After 11 seasons of professional baseball, Cody Decker was finally ready to call it a career.
The former Chihuahuas infielder had spent the last two seasons with the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He told his teammates that July 5 would be his final game in professional baseball. Decker started in left field, and he already had an RBI single when he came up to bat for the Aces in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Reno was down 9-8 but they had a baserunner on first and one out. That was when Decker hit a fastball into the left field stands for the game-winning walk-off homerun. The 32-year old was mobbed by his teammates as he crossed home plate and the Aces won the game 10-9.
You could say that final pitch of Decker’s 2019 season was the perfect way for him to end his professional baseball career. He leaves the game with 204 career home runs, the most by any active minor league baseball player. Decker has been called the Crash Davis of Minor League baseball, a character that Kevin Costner brought to life in the 1989 classic “Bull Durham.”
In the film, Davis was approaching the all-time record of most home runs ever hit by a Minor Leaguer.
When he first arrives with the Durham Bulls, Davis describes a home run that he hit at El Paso’s Dudley Field while playing against the Diablos.
Fast forward 25 years to the 2014 and 2015 seasons: Decker hit 48 home runs with the Chihuahuas and was a fan favorite during the first few years of Triple-A baseball in El Paso.
Baseball, radio and more
Although Decker left the San Diego organization in late 2015, he returned to Southwest University Park as a member of the Albuquerque Isotopes, Las Vegas 51s and Reno Aces. He has always had a special place in his heart for El Paso and the community. In fact, he has often referred to the Sun City as his second home and favorite place in all of his years in baseball.
Decker returned to El Paso on July 8 to officially announce his retirement from professional baseball.
In August, he will team up with his wife, former online sports columnist Jennifer Sterger Decker, to host a three-hour live daily national radio show and a weekly podcast on Entercom’s radio.com.
Both signed a three-year contract and the show will be a combination of sports and lifestyle talk. The Deckers have both have worked in radio and television over the years.
In addition, both will be spending a lot more time in El Paso after Cody accepted the associate executive director position for athletic development with Border Youth Athletic Association.
“I have spent some of my best days as a professional baseball player in El Paso and feel a deep connection to the community here,” Decker said at the announcement. “My wife, Jenn and I are excited about our future in El Paso. I want to share my love for this city and its authentic stature as a training facility destination with a national audience of athletes.”
One of his goals is to bring the same top baseball training facilities to El Paso that he has worked with in Southern California. He also wants to help more high school athletes earn college baseball scholarships.
“I know that working with Border Youth Athletic Association and allowing its young players to get exposure to world-class athletes and to witness their dedication will be a game-changer with a lifelong positive impact,” Decker added.
Dwayne Aboud, El Paso Border Youth Athletic Association president and founder, said he’s looking forward to the impact Decker will have.
“(Decker) made an indelible impression on the city and will now do the same for border youth who want to become collegiate student athletes by leading the development of our unprecedented national-level training programs,” Aboud said.
As one El Paso chapter for Decker closes, another that will have a lasting impact on youngsters in the Sun City has opened.
Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.