Travis "Moose" Mattair is headed back to baseball after experimenting in the world of Division I college basketball. Following a difficult 2010 spring training in minor league camp with the Phillies, Mattair made the decision to leave baseball and persue a dream of playing NCAA hoops.
Mattair was a member of the Lakewood BlueClaws (Phillies single A affiliate) team that won the South Atlantic League Championship in 2009. Mattair was an absolute fan favorite in Lakewood. His followers would call themselves “Mooseketeers” in reference to Mattair’s childhood nickname. As a member of the BlueClaws in 2008 & 2009, Mattair posted a .245 batting average while smacking 7 homeruns and driving in 91 runs in 255 games.
A two-time second team all-state (Washington) player, as a guard in high school, Mattair once dreamed of playing for Gonzaga University under head coach Leon Rice.
After taking a leave of absence from baseball, Mattair, who stands 6-feet-5-inches tall, was technically listed as retired, but is still property of the Phillies and will be welcomed back at spring training in 2011.
"This was a huge step in my life and something that I needed to experience," Mattair told PhoulBallz.com in an exclusive interview. "I knew it was something I always wanted to do. It was something I had to try."
Earlier this year, when Mattair decided to leave baseball and dive into the deep end of his own basketball dream pool, he contacted coach Rice, who is now the head coach at Boise State University. Rice promised to give Mattair a fair shot with the team if he devoted himself to playing and working out with the men's team throughout the summer.
After training hard, Mattair was offered the final roster spot with the Boise State Broncos, but was informed by Rice that he wouldn't see any game time as a 21-year-old freshman. Over time, Mattair certainly could have earned playing time, but once summer was winding down, he got the itch for baseball and began missing the sport he had played professionally for more than 2 years. The wonders of college life and playing basketball, at a level more advanced than high school, began to fade. His passion for one sport became prevalent over the other and he decided to commit himself to a return to the baseball diamond.
"Baseball ended up being something I had to have," said Mattair. "My parents and people told me I was going to miss it, but until you experience it yourself, (the advice) kind of went in one ear and out the other. Without (experiencing this) I don't think I could have ever poured everything completely into baseball. And now I feel like baseball is going to be with me for a long, long time."
Mattair, a 2nd round draft pick out of high school by the Phillies in the 2007 amateur draft, plans to head to the Phils' spring training home, in Clearwater FL, in mid-January, long before minor leaguers would be required to report. He is anxious to prove himself worthy of a roster spot within the Phillies' organization.
Phillies assistant general manager in charge of player development Chuck LaMar has been in contact with Mattair throughout his time away from baseball. Mattair appreciates how accomidating the Phillies were when he expressed interest in persuing another option. "The whole organization has been gracious enough to give me another spring training and another opportunity to make a team," Mattair stated.
A common feature included in the contracts of players who are drafted out of high school is that MLB organizations typically pay for a college education later in life, at a time of the player's choosing. The individual has 10 years to complete schooling once he begins, which was also a weighing factor for Mattair. Once the clock started on the college tuition payments, it would be more difficult to change gears and head back to baseball, so Mattair made the move back to the diamond before the time table was active on higher learning.
"I didn't want to actually start a semester when I was leaning toward going back to baseball," Mattair said.
After taking years off from competitive basketball, Mattair felt a bit rusty on the court and described his Broncos teammates as "more crisp" than he was. But, Mattair remains grateful to head coach Leon Rice and the team for giving him the opportunity to try his hand at something he often wondered about.
"It was a tremendous experience to play with a program like Boise State. Coach Rice gave me a fair shot and I can't thank them enough."
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