Long before Matt Boyd tossed one of the most dominant performances in College World Series history for the Oregon State Beavers in June, he was a Little Leaguer in Thunderbird Little League and State Player of the Year at Eastside Catholic High School.
The Mercer Island native, a recent signee of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Boyd helped coach Pat Casey and the Beavers get back to Omaha, Neb., for the first time since 2007 this year and didn’t disappoint on the big stage, throwing a complete game four-hit shutout in his team’s 1-0 win over Indiana in an elimination game.
Boyd took some time with the Reporter, just before shipping out to Florida to begin his first professional baseball assignment, to talk about his beginning in the game, the passion for the orange and black in Corvallis and being the life of the party in Omaha.
Mercer Island Reporter: What was the most memorable part of this year off the field?
Matt Boyd: Just how close-knit our team was. Our team was the closest team I’ve ever played on and I’ve played on teams that had some great chemistry. This team was almost the exact same team from the year before and the chemistry was unreal. We were sad to see it end; we wanted to play three games longer. We hung out off the field, from the classroom to hanging out to golfing and working out. I lived with five other ballplayers, and we’d have at least another five hanging out playing Xbox or watching baseball. That was a huge thing, and I think it really contributed to our success on the field.
Reporter: Was Omaha and the College World Series everything you thought it would be from an experience standpoint?
Boyd: It was everything and more. It was the closest thing to a big league experience, and it was very special. You’re a superstar in that town for the few weeks you’re there, and everything is baseball. It was pretty sweet to be playing on that stage. I’m just very grateful. From being a little kid watching it on ESPN, it hit me before my start when I was walking around the halls while the team was getting loose.
Reporter: When you go back to Little League and your start in baseball, what do you miss from those early days?
Boyd: The thing that was always fun was just playing with your best friends. The thing that really sticks out is all those memories playing the game. If I played good, I get a Slurpie and pack of baseball cards with my dad. I was out to dinner with my grandma a few nights ago and saw a team there from Mercer Island Little League. Those were the best times of the year, trying to win state and go to the world series.
Reporter: How cool was it to play for your dad at Eastside Catholic?
Boyd: It was awesome, I was very fortunate and blessed. He was always harder on me, but it prepared me and built me into who I am today and made me stronger. He always got the best out of me. Looking back, I was very lucky to have my dad as a coach. I know a lot of players who can’t stand to be coached by their father, but it always worked out great for us.
Reporter: Other sports like lacrosse and rugby are growing in this area, and soccer is already hugely popular for high school athletes in the spring. What would you say to a youngster about baseball and what makes it different?
Boyd: Call me a traditionalist, but I grew up watching Ken Griffey Jr. playing in front of 50,000, Randy Johnson pitching in the Kingdome, coming out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the American League Division Series in 1995. That was what I wanted to do, it’s the past time. Put all the money and all that aside, I want to be playing in the cathedrals of the game. I played hockey, but baseball was always my love. Growing up I would hear about those Dodger legends from my dad and my grandpa loved the Cubs, so I’d see Ernie Banks and Sandy Koufax. It’s an American sport and it has its roots here.
Reporter: What do you remember from CWS 1-0 win over Indiana?
Boyd: Everything, I remember every little nuance of that game. I prepared like I would for any other game. It was awesome. I had a very calm demeanor to myself. At the end, when I made the final out, it kind of sunk in. Being on that mound shaking my teammates hands, it was pretty sweet. I didn’t think it would be my last start as a Beaver but I knew that was pretty special.
Reporter: Have you ever picked off two guys in a game before like you did that day?
Boyd: Plenty of times. At Eastside I had a few games where I picked off three of four.
Reporter: Knowing what you know today, would you change anything about your decision to not sign with the Reds last year?
Boyd: Not at all. I’d do it all over again. Coming back to school after my junior year, turning down the draft and the Reds, getting that experience was the best decision of my life. I feel so blessed to have that opportunity and so grateful the Lord helped me see outside the box. I was back there for purposes bigger than baseball and I made memories for the best of my life.
Reporter: What is the first thing you plan to buy?
Boyd: I don’t know, I really haven’t thought about that sort of thing. I’m excited about the opportunity. All that money aside, I’m playing this game for fun. Getting paid to play the game you love is a dream.
Reporter: What are you looking forward to the most?
Boyd: The first thing was I couldn’t wait to pitch in Sky Dome or Rogers Centre it’s called now. I got to watch a few games there back in the day when I played hockey in Toronto. I’m sitting here looking in my room and I have Blue Jays hats and I have a chance to play in that organization. It’s been a life-long dream and by no means is it just getting there, it is to get there and dominate.
Reporter: What will you miss most about the Pacific Northwest?
Boyd:I love the Northwest. I’m going to miss playing at Goss Stadium. I loved the atmosphere we brought with our team. The way people around the town got around the team. I’m going to miss that the most. It was so special. You’re kind of a local celebrity. Being able to wear that black and orange and really fight for that common goal of Omaha. It’s a little different than the pro ranks. You’re with them from Septmeber to June. Unlike a lot of college sports, there is no offseason. I’m going to miss it.