When Cody Decker was a senior at Santa Monica High he had the starring role in The Music Man and drew favorable reviews.
“I miss acting,” he says. “I really liked it but I’m too busy now.”
He’s busy as a full-time student at UCLA and as one of the hottest hitters in collegiate baseball.
Decker began a home run binge late in March when he slugged a grand slam in the eighth inning of a game the Bruins were losing to Pacific, 8-1. UCLA scored 14 runs in the inning for a 15-8 win.
The next weekend Decker hit two home runs in a game at Stanford. The following day he hit another. On Thursday, April 5, he hit one in the first inning of a 6-5 win over Washington at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
That made it five homers in four games for the sophomore, and UCLA was off to its best conference start since 1977. Although Decker didn’t hit any home runs in the final two games of last weekend’s series, he drove in a run with an infield out Friday and had two hits Saturday.
Decker has a simple explanation for his emergence. “I’m seeing the ball well,” he says.
Also, his arms are noticeably bigger these days. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the weight room,” he explains.
Decker is the latest in a long line of Santa Monica High baseball stars – a list that includes major leaguers Rick Monday, Tim Leary and Tony Tarasco and big league manager Terry Bevington, among others.
He played in the Santa Monica Little League and attended Franklin Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School.
Decker attracted attention when he hit 14 home runs in his sophomore season at Samohi. He didn’t hit as many the next two years, but did well enough to draw the interest of college scouts even though he didn’t establish himself defensively.
He played third base as a Samohi junior and was the catcher as a senior. UCLA Coach John Savage tried Decker in left field this season but that experiment didn’t last long. Against Washington, Decker was the Designated Hitter once and played first base in the other two games.
“I feel that I’m adequate defensively wherever I play,” said Decker. “But it’s true I haven’t had an ironclad position.”
Designated Hitter remains an option. There’s a DH in college baseball, in the minor leagues and in the American League, so someone with Decker’s offensive ability will continue to have a place as the years go on.
As for his future, that’s a subject Decker wants to avoid. “I’m just thinking about the next game,” he said.
He thinks about the past, though, and stays in the present by having frequent talks with Samohi Coach Kevin Brockway.
“I think something was missing from the program until Coach Brockway arrived,” said Decker. “I think he’s really pit it together at Samohi the last three years.”
Decker attended a March Viking victory over Long Beach Poly and keeps up the best he can.
Now he’s loving being a Bruin.
“When I was younger, on the playgrounds we always debated UCLA and USC,” he said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else, so when UCLA showed interest I was very happy.”
Last season, with much at stake as playoff time approached, Decker triggered two UCLA victories over USC. He hit a home run and later scored from first on a double by hook-sliding around the catcher.
“That play showed he’s a baseball player, not just a power hitter,” said Brockway.
“The game was on television and my dad taped it,” said Decker. “He’s shown it to me about 40 times.”
Decker attended UCLA games as a kid. With a sheepish grin he reveals that he used to linger behind the left field fence during batting practice to chase down Troy Glaus’s blasts.
“I suppose kids are doing that now with mine,” he says. “It brings back awesome memories.”
Glaus became a major league star and is one of many former UCLA players currently in the big leagues.
Decker might become one too, but right now his thoughts are on UCLA’s upcoming games.
“We have a very good team,” he said. “A lot of good players which makes for many lineup possibilities, and Coach Savage really prepares us. He pays attention to details that can make the difference between winning and losing.”
UCLA qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season but was eliminated on the first weekend. This season Decker hopes for a repeat performance and a longer run.