The Reno Aces’ newest player, Cody Decker, has played 933 minor league games with 13 teams in 10 seasons and he is quite familiar with Greater Nevada Field.
“I’ve played this place plenty,” he said. But until now, he has always been with the visiting team. So when he entered the park on Monday, he instinctively went to the Fresno Grizzlies dugout. “I told them I just wanted to say hi.”
Decker is good at improvisation. So good, in fact, if he wanted to, he could be in comedy. But Major League Baseball is the goal. And so far in Reno, he’s making a mighty strong case that he belongs in the show.
Playing at designated hitter, Decker went 4 for 4 with two home runs, a single, a double and a walk Monday, when the Aces dropped the rubber match of their opening five-game series against Fresno, 11-5. Decker joined the team Sunday after Reno first baseman Christian Walker was called up to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his two games, Decker is 5 for 8 with three homers and 5 RBIs.
Decker, 31, spent the offseason playing in a Mexican League, uncertain if he would be signed to play another season in the United States. Arizona picked him up on Feb. 22 and assigned him to Double-A Jacksonville, Tennessee, where he played three games before being sent to Reno.
“The fan base here has been good at really tearing me to shreds,” he said. “But I’ve buried the hatchet with (Aces’ mascot) Archie. We hugged it out. He used to stick his tongue out and he really did that to me a lot.”
Against Fresno, Decker ripped fastballs to shreds.
“I am seeing the ball well,” he said. “There is a fine line between aggressive and stupid and I am right on that line.”
Aces’ second-year manager Greg Gross, one of Major League baseball greatest pinch hitters during his playing career, said he admires Decker’s relentless pursuit at the majors.
Will he make it?
“Why not?” Gross said. “Never say never. As long as you have that uniform on and are still producing, you’ve got a chance. He had two really impressive games.”
Decker reflected: “I know that one of these days I am going to have to get a big boy job. But until then, I will play every game as if it were my last.”
Decker reached a milestone on Monday, hitting his 200th career double. He has 191 home runs. He has a .261 lifetime batting average. A year ago, he had 15 homers and 13 doubles with the Triple-A Las Vegas Area 51s and the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
He had a taste of the big leagues in 2015, suiting up for a few weeks with the San Diego Padres. He went 0 for 11.
“They call it a cup of coffee, but for me it was more like going to a diner,” he said. “I was sitting next to someone who had a cup of coffee and I could smell it.”
As a Triple-A player, Decker is just one step away from having a seat at the table.
“It comes down to circumstances and luck,” he said. “I can play and I want to play. Anyone who lasts 10 seasons can play. I really want to prove a lot of people wrong. I know what I can do.”
Decker clearly has the ability to hit the long ball, he can play five positions and who wouldn’t want someone as amiable as him in the clubhouse.
Asked about his strengths, he said: “I have striking eyes and my jaw line is above average. You can’t really tell because I have a beard, but it’s prominent. I have one arm with good tattoos and one arm with bad tattoos. It’s the yin and yang.”
The Aces, 2-3, play the next seven days on the road, Tuesday through Thursday at Sacramento and Friday through Monday at Fresno, where Decker will use the visitors’ dugout.