Cody Decker had waited his entire life to say those five words. So when his dream came true, he felt compelled to type in all caps.
“I AM A BIG LEAGUER,” the Santa Monica native wrote on Twitter last week, sharing the news that he had been called up by the San Diego Padres after toiling for years in baseball’s minor leagues.
Decker, who was added to the Padres’ 40-man roster, made his MLB debut Sept. 14 against the Arizona Diamondbacks as a pinch-hitter.
With his deep-blue No. 28 jersey tucked into bright white pants, the Santa Monica High alumnus twisted his torso and stretched his legs as he held his bat in the on-deck circle.
He then walked calmly to the plate to face pitcher David Hernandez with the Padres leading by nine runs in the top of the ninth inning of an eventual 10-3 road victory.
Entering the batter’s box, he tightened the straps on his gloves and swiped the dirt with his foot. Friends and family watched intently. Fans chanted his name from the stands.
After adjusting his helmet, Decker turned his head toward Hernandez and awaited his first pitch. A low 94-mph fastball whizzed past him for a ball. An 80-mph curveball was called a strike. Another curveball missed the strike zone.
On the 2-1 pitch, Decker made contact on a 94-mph fastball but popped out to Diamondbacks first baseman for the third out.
Just like that, the 28-year-old who had played 761 games over seven seasons in the minor leagues was in the books.
It marked a major turning point in the career of the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Decker, who had struggled to crack the bigs despite compiling gaudy statistics in high school, college and the minor leagues.
As a senior at Samohi, Decker hit .490 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI while leading the Vikings to a 20-10 record, according to Daily Press archives.
Decker’s reputation as a power hitter grew at UCLA, where he smacked 47 home runs to finish his career in seventh on the Bruins’ all-time list. He belted a conference-leading 21 home runs while hitting a career-best .322 during his standout senior season in Westwood.
Decker had been playing for Triple-A El Paso when he was called up, logging team highs in home runs (21) and RBI (75) while hitting .252 this past season.
Decker’s 154 home runs in the Padres’ farm system are the most by any MLB-affiliated minor league player since he was drafted in the 22nd round in 2009.
An attempt to reach Decker was not successful.
A self-described anti-hero, Decker has made a name for himself with his affinity for pranks, off-field antics and active social media accounts.
Before his first game in the bigs, Decker shared a photo of his new Padres jersey with his 20,000-plus followers on Twitter.
“No matter how surreal this feels… It appears that it actually IS real!” he tweeted.
Photo courtesy San Diego Padres