Story by Brayden Conover
Photo by Bob Whitaker & Rose State Raiders
This month’s feature athlete is Raider Outfielder Landon Decker, number 7.
You haven’t played baseball competitively since your senior year at Carl Albert High School. What made you take a break from the game? What made you want to come back to baseball?
At the beginning of my senior year, my dad passed away. That made playing baseball hard, seeing as he was my biggest fan. He went to every game and called me after each game to talk with me. After all, he was my original coach. But not having him at the games or being able to talk to him after the games made baseball a lot harder. After my senior year, I walked away from the game and never had an urge to go back and play. I joined a softball league a year and a half later and one of the players on the team was a former player at Rose. Throughout the summer, he kept telling me to try out for Rose. I kept putting it off because I had already started a life past high school, and I wouldn’t be able just to drop everything and play ball again. I finally gave in and decided to try out and ended up making the team. I had to move back home, give up my full-time job, and cut ties with all of the extra activities I did. It wasn’t easy to just drop everything, but it was very much worth it. This second chance has changed my attitude towards almost everything in my life.
How much has the game changed from your point of view? Has the speed of the game felt faster than when you last played?
The game for me has changed almost entirely. In high school, I was a hot-head and only cared about my personal goals. However, getting this second opportunity made me re-evaluate the game and the way I approach it. I still have the same competitiveness and fight I had in high school but I’ve learned that my teammates are more important than myself. I’ve learned that in order to truly succeed I have to listen to my coaches and learn from my teammates. I was very intimidated when I first started playing again. I was scared that I would be facing much faster pitching, catchers with better arms, and hitters with much more power. All of those components are true, but it becomes a bit easier to face when you’re seeing it every day. I’ve adjusted very nicely to the change of speed from high school to college, but it wasn’t easy.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome this past offseason to get back into shape for a rigorous and long season?
I’ve always been in great cardiovascular shape, so the running and training that comes along with the title of “college athlete” didn’t surprise me at all; however, I wasn’t ready to play four to six games a week, or even playing 18 innings a day. In high school, games only lasted seven innings and there [are] only three or four [games] a week. That had a huge toll [on] me about a month into the season. I love to play and compete; I’d even love to play seven days a week, but I learned that it’s hard to stay focused and compete 100 percent every day. I just have to keep reminding myself why I’m here and what my goals are. A lot of players lose focus on that and become complacent. Complacent is something I never wanna be in anything that I do.
How have you adjusted your play to fit the competition you’ll be facing this season?
After many months of practicing and playing with this team, I’ve learned what my job here is. We have plenty of power hitters and plenty of guys that spread the ball around the field, so what I try to do up at the plate is simply just get on base so teammates can drive me in. Whether that be by a bunt or taking a walk, getting on base is my goal. Of course, I would love to hit the long ball or be the hero every game, but I know that I’m better player and teammate by just going out and competing for my guys every opportunity I get.
What challenge are you most excited about facing this season?
I love to face adversity, I know that sounds weird, but when someone can come through for their team while the odds are stacked against them, then imagine what they can do when they are relaxed in the game. I’m most excited to see how I hit the ball. I am very confident in my defense and throwing ability but swinging the bat has always been my weakness. I have already come a long way on the offensive side just from the help of my coaches, so I can’t wait to see where I end up towards the end of the season; it’s a challenge that I believe every hitter on this team would love to accomplish as well.
What are your plans once you graduate Rose State?
Right now, I am very happy with my coaches and professors at Rose State, so I honestly haven’t given much thought of where I would like to go after Rose, but my plan as of right now is to go to any university that would take me. My education is more important than my baseball career, so if I can land a scholarship at a university and get my English degree then I would be more than happy with where my baseball career ended and ready to start my actual career. (Also, my backup plan is to go to the MLB, but we’ll see which one is easier in a few years from now).