FREDERICK, Maryland — Entering the 2022 college baseball season, few catchers had as much experience as Matt Oldham.
The former Northwood baseball standout had already spent four years at Elon University where he started 118 games behind the plate, and in 2020, he tied for the conference lead in runners caught stealing. Then, last summer, Oldham embarked on a new journey, transferring to N.C. State for his final collegiate season.
It was a chance to showcase that his talents translated to a high-level Division I team and a program coming off of a College World Series appearance. But those opportunities would prove scarce at his new school. Oldham only started two games, recording three hits in 12 at-bats.
“At the end of the day, I have no regrets about what I was doing and what I wanted to accomplish,” Oldham told the News + Record. “Things didn’t work out in my eyes how I wanted them to. But I met some really good people and I’ve always been big about relationships.”
Although Oldham acknowledged that he loved N.C. State and the people he met along the way, he didn’t want his baseball career to end there. So this summer, he signed with the Frederick Keys, an MLB Draft League team in a 40-game independent ball league based in Frederick, Maryland. Most players in the league went undrafted in July’s MLB Draft and are seeking a professional opportunity.
“I felt like I still had a lot to give to this game,” Oldham said. “I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t at least try. You never know what can happen. My goal is to play professional baseball. I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. I don’t want to have any regrets with my playing career. … I still felt like I had pro potential and pro talent coming out of State.”
The league technically began before the Draft, but the season is normally split in half because of the amount of players that leave after being drafted or signing with an organization. During the second half of the season, Oldham said it’s like a “running tab” of players getting picked up by professional organizations.
“It’s a chance for guys to showcase who they are and what they can do,” Oldham said. “There’s a lot of guys in the same positions, they’re all trying to play professional baseball and get signed. They all have the same goals so it makes the league very competitive.”
Oldham’s coach, Joe Oliver, played 13 years in the MLB at catcher and won a World Series with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. Oldham has relished the opportunity to learn from Oliver on the team’s off days and in the batting cage. And Oliver repays his players by trying to give them all an opportunity.
“Joe’s really good at getting everybody at-bats and making sure everybody gets their fair shake,” Oldham said. “He told us, ‘I’m here for you guys, I’m here for your development, I’m here to showcase you guys and to get you guys signed. We’ll win games and we’ll lose, but I’m here to get you guys to the next level.’”
Oliver even got creative and put Oldham in right field for a game last week in an effort to get him more at-bats. The Keys have played 10 games since the mid-season break. Oldham has hits in his last two games and recorded an RBI triple in his last start.
Despite the brief hiccup his career took at N.C. State, the catcher has continued to keep a positive mindset as he works to prolong his playing days. While some might have been dissuaded by a lack of playing time, Oldham is trying to let it motivate him into having one more magical summer.
After all, why not? He’s got nothing to lose.
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