On March 8, the Phillies signed Matt Hitt, a 23-year old catcher who led Eastern Michigan University in home runs in 2012. Hitt went undrafted but played professionally with the Arizona Centennials last summer. Hitt comes to the Phillies organization with a reputation for plus defense and the ability to hit for power.
Hitt will likely play along side catchers Cameron Rupp, Justin Dalles, and Gabriel Lino in the Phils Minor League ranks, helping to develop some of the fantastic young pitchers. Matt took some time out of his schedule to answer some questions for Phillies Nation.
Q1: Baseball America reported your signing with Spring Training already underway. What was it like to get a call from the Phillies with camp just about starting and did you know that they were interested at all before they called? Had you made any plans or were you working anywhere else before they or any other team called?
MH: What can I say, but that it was the best day of my life! Up until that day I had no idea of the Phillies interest, but I had been working on other opportunities within Major League Baseball.
Q2: On an Eastern Michigan press release, it mentions you played through your senior year injured yet you were still picked up by an Independent team out of college. Was it initially disappointing to not be drafted? Could you talk about about how exciting it was to be professional baseball player and if at that point you still saw yourself as having an opportunity to play organized ball?
MH: I’m sure it’s always disappointing when things don’t play out as you hoped, but I have never been one to give up. I‘ve never been able to see myself doing anything other than playing organized ball. The game is in my blood. To be honest it’s pretty much all I think about. That may sound a little corny but it’s true.
Q3: You played at Kishwaukee College, which has had 78 players drafted to the Major Leagues and transferred to Eastern Michigan where you gained a reputation as an excellent defender behind the plate. What was it like going from a smaller school with a very good reputation for getting players looks at professional baseball to playing in the MAC for Eastern Michigan, which has 25 former Major Leaguers as alumni, including catcher Chris Hoiles, pitcher Bob Welch, and, most recently, infielder Brian Bixler? Was there a big jump in competition?
MH: I had a great coach at Kish, Coach Pethoud; he taught me a lot and prepared me well for my next step. I was also lucky enough to have a great coaching staff at Eastern Michigan as well. It was great experience playing at the Division 1 level. I enjoyed my time, and gained valuable experience at both schools.
Q4: One of your battery-mates, Steven Weber, was drafted in the 33rd round by the Marlins in 2012 but he chose to return to EMU. Is there anyone you played with or against in college that you are looking forward to crossing paths with again?
MH: There are several players that I am looking forward to seeing again.
Q5: As a writer who is still green around the gills, it is difficult for me to not become stars truck when covering games. Does the same hold true as a younger player? And have you been able to work with or practice with any particular player that you particularly thought highly of?
MH: Are you kidding? I’m “star struck” every day. The other day I had a chance to meet Erik Kratz, and I was “star struck”. When I was a a freshman/sophomore in college I used to go watch watch Erik play for the Indianapolis Indians. He was my favorite Indian. I love the way he plays the game.
Q6: How has the transition to wooden bats been? Have there been any elements of pro games or practices that have been difficult transitions?
MH: The transition for bats hasn’t been difficult. I’ve been playing with wood bats for some time now and with the new requirements/or restrictions for metal bats; both options are now pretty close. As for the transition to pro practices/games, well that’s a different story… I’m working my butt off, and I couldn’t be happier.
Q7:Who was the best pitcher you’ve caught, easiest to work with, and the Pitcher with the most unique stuff?
MH: Throughout college and independent baseball I have had a chance to work with a number of very talented pitchers. My goal was always to be able to bring something to the plate that would help them be even better. I feel that I accomplished this goal, and I certainly hope my pitchers feel the same.