Great Expectations

“Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.” – Charles Dickens

There are a lot of expectations on Calgary’s Matt Lloyd.

As a junior, the Indiana University Hoosiers’ utility man was named a Second Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and Third Team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, as well as an All-Big Ten First Team selection.

But in chatting with the Okotoks Dawgs and Dawgs Academy product, you couldn’t help but notice he took one setback seriously last year: not being selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft. Heading into the 2019 season, the biggest expectations facing Lloyd have been set internally.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Lloyd wants to put himself back on the radar of MLB scouts. That’s why he stepped back from the game last summer, opting not to return to play for his hometown Okotoks Dawgs and instead focus on things he thinks will help him achieve his dream of being drafted into the major leagues.

Here is the transcript of Joe McFarland’s discussion with Lloyd from a recent episode of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.

Q: Matt, let’s start off with the viral posts. That’s quite the way to end the year with people paying attention to your swing. Give us a little background on the video and how it all landed on social media.

A: Well, we got a new coaching staff so with our new coach Jeff Mercer, we’ve been really delving into my mechanics and stuff. Really trying to use my backside a little bit more and focus on pushing through my swing instead of what I used to do. I was kind of pulling with my front hip so I’m really working on pushing with my back hip. So then I was just having to get around and got one of my buddies to take a video of me hitting and one of those swings was the one you saw on Twitter. I just wanted to showcase a little bit, show it off. I posted it to my own Twitter and then that Baseball Bros Twitter account just really took the video and posted it on their own. They didn’t contact me or anything. So yeah, that’s about it for the story behind that.

Q: Are you surprised at all about how quickly it took off on you?

A: Yeah, absolutely. Just watching the views go up to 80,000 or something right now. I didn’t really expect that, so it’s pretty cool.

Q: All exposure is good exposure at the end of the day, right?

A: Yeah, definitely.

Q: Let’s talk about your 2018 campaign and especially at Indiana. It was one of those seasons marked by the Canadian Baseball Network making you one of the Canadian all-stars at the end. When you look back, what sticks out as maybe a memorable performance or maybe just the season as a whole for you?

A: Something that really stuck out was going to Texas and playing in that regional. It was just an incredible experience. Got a little taste of the best of college baseball and we definitely didn’t go as far as we could have or wanted to, obviously. But yeah, I would say playing at Texas in that regional final where we played Texas and lost 3-2. It was just an incredible game by both sides, just hard-fought. We gave it everything we had and I wouldn’t take back anything from us last year.

Q: It was one of those seasons where you were capturing a lot of headlines around these parts thanks to some massive home runs and dominant pitching performances. Talk a little bit about being a “jack of all trades.” Is that something you’ve done since you were a little kid or is that something you picked up along the way?

A: That’s something I’ve always done. You know, I never really had just one position. When I was 13, I was a catcher. The next year, I was playing short, playing third, like everything. So it’s just something that I’ve been doing my whole life and it’s honestly pretty easy here. I’ve been a starting pitcher for most of my life and now that I’m in that closing role, it’s like, “OK, I can actually go play the game every day and still come in and pitch at the end of the game.” So, I feel like it’s just a little bit different in that sense, but it’s pretty much the exact same as I’ve been doing it my whole life.

Q: When you watch a guy like (Shohei) Ohtani of the Angels perform well on both sides, does that give you hope or inspiration to maybe continue going down this path and maybe one day do it at the pro level?

A: Definitely. He’s a superstar athlete obviously and I could definitely see myself pursuing both as far as I can. Honestly, I think that it’s easier to go from hitting to pitching. So, if the day comes where I have to decide, I can go hit and see how that goes. Then maybe I’ll fall back on pitching at the end of the day. We’ll see what happens.

READ MORE: Welcome to the Ohtani Sho

Q: I was going to ask about your future aspirations. If you had to pick one, do you have a preference?

A: I mean, that’s the thing. When you’re hot at the plate, it’s the best. Looking forward to going up to the plate every at bat. But at the same time, when you’re struggling, it’s one of the worst. So I would say that hitting is my favourite, even with the ups and downs and stuff. Yeah, I’d say hitting.

Q: When you look back on 2018, one of the things I think a lot of people were hoping for was to see your name flash up on the MLB Draft. I’m curious, with not being selected, did that put a fire under your rear end to maybe prove some people wrong and make sure that your name is called in 2019?

A: Yeah, absolutely. That was a tough day. The day after and really the whole week and weeks after the draft. It kind of just felt like I got punched in the stomach a little bit. I took some time away from the game and just got in the weight room. Now I’m with these incredible coaches here at Indiana University. I think at the end of the day, it’s going to be a good thing that I didn’t get picked last year. I got to come here and experience these coaches and really develop. I’m excited for this year and I’ve been working hard with these coaches.

Q: I was also going to ask you if that might have been a reason why we didn’t see you in an Okotoks Dawgs uniform during the summer, as you said you took a little time away from the game. How tough of a decision was that, because that’s something I know a lot of guys like doing is being able to play ball year-round?

A: Yeah, that was a really tough decision for me. But I did look back at my skill set and everything that went down in 2018 and tried to reflect as well as I could from an outside standpoint. I said to myself, “OK, I didn’t get drafted. Why didn’t I get drafted? What do I need to work on?” Stuff like that. I just felt like my heart wasn’t in the right place to strap on a uniform to go up and play every day. I just took some time to reflect and, yeah, it was a tough decision but I got back here in the fall and I was hungry for the game. I wanted to play. I just wanted to get better every day and that’s still how I feel to this day and that’s how I’ll feel the rest of the spring. I’m really fired up and ready to go.

Q: I’ve heard similar stories from hockey players about almost being burned out by the game and how being able to take a break from the game allowed them to go on to the next level and really fired up that love for the game. I’m curious, when you had that chance to reflect, what did you learn about yourself or what kinds of things did you realize you needed to do to get yourself to the next level or perform even better at IU?

A: I think some of the big keys for me were getting in better shape and putting on some weight. I’m still trying to put on about 15 pounds from where I’m at right now. Getting strong is obviously another one. Pitch selection, left-handed pitching, you name it. There’s always something that I can work on for the game. So that little time I took off is definitely big in figuring out what I needed to do.

Q: Who serves as inspiration for you in the game?

A: Wow, there are plenty of guys on the mound. I like Marcus Stroman for his work ethic and just his mound presence. (Justin) Smoak for the Jays as well. I feel like we have a similar swing. I could go on and on about players.

Q: And how about in life?

A: Well, for one I would say my JUCO coach Marc Rardin. So many things that he’s taught me about, you know, things outside the game. He has all these, what he calls, Rardin-isms. They’re little sayings that just speak to baseball and life. Just the way he has lived his life and the way he coaches people. I would say he’s an inspirational man, for sure.

Q: When you look back on your upbringing, being an Alberta kid, does that set you apart from others in your mind, in terms of having a point to prove. I know talking to guys who head state-side, they say not everyone expects an Albertan or Canadian to be a good ballplayer and yet, here you are having a pretty good career already to this point.

A: Yeah, it’s pretty cool to be one of the only people from a country in this area so it’s nice to represent Canada. It is kind of weird that a lot of these guys have never even played with or met a Canadian. It’s pretty cool though and I enjoy it a lot.

Q: Looking ahead to 2019: what’s on your bucket list? Let’s say we talk in exactly one year’s time. What do you want to say you’ve been able to accomplish?

A: I want to be a first-team All-American. And I want to get drafted in the top ten rounds. Those are really my only two goals.

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