Seneca's Nick Decker stays cool amid the swirling hype

Seneca centerfielder Nick Decker, who has signed with the University of Maryland, could be selected early in the major league draft.

The other day, 30 major-league scouts saw Seneca centerfielder Nick Decker play against Winslow Township. The next game against Camden Catholic, there were another nine.

The scrutiny is heavy, but Decker remains unfazed.

There are many things to like about the 6-foot, 205-pound senior who bats and throws lefthanded. Maybe the biggest is the levelheadedness shown during these maddening times.

“I just try to block it out, play the game and have fun,” he said after Wednesday’s 9-0 win over Camden Catholic.

The five-tool evaluation is overused for many players, but Decker can do everything on the baseball field — most notably, hit with power.

“He is strong and physical and he seems to hit balls a long way,” said one scout, who requested anonymity.

His coach, Jay Donoghue, said, “Watching him hit is always fun.”

Of course, the scouts don’t always get to see him hit because teams don’t always want to pitch to Decker. Last year, he had 29 hits but walked 21 times. He has just 11 at-bats in the first six games this season, with eight walks.

“It can get frustrating because I want to hit,” Decker said. “But I have a lot of faith in this lineup, and as long as I am on base, we have a really good shot to win.”

No doubt the Golden Eagles, who also are led by returning Inquirer all-South Jersey shortstop Kevin Gsell, will be a major threat in South Jersey Group 3. And that is what occupies Decker’s mind, first and foremost.

He made a commitment to the University of Maryland during his sophomore year, and it’s likely that another decision will have to be made when the Major League Baseball draft is held the first week of June.

Decker has a high national profile. Last summer, he competed in some of the top events for high school-aged players: the East Coast Pro in Tampa, the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., and the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego.

“It was an awesome experience playing with that type of competition,” he said.

Decker more than held his own, and thus the national profile increased.

In a recent mock draft by draftsite.com, Decker was the second player selected in the third round, No. 73 overall. He doesn’t scour the Internet sites looking for the information but understands it is out there.

Decker feels that he can’t make a wrong decision. Either he will attend Maryland and compete in the Big Ten or sign with a professional team.

This spring, he doesn’t have one eye on college and another on the draft. Decker is all-in, trying to help Seneca win a South Jersey and then a state Group 3 title. It won’t be easy, but beating a talented Golden Eagles team won’t be, either.

“This is my last season with my friends from when I was a little kid, and I want to focus on playing the game and not worry about anything else,” he said.

Besides Decker’s baseball tools, his coach says there is an intangible that can’t be underestimated.

“He is such a great leader, and that will carry him to the next level,” said Donoghue, who played on Seneca’s 2007 state Group 3 championship team. “He is one of the guys people look up to.”

Yet Decker is just trying to be one of the guys, something that isn’t so easy with the scores of scouts following him this spring.

That he hasn’t become swallowed up by the pressure of the process is a testament to his commitment to his team, another thing that those coming in droves to evaluate him should note.