Bellingham is host to a powerhouse team this year, with the Bells dominating much of the competition in their division this year. The roster is loaded with talent but few stand out quite like Matt James, local hometown hero and catcher for the Bells. Seattle Sports Union recently had the chance to meet up with him and ask him some questions the fans (and ourselves) are dying to ask.
Seattle Sports Union (SSU): You guys kicked butt tonight, winning 8-0! Congrats on that. So you’re a local boy, from Ferndale, right? Ferndale High?
Matt: Yep! Lived there my whole life, Bellingham….I guess Bellingham was my address, but I went to Ferndale High.
SSU: Played baseball your whole life? Always a catcher?
Matt: Yep! Pretty much always a catcher. I’d move around the infield and outfield a little bit when I was younger but once I got to high school I became a catcher.
SSU: Cool! Any favorite moments from playing at Ferndale High?
Matt: We had a lot of good times in high school. My sophomore year we got into the state tournament and in our game to get there we played Marysville-Pilchuck and we came from 7 runs down to win that game! So that was a super fun time. My sophomore year was great but throughout high school I have a lot of really good memories.
SSU: How’d you choose Notre Dame?
Matt: I didn’t have a lot of D1 offers. I was committed to Yakima Valley as of last fall. I was recruited by Eddie Smith at Lower Columbia college. He was the head coach there for a little while. So I guess coach Woods from Notre Dame called Eddie and asked if he knew any catchers in the 2017 class. Eddie gave him my name, so I got in contact with Coach Woods, ran my grades through and they came to watch me play a game…..and Boom! That’s where I ended up. It was pretty crazy how fast it happened.
SSU: How did your first season go?
Matt: It had a lot of downs, and some ups I guess. I got a few at bats here and there, but I sure as heck learned a LOT over the past year. About life in general and about baseball too. Just about being a good teammate even though your situation’s not great is a really important thing. I think that’s one thing I took away from it, is how to be a better teammate and real team guy.
SSU: Have you always been a power hitter?
Matt: That’s kind of what I’ve been known for I guess. Being able to square up the ball pretty well. I dunno, I take pride in being able to put the ball in play more often then not. I didn’t exactly do that tonight a lot, but you know, we all have those nights. Just kinda take pride in hitting the ball well every time and squaring it up properly.
SSU: How did you get involved with the Bellingham Bells?
Matt: I’ve just been growing up watching the team since I was gosh, like 4 or 5 years old. I got in contact with Coach Clem last summer and thankfully he was able to pull some strings to get me through. I was originally on a 10 day contract for this summer. I played pretty well through that so they extended my contract for the rest of the summer. It’s been a dream come true and a lot of fun this summer for sure!
SSU: And you went to the All-Star game? How was it?
Matt: The All-Star game was such a great experience. Getting to participate in the Home run Derby and then being able to play in the game, catching 5 innings, getting a few at bats…in front of a lot of scouts and a lot of fans was really awesome. I wouldn’t have expected that to happen, but I’m just grateful that it did.
SSU: Awesome! How is it using the wood bats?
Matt: (laughs) Wood bats are a little bit different from metal. Especially because that’s what I was adjusted to for the past nine months. But I grew up swinging a wood bat a lot, using it in the cages so I dont think the adjustment has been too difficult. You definitely notice when you mis-hit a ball with a wood bat versus with a metal bat. But when you square it up, there’s no difference. So all I try to do in games is get the barrel on the ball. That’s the big key. If you barrel it up with a wood bat, it’s the same as with a metal bat.
SSU: Growing up, did you have a favorite team, a favorite player?
Matt: From the big leagues? Aw man, Seattle Mariners for sure! I loved Joe Mauer growing up too, but I gotta say my favorite has always been Ichiro. Always stuck with 51, Ichiro Suzuki. Loved him growing up.
SSU: How about currently, do you model your game after anybody in the majors?
Matt: I’d say if I were to pick a hitter who’s approach I’d like to match it’d be Mike Trout. His upper half swing stays inside the ball well and he’s a great hitter to all fields. So that’s kind of who I want to be like. I’ve had guys compare my swing to Bryce Harper, so I want to incorporate his lower half and how much drive he gets out of it, with the upper half of Mike Trout and how he can stay on the ball. Take those two aspects and put them together.
SSU: Then in the future the two of them can say they see you and see they’re kinda swinging your style!
Matt: (Laughs) That’s the goal, right?
SSU: Where do you see yourself 20 years from now, after your pro career is over?
Matt: Honestly probably back here in the Northwest, just fishing as much as I can. That’s kinda what I hope. That if I get the opportunity to have a pro career and do pretty well, then I’d like to just settle down and go fishing all the time. That’s what I love to do besides baseball.
SSU: What’s your major at Notre Dame, if you dont mind me asking?
Matt: I’m currently business, but I’m thinking about switching to kinesiology. I like lifting weights and helping people with that. So I think maybe a personal trainer or something would be cool. I’d also like to do something with business too, maybe start my own company. Maybe a major in kinesiology and minor in business, I dunno.
SSU: Maybe start your own training facility?
SSU: Thanks for your time! Good luck!
We here at Seattle Sports Union wish you nothing but the best, Matt! We’re rooting for you!