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Mattair rebounds nicely for Desert Dogs
Reds infielder overcomes AFL struggles with 3-for-4 showing
10/26/2013 7:15 PM ET
Travis Mattair hit 13 homers for Pensacola during the regular season.
Travis Mattair hit 13 homers for Pensacola during the regular season. (Ed Gardner/MiLB.com)

Travis Mattair is perhaps most well-known for dropping out of baseball in 2010 to give college basketball a shot. Back in the national past time for three years now, the 24-year-old corner infielder still did some rebounding Saturday afternoon.

The Reds farmhand went 3-for-4 with a solo homer and two runs scored to lead Glendale to a 5-2 win over Scottsdale in Arizona Fall League play.

The long ball came in the second when the right-handed Mattair pulled a 2-1 offering from Braves right-hander and Scottsdale starter Aaron Northcraft over the wall in left. The Desert Dogs first baseman singled in the fourth and sixth frames and struck out swinging in the eighth.

It was Mattair's second multi-hit performance through nine games in the AFL thus far. He entered the day 4-for-27 (.148) in that span with one homer that came in his first contest on Oct. 9. With his three hits Saturday, his average with the Desert Dogs jumped to .226 with his OBP at .333 and slugging percentage at .419.

"At the start, it was a grind," he said. "I wasn't performing like I wanted to. But I've put in a lot of work with our batting coach [Johnny Washington], who gave me a chance to look at different philosophies. I've been doing some different drills, and they're paying off, and hopefully they'll continue to."

The Washington native just completed his second year in the Reds organization after coming over from the Phillies in the Minor League portion of the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. The 6-foot-5 slugger put up a .242/.315/.364 slash line with 13 homers and 57 RBIs as a first and third baseman for Double-A Pensacola -- his first time playing above Class A Advanced.

The 2007 second-round pick made waves three years ago when he decided to drop baseball after spending three years at Class A Lakewood to pursue college basketball at Boise State University. He spent the summer of 2010 training with the Broncos before no guarantee of playing time sent him back to the Phillies organization.

Although the move didn't quite pay off, Mattair doesn't regret giving hoops at least a try.

"It set me back in baseball a touch, but it put me ahead in life," he said. "I'd always had that 'what if' feeling, and would've had it all my life if it weren't for that. Baseball had been my second love to basketball. I don't think I'd now be in this position if hadn't gone and tried [basketball]. It rekindled my love for baseball; I'm really happy with everything that has gone on. I wouldn't change anything."

Looking toward the future, the slugger has his eye on perhaps advancing to Triple-A Louisville, where 35-year-old Mike Hessman received most of the playing time at first in 2013. No one's a guarantee to man that spot in 2014, and with perennial All-Star Joey Votto holding the fort in the Majors, advancement might be blocked as well. But all Mattair wants is a chance.

"All I can do is be prepared and if I am, everything will take care of itself," he said. "I hope to advance, and would love to be in Triple-A and knocking on the big-league door. Whatever plan the Reds have, I know it's a good one."

In the meantime, the Fall League, which is notably loaded with some of the best prospects and Minor League talent in the game, should continue to provide a great opportunity for the 24-year-old, even if he is among the oldest on the circuit.

"There are No. 1 [pitchers] on every team," Mattair said. "You don't get competition like this anywhere in life or in sports. It's the ultimate grind, but to be on the field with so any talented people. Seventy percent of the players here will make the big leagues next year. Maybe I can be one of them."

Dodgers catching prospect Chris O'Brien went 1-for-2 with a double, two RBIs and a walk for the Desert Dogs. Seven Glendale hurlers took the mound in the win, led by starter and fellow Reds prospect Jamie Walczak who struck out two in two perfect frames.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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