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Decker To Catch for Samohi This Season:

For several years — beginning with his exploits in Little League — Cody Decker has been Santa Monica’s most publicized and most discussed youth baseball player.

He went from Little League phenom to the focus of Santa Monica High’s baseball team. Two seasons ago, as a sophomore, he was one of the CIF’s leaders in home runs with 14.

He also grew to 240 pounds and had difficulty playing third base.

A year later, he didn’t see many good pitches as rival scouting reports told of his power.

“He received 36 walks last season,’’ said  Kevin Brockway, the new Samohi baseball coach. “That’s quite a few.’’

When Brockway took over from Mike Czarnetzki, who coached the team the last six years, Decker’s role changed.

Now slimmed down to 210, Decker has been moved to catcher for his senior season.

“We did it for a couple of reasons,’’ said Brockway. “To help our chances of being a successful team and to increase his chances in the baseball draft. He has the best arm on the team.’’

Decker is the key figure in the lineup for Samohi’s season, which begins Friday, and he’s the school’s biggest baseball star since Jonas Swyer graduated four seasons ago.

This season Samohi will play in the Ocean League, which has been a well-balanced league in football and basketball.

Not only have the teams been evenly matched but the travel has been easier than in previous years in other leagues. Two league rivals are nearby schools — Beverly Hills and Culver City.

The format will be the same as in recent years — non-league and tournament play early in the season, then two games against the same opponent on weekdays when league play begins in April and a non-league game on Saturdays.

Brockway attended Venice High, where he played for legendary Westside coach Art Harris, who now works for the Dodgers. Brockway went on to Texas Pan American College. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Detroit Tigers, didn’t sign but later entered pro baseball with the San Francisco Giants.

He then went into coaching and headed the program at Santa Monica College until the school discontinued the sport in 1994.

“When SMC dropped baseball it was a blow to the community,’’ said Brockway.

Now Brockway is back in the city and optimistic about the potential at Samohi.

“The school has a large enrollment and I think it can be a powerhouse again like in the ’70s,’’ he said.

The Samohi tradition includes outfielder Rick Monday, the first player chosen in the initial baseball draft, ex-Dodger pitcher Tim Leary, former Chicago White Sox manager Terry Bevington, major league outfielder Tony Tarasco and Swyer, who played collegiate baseball at Connecticut and two other schools and is presently recovering from shoulder surgery, throwing with respected pitching coach Tom House.

The infield is expected to consist of first baseman Stuart Boardman, up from the junior varsity, second baseman and leadoff man Kevin Gonzalez, sophomore shortstop Johnny Huerta and third baseman senior Justin Gordon-Cooper.

Six candidates are trying to earn outfield berths, including Ryan Rodriguez and Mike Walsh.

A lefthander, Walsh is likely to be a starting pitcher along with junior Chris Fiala.

The campus baseball field received repairs a couple of years ago and Brockway says there’s a potential for further improvements.

Samohi will play in the Southern California Invitational Tournament beginning Friday with a 3 p.m. home game against Hueneme High and will compete in the RBI Tournament later in March, followed by the Redondo Tournament.

The first league game will be at home against Morningside April 12.Further proof of Decker’s talent and drive can be seen Friday night,  March 4, when he will appear in the title role in Samohi’s production of The Music Man in Barnum Hall (see story on page 13).

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