Queen City Dreams

“Good things come to those who wait.”

For Matt Lloyd, waiting has seemingly turned into his middle name.

The 23-year-old had been on the Major League Baseball draft radar for a couple of years after putting in all-star seasons at Indiana University. Yet, no one called.

Things finally changed for the Okotoks native this past summer, when the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 15th round. The road to professional baseball wasn’t easy though, as he was forced to wait to actually get into game action thanks to work visa issues.

Once the 6-foot-1, 205-pound slugger finally suited up, it didn’t take long to get into the swing of things. He played in 27 games for the Pioneer League’s Billings Mustangs and another 23 games for the Single-A Dayton Dragons. In total, he hit .236 with eight home runs and 23 runs batted in.

With the summer now behind him, Lloyd is looking forward to the opportunity to prove the wait was worth it. The excitement was evident on his latest visit to Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.

Q: Last time we chatted, you had just been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. Walk us through the last few months and what it’s been like over the whirlwind summer.

A: Yeah, it was a lot to handle for sure. Some transition initially. I went to Arizona for about five days to get physicals and stuff like that and then got shipped off to Billings, Montana. I actually had to sit out for two weeks waiting for my work visa to pass, which was kind of frustrating to be honest. After the two weeks was up, I played with the Rookie League team, the Billings Mustangs, up until the All-Star break. Then I got the call to go play with the Dayton Dragons in Low-A and finished the season there. Just had a great time. First taste of professional baseball and I loved it. I’m excited to get going again next year.

Q: Was it everything you imagined?

A: Yeah, I’d say that. It was everything I imagined and a little bit more. You don’t really take into account the fatigue when you’re imagining it. The fatigue is real and you really have to learn to take care of your body.

Q: Was there anything else that you weren’t really expecting or caught you by surprise?

A: Just being able to handle failure and success. Everyone knows that baseball is a game of failure but it’s also a game of, when you’re doing well, you also have to handle that. Just like you can’t ride the lows, you can’t ride the highs too much. It’s about staying as even keel as you can and pro ball is a great learning experience for that because you’re out there every single day. In college, you kind of have a weekend then maybe a midweek game and you have some days in-between games. Pro ball is literally every single day so learning how to bounce back from the lows and not ride the highs, for sure.

Q: Did the talent level take you by surprise at all?

A: A little bit. There’s definitely some better arms with a lot more velocity to deal with, more wipeout pitches, stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it’s still baseball. Once you get in the groove of going out there every day, the game’s the exact same, once you get acclimated to it. There’s definitely some standout guys, but as far as being blown away or something like that, it wasn’t too bad. Once I got adjusted, it was a pretty smooth transition.

Q: And you seemed to get adjusted as you hit a few home runs and timely hits. Any particular moments stand out for you?

A: Yeah, definitely when my parents were there for my first games after I was sitting out for two weeks. Literally, we were texting our guy in Arizona almost every day, just annoying him, asking if my visa went through. Just jumping to get out there and my parents were there in Billings for my first at-bats and my first games and just being able to have some success right off the bat with them there was really special for me. And then going up to Dayton and having the same kind of story, hitting the first pitch I saw and hitting a home run. It was a kind of surreal moment, I was running around the bases and kind of floating around the bases, I’d say. Yeah, it was a great feeling and something I’ll always remember is those two moments where my parents were there. They saw my first professional hit and home run within two days and then going up to Dayton and taking it in stride.

Q: What did it mean to you to be able to play professional baseball after the long road you’ve been on with some successes, failures and everything in between?

A: It’s just something I’ve wanted since I was a little kid and being able to not get caught up in what happened in my college years. It took five years in college to get here, which obviously wasn’t the plan going into it but it was a big learning experience. Being able to deal with those failures, bigger than the day-to-day failures, I feel like I’ve really learned and grown from it and I think it’s going to pay off in the long run. I’m glad I went through it and I’m just making the most of the time that I have here in pro ball and hope to play as long as I can.

Q: Speaking of Indiana University, you were recently recognized with some hardware. What did that all mean for you?

A: I mean, it was awesome. I was actually back in Indiana this past weekend and got to see all the boys again. We got to share in the ring ceremony and we all got to celebrate the season that we had. Winning the Big-10 championship is something I will always remember and just solidified the brotherhood that we have with all those guys. The other stuff is cool, too, but the stuff that I’m really going to remember is winning that championship with my brothers and then making more memories with them this past weekend.

Q: Looking ahead now, what’s on your radar for training and getting ready for your first MLB Spring Training?

A: The Reds are doing something new this year with the first year players. We’re having a strength camp, so I’m flying out to Arizona on October 20th. It’s about two weeks long, doing workouts, learning about nutrition and team-building stuff, things like that. At the end of the season, they said that would kick off our offseason program so once I get done with that, I’ll have a better idea of what my offseason will look like. So far, I’ve just been getting in the weight room, taking time away from baseball. Haven’t really swung a bat too much, haven’t thrown a baseball really. Just trying to get the body back, the arm healthy and getting strong again. Yeah, I’m looking forward to going down to Arizona and getting some guidance for my first pro offseason.

Q: When you look ahead to February, March and April, what are you looking forward to the most?

A: Just getting back on the field, getting in the nice weather, getting away from this cold Canadian weather that we deal with for some reason. Makes you wonder why we live here, right? That will be nice. And then just seeing the teammates that I got to play with this summer. Just being able to hang out with those guys again, sharing some offseason stories and stuff like that. Just getting ready for the season to start.

READ MORE: Great Expectations

Q: Do you have any short-term or long-term goals set out for yourself? Where you’d like to be within the organization?

A: I haven’t really thought about that too much, yet. I’m imagining that since I ended up in Dayton, I picture myself going back there and just trying to start the season off strong. I’d say the main goal for me is just to stay healthy the whole season. Pro ball is kind of a different animal. Like I said before, it’s every single day. This past year, my first half of the season was a college season so this will be a little different playing every day, right from the get go instead of right after the draft. Definitely a goal of mine is to stay healthy the entire season. I don’t want to miss any games because of injuries.

Q: Do you feel like you have something to prove? Maybe a bit of a chip on your shoulder that you want to get rid of?

A: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of scouts over the years have passed on me and now that I have my opportunity, I’m just out there to make the most of it and kind of prove to those scouts that I have what it takes to make a big league roster one day. Every day, I’m just going to keep working towards that and I’m just grateful the Reds gave me the opportunity to chase my dream.

Q: My final question for you is, what does it mean to you to be in the spot you’re in now?

A: I mean, it’s a dream come true. In the minor leagues, it’s not a glamorous lifestyle but the people that I’ve been able to meet over the years and this last season. Just making best friends over bus rides and just messing around before the game, after the game, during the game, stuff like that. It’s just everything I ever wanted and I’m just going to keep making the most of it. Looking forward to next year and making more memories with the boys. Yeah, I’m excited!


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