It wasn’t many years ago when UCLA wasn’t much of a force in college baseball. But that has changed.
John Savage arrived as the coach and began having recruiting success that translated into more victories. Last season, in Savage’s second year heading the program, the Bruins had a 33-25 record and were chosen for the NCAA tournament, playing in the Malibu Regional.
Most key players return as UCLA this month begins practice with a Top 25 national ranking. The Bruins will open their season February 2 against Winthrop at Jackie Robinson Stadium, their home field located on the Westside off Wilshire Boulevard.
Among the returning players is Cody Decker, the former Santa Monica High star. As a freshman last season, Decker batted .302 and hit five home runs. Two of his homers were hit against USC late in the season, as he became a more prominent Bruin player.
Decker was a catcher in his senior season at Samohi. But UCLA recruited a superior defensive catcher, Ryan Babineau. Decker earned at-bats with his hitting ability, started five times at first base and is currently listed as an outfielder.
Decker was a star in the Santa Monica Little League, hit 14 home runs one year at Samohi and became a well-rounded individual who starred as The Music Man in a school play. While some college recruiters wondered what position he would master in college, Savage wanted that bat in his lineup.
Decker is one of six freshmen who were important contributors to last season’s UCLA team. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was selected for the United States National Team and third baseman Jermaine Curtis led the Bruins with a .336 batting average.