Matt LaPorta: Catching Up With Former Top Prospect

Getty Images Sport Leon Halip

A 2008 blockbuster trade sent top prospect Matt LaPorta to the Cleveland Indians for CC Sabathia. Eight years later we catch up with the 7th overall pick. 

As those of you know, I’ve been sharing articles with you spanning unique first-person stories and viewpoints. Recently I began looking to expand and branch out, by interviewing prominent figures in sports including athletes, both current and former. This exciting new venture kicks off with former touted Milwaukee Brewers prospect, Matt LaPorta, taken seventh overall in 2007.

Of course I would like to start off by thanking Matt for taking the time to do this, and for shedding light on his playing days, as well as giving advice to kids who hope to also become future athletes.

William: As a former first round draft pick, can you talk about the possible pressures, or notoriety that comes along with a high draft pick?

Matt: I didn’t feel there was extra pressure being a first round pick. My goal was always to be the best that I could be so I put my own pressure on myself. There is a lot of notoriety being a first round pick especially for the team that drafts you. I think fans and teams always put expectations on first round picks.

William: Who is the toughest pitcher you’ve faced?

Matt: The toughest pitcher that I faced was Doug Fister. He had a nasty slider and cutter that I could never tell the difference in. (Hence why I am not playing and he is still dealing) Ha-ha. Then he would run a two seam fastball in on your hands at about 95mph. He had me completely dumbfounded in the batters box. 

William: Were there any particular teammates or coaches that gave you advice that you really tried to stick to?

Matt: Yes, I had the pleasure to play with some great teammates.

William: Who were they and what was it?

Matt: Travis Hafner–we would always talk about hitting because he was really good at it and he loved sharing hitting tips with me. He would teach me ways on how to study a pitcher and create a routine that worked for me. Sandy Alomar would always talk to me about the mental part of the game, and teach me how to be a better student of the game. Adam Everet was a great encourager for me; Mike Redmond taught me that the game is meant to be fun and to relax.

William: What was it like for you experiencing your MLB debut?

Matt: It was an unreal experience. My family all came up to Detroit to see me play.  I always wanted to play in the big leagues and to have that dream come true was such a blessing. My MLB debut was in Detroit against none-other than Justin Verlander. Needless to say that was a fun day getting to face him even though he shut me down four times.

William: You were part of the centerpiece for CC Sabathia in a 2008 trade. What was it like being traded and do you feel a kind of connection to CC?

Matt: At first I was disappointed because I really wanted to be on the MLB-team with the Milwaukee Brewers. I got over it and I knew it was a great opportunity to be with Cleveland. I don’t really feel like I have any more of a connection with CC Sabathia than I had prior to being traded.  

William: Things with baseball might not exactly gone the way you planned, how did you make the transition into the career you have now?

Matt: Yes things didn’t go as planned but when do things really go as planned. Ha-ha. It was not an easy transition. I took a lot of time to think about making the decision. Of course my injury helped push me over the edge and decide to leave the game. I think my relationship and faith in God helped me make the transition a little better. Once I got out of baseball I took some time to myself and spent that time with my family. After that I started meeting with business owners, CEO, presidents of banks, and the list goes on to search for answers as to what might be my next challenge in life. I met with them because I wanted learn from them and see how they came in to what they were doing. It was a great experience doing that. I had a lot of soul searching moments during my meetings. I believe it was one of my best choices to really search out wisdom for other people. Thankfully I have found a position at SunTrust Mortgage as a mortgage banker. I love it. 

William: What advice would you offer to kids who want to be an athlete and make it in baseball, or any sport?

Matt: My advice to kids would be to have as much fun as you can while working extremely diligently. You have to be willing to do things other people don’t want to do to separate yourself from everyone else. My one regret was that I didn’t enjoy the game enough. I put too much pressure on myself to succeed and I forgot to enjoy the ride.

William: Any plans to get back into the game in some capacity? Scout? Coach?

Matt: I don’t think I have any plans in the near future to get back into the game. I know being in the game would take away time from my family and they are the most important thing to me.