll find out exactly what happened unless given the opportunity to speak to Anthony himself, but by the sounds of it, he felt unsafe on campus. For lack of a better word, he was bullied, having received a 750k bonus from baseball, drove a nice car, etc. Is it an excuse? I’m going to reserve judgement until I know more
Due to this perceived unsafe environment Alford has applied to the NCAA to forego his redshirt year as he had just cause to transfer schools. I can’t find anything online which confirms a request has been made, but you would expect a decision to be made soon.
According to Hitt, Alford’s plan is to play football collegiately for three years. If he sees no future professionally then he will switch to baseball full time. That would make him twenty in 2014 when he decides that he’s going to play baseball for a career. He’ll be behind the development curve somewhat, but not so much to make it impossible.
Speaking of which, Matt was absolutely glowing in his praise for Anthony, saying he’s a ‘Bo Jackson type player, who, when he focuses on it, will only be in the minor leagues for three years.’ He also said that Alford is one of the nicest kids he’s ever met, and is very exited by the rumours that he could still end up in Vancouver for a portion of the summer. Apparently he won’t be heading back to school until mid-July or so, which gives him just under a month of baseball games.
I have a feeling there is going to be more Alford posts in my future.