There aren’t many baseball players with a more appropriate last name than Matt Batten.
Everywhere he’s gone, he’s hit. From helping lead Shelton National to the 2008 Little League World Series, through his years as a standout at St. Joseph’s High, to his four years at Quinnipiac, where he set the school’s all-time career hits record, Batten has proved he’s more than adept at … well, battin’.
Now that he’s a professional in his second season in the San Diego Padres’ organization, that hasn’t changed. Batten has hit a robust .341 for High-A Lake Elsinore, and that’s been good enough to earn him a recent promotion to Double-A — marking his third different level of ball this season and fifth since the Padres selected him in the 32nd round of last year’s MLB draft.
“So far, so good,” the soft-spoken Shelton native said earlier in the week, prior to his most recent promotion. “I’m putting together good at-bats, and fortunate balls are finding some holes right now.”
Batten found himself in a fortunate position earlier this season, and took advantage of it. He began the year in extended spring training, a victim of the numbers game. But when the Padres went down to Mexico to play the Dodgers from May 4-6, they called up a few players from Triple-A and needed to fill some spots at that level.
Batten, who was at the Padres’ spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona, got the call to join Triple-A El Paso, which was playing a four-game series in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Less than a year removed from playing home games at Quinnipiac Baseball Field, Batten was one level away from the big leagues.
“I thought I’d be a little nervous,” he recalled, “but I was excited to go up there and play at a very high level.”
Batten started two of the games and had six at-bats. And though he managed just one hit, he walked four times and scored a pair of runs.
“That was an awesome experience,” he said. “It was cool to see how those higher-level guys go about their business, to see what to do, what not to do. It was a great learning experience.”
Batten was optioned down to Lake Elsinore after the series and has been hot ever since, notching a hit in each of his first seven games, including three on May 15 against Inland Empire. On Thursday, he was promoted to Double-A San Antonio.
“My whole thing, especially now with so many talented players, is to be competitive at all times, every at-bat,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens, as long as I give everything I’ve got and try to outwork the pitcher.”
He’s also been the ultimate utility infielder, logging one start at first base, three at second, two at shortstop and three at third base so far.
Batten, 22, finished off a tremendous career at Quinnipiac a year ago. He not only notched the program’s total hits record (249) but also stolen bases (65), and tied the school’s Division 1 record for career runs scored (139). He put together a 25-game hitting streak as a sophomore and became the first player in school history to record at least 50 hits in all four seasons of his career.
He was drafted by the Padres last June and reported to rookie league. In 49 games between rookie ball and short-season Class-A, Batten hit .241.
“I was happy with everything,” he said, “but I was more excited because I knew what I had to work on in the offseason. I was ready to make adjustments, because my numbers weren’t where I wanted them to be.”
This year, he spent almost all of his first spring training in minor league camp, but got an unexpected call-up as a reserve for the big-league team in its final Cactus League game. Batten played the last two innings at second base and drew a walk in his lone at-bat.
Even better, his parents, John and Linda Batten, had flown in that day and were at the game.
Batten followed from afar, with pride, as Quinnipiac surprised everybody by finishing second in the MAAC this season, despite losing Batten and fellow MLB draftee Robbie Hitt to graduation.
“From when we first got there to when we left, we did a good job of leaving the program in a better place,” Batten said. “That means a lot, because the coaches are bringing in different kids with similar personalities. Coach (John) Delaney knows what he’s looking for. There have been no backwards steps at all.”
Now, Matt Batten is battin’ his way forward in his own professional career.
“Obviously, the end goal is you want to make it all the way to the big leagues,” he said. “Every day, I’m making sure everything I’m doing is working towards that, not taking it for granted. Just continue to grind and work my way towards my main goal.”