Santa Monica High School senior catcher Cody Decker thrives on having extra responsibility.
The more responsibility and pressure the 18-year-old Decker has to deal with, the better he performs.
When the five-foot-11, 215-pound high school baseball star was switched from his three-year position at third base to catcher this season, it was no problem.
In fact, the move seemed to work out for the best for both Decker and Santa Monica.
“I have more control of things,” Decker, said of the new position.
“I have more responsibility and more pressure on me, which is what I really like.”
Not only does Decker welcome more responsibility as an athlete on the baseball field, but as a high school student as well.
During his Santa Monica High School career, Decker suited up not just for baseball games but for four theater productions.
When the Viking baseball team played its season opener this year, Decker had the added task of getting ready to play the lead role in his school’s production of “The Music Man,” which opened the same night.
To make things even more demanding, the Vikings played ten innings in their first game, causing the play’s opening to be slightly delayed and Decker to race from the field to the theater for two performances.
“It was not the easiest task in the world,” said Decker, a lifelong Santa Monica resident.
But while Decker may have had a full schedule balancing theater and baseball, he handled the play’s lead role much like he fulfilled his role on the field this season.
Decker finished his senior season with a .479 batting average, 35 hits, 38 RBIs (runs batted in) and 11 home runs, which was tied for the second-best home run total in the Southern Section.
The senior helped lead the Vikings to one of its most successful seasons in years, winning the Ocean League championship with an undefeated record of 10-0 in league play.
Vikings coach Kevin Brockway said Decker was a major contributor to the team with “just his presence.”
“He’s the MVP (most valuable player) of this team,” Brockway said.
Santa Monica finished the season with a 20-10 overall record.
The team won 7-6 over Lompoc High School in the first round of the Division IV playoffs before ending the season with an 8-7 loss to El Segundo High in the second round Tuesday, May 24th.
The Vikings may have exited the playoffs earlier than they hoped, but Decker said the season was still a success after the team picked up more victories than in previous years to achieve its primary goal of a league title.
“It was far better than the last few years,” he said of the season. “Our main focus was simple, win the league.”
Brockway said he decided to move Decker from third base to catcher this season in order to improve his future playing potential.
“We felt that his best chances to move on and play collegiately and professionally was at the plate and he’s done an adequate job,” Brockway said.
The positions of catcher and third baseman “both require extreme footwork,” but a catcher has a distinguished role behind the plate, Decker said.
“Getting in front of the ball is far more important,” he said of being a catcher. “You have to think more because every pitch, you’re in it.”
Since entering high school four years ago, Decker has experienced several baseball highlights, including blasting 14 home runs during his sophomore year, but it was his senior year achievements that really attracted some attention.
“I really got it together,” Decker said. “I figured it out this year.”
Few would argue that Decker didn’t figure out how to shine this season. The catcher led the Ocean League in home runs and RBIs (runs batted in) and was third in batting average.
Brockway was not surprised at Decker’s standout performance this year, mainly because of his “dedication to get better.”
“He’s definitely a hard worker,” Brockway said. “He’s never satisfied.”
Some baseball fans might wonder what have been the keys to his slugging success.
But Decker doesn’t really have an answer, saying that when he gets up to the plate, “I don’t really think, I just swing the bat.”
While Decker’s batting was a highlight of the Santa Monica offense this season, the Vikings also got a boost from the players hitting after Decker, including sophomores Dylan Early and Michael Schwartz.
Another factor that Decker attributed to Santa Monica’s success in the regular season was the strength of its pitching, led by starters senior Michael Walsh and junior Chris Fiala.
Decker’s high school baseball days may have come to an end, but he will have the opportunity to continue playing his favorite game at the collegiate level next year.
After receiving interest from top college baseball programs such as USC and Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Decker said he has chosen to play for one of his long-time favorite teams, UCLA.
“This is what I wanted and I’m happy with it,” Decker said of his decision to become a UCLA Bruin.