First Person: From catcher to DH, Purdom's the Rockets' flex player

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By Laura Clark

Senior Matthew Purdom plays first base, outfield and catcher for the Rockets. He also fills the role of designated hitter occasionally. Purdom said he would like to play baseball in college. possibly at Hanover College. And he said he would like to become a teacher and coach.

  On playing a variety of positions:

When he (Coach Bart Roettger) says, ‘Can you play any kind of position?” I say, “Yeah.” When were taking batting practice I’ll go out to random positions and do things there. This winter, he worked on outfield with me. I’ve always been a catcher. With me and John (Hunter) and Brandon (Roberts), we just switch around, so we each have to find another position. Like if (Eric) Standafer was pitching that day, I’d play first base.

It’s kind of a whole new outlook on the game, not playing one position but being able to play three or four. Last year I played first base a little bit. I usually DH’d and caught. But we had some people leave this year, so we had to move around. Even if I’m not catching, I’m still playing every day, so that’s good.

I love catching. I’ve done it my entire life. But anywhere I can play, anywhere I feel comfortable at, I’ll play.

  On where he tries to make the most impact:

I like hitting a whole lot. I think hitting is a big part of our game. We have defenders; we have pitchers that can shut people down a lot. I want to strive to get a base hit every time. That’s impossible, pretty much. I’ve been trying to work on hitting.

You have to know your swing. It’s mechanical, but you have to kind of have to know what the pitcher’s thinking. It’s a lot to think about. At the end of the day, I just try to go up there and hit it. I take batting practice every day, so if I’m doing good in there. I’ll try to take that to the field. Confident and relaxed is the story of my life.

On the toughest pitcher(s) he’s faced:

When we were in Oklahoma for Legion, there was this kid that threw like 92 (miles per hour). He went to Wichita State last year, and that’s a really good program. That’s probably the hardest pitcher I’ve faced anywhere. I didn’t even touch him.

In high school, probably Corey Littrell, from Trinity. He’s left-handed, and he threw all kinds of off-speed stuff at us. It was really hard to hit, because he had a lot of movement on everything. I think I got a base hit off him, but he hit me twice. It hurt pretty bad.

  On the greatest baseball player:

Willie Mays. He didn’t just hit the ball well, he was an all around good player. He could play the field. And Johnny Bench, because he was a catcher. He was on my dad’s favorite team, the Reds.

  On drug use in MLB:

It really makes you wonder. My favorite player growing up – what if he was on steroids? Some people say it doesn’t matter, but to me it’s like, “Man, I really liked you but you cheated.” It’s disappointing to see these guys be successful with drug use and steroids. I always like the skinny guys that are 180 instead of 300 pounds, that don’t ever get to play. The hustle guy, sprinting on and off the field.

  On the humorous antics of coach Roettger:

He’s a really intense guy. One day we were out practicing. I’m not going to mention any names. But they didn’t run all the way through the base like you’re supposed to. As soon as he started slowing down before the base, Rudy -- Rudy wasn’t having a good day -- was like, “Why aren’t you running through the base?” And the kid was like, “My bad, coach.” He started going off on him, “My bad! My bad! It is your bad!” One of our players can do (an imitation) perfect. He’s got the hop and the fist.

One time I was hitting. It was a pretty big game. I was at the plate, and I didn’t know he was mad at me until I got over there. He was like, “Why aren’t you hitting the baseball?” He hits me on the helmet. I don’t think he knew it, but he hit me pretty hard. It felt like a concussion. I was kind of dizzy for a minute. But I went back there and got a hit. He knows what we need.

  On the best book he’s read in high school:

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. One of my teachers had me read it last year. I loved it. I read it three times since then. It shows what happens in one person’s view and then another person’s view. He tries to bring up issues like the death penalty. I really liked it.