Finishing the job on the field and in the classroom
Matt den Dekker
Senior history major, baseball outfielder
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Outfielder Matt den Dekker found that it’s sometimes what you chose to leave behind that makes the greatest impact in your future.
Drafted in the 16th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2009 MLB Draft, den Dekker was faced with the decision to leave Gainesville to pursue a professional career or return to his orange and blue number 17 uniform for one more year.
Although not a quick decision, den Dekker of Fort Lauderdale chose the opportunity to finish his degree in history and help lead his team to UF’s first appearance in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., since 2005.
Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has seen den Dekker take on leadership qualities motivating his teammates to push them to always do their best.
“He means so much to this program, both on and off the field,” said O’Sullivan of den Dekker. “He represents everything that we want in this program.”
This season, den Dekker earned second-team All-SEC, was named to the All-Tournament Team in the NCAA Gainesville Regional, earned a spot on the SEC All-Tournament Team and made the league’s Defensive Team for the third consecutive year.
In front of the largest crowd in McKethan Stadium history on June 12, 2010, den Dekker found himself fulfilling his dream of playing in Rosenblatt Stadium in its final season of hosting the CWS.
“This is what I came back for,” he said. “I knew we’d have a solid club this year. We proved it against Miami that we worked hard and we have a great group of guys.”
This solid club was dominated by freshman talent. Den Dekker was able to use his previous years of experience to motivate and lead his team to 47-15 season with the sweep in the Gainesville Super Regional against the Hurricanes.
With all eyes on the 6-1 centerfielder, a career-high 22 game hitting streak, hitting a team best at .358, team high 64 runs and a career-high 49 RBI, den Dekker is quick to acknowledge and give credit to the excellence the team together has seen this season.
“I am proud of everybody on this team,” he said.
Drafted in the fifth round by the New York Mets in the 2010 MLB Draft, den Dekker will leave Gainesville knowing he was able to leave a legacy that is respected.
“This is definitely the best moment of my career in my four years here,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Coming back was the best decision I ever made.”