012 : The Player Experience - Matteo Bocchi

Tell us about yourself, your background, and what you currently do.

My name is Matteo Bocchi, I’m 23 and I play baseball for the Chicago Cubs. I started playing baseball when I was 6 and my goal has always been to play in the U.S. After graduating from my high school in Parma, Italy, I accepted a scholarship from Odessa College. During my first two years of college baseball I learned a lot and pushed myself to the limits. I was able to add 35 pounds and gain 6 mph on my FB in one year. This big improvement helped me to earn a scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin where I finished my college career. After two years of hard work I signed with the Chicago Cubs in the summer of 2019. In my first season with the Cubs I first played in Rookie ball and then I was promoted to A- and also played one game with the Iowa cubs (AAA).


Where are you currently, and what has that experience been like?

I ended up last season with the Eugene Emeralds (A- in the Chicago Cubs organization). I’ve loved every single moment of my professional career so far because I can finally focus only on baseball and work hard to get better at any aspect of it.


Where have you played, what were those experiences like?

I have played several times with team Italy, which has always been an honor. With team Italy I’ve won two European Championships, played two world cups and just missed the Olympic qualification this past September. I’ve also played 2 years with Odessa College, 2 years with the University of Texas at Austin and ½ season with the Chicago Cubs. Each team I played with gave me a completely different and amazing experience. 


Tell us what a typical day in the life looks like during the season?

Wake up around 10am, breakfast, lunch and usually chill until 4pm. At that time when my body is ready to go, I usually do 10-20 minutes of yoga to keep my body flexible, a good warm up and play catch. After I’m done with my throwing I take a quick break before I hit the weight room. I usually workout everyday while I throw 6 days a week.


What does your training look like right now?

Due to the COVID19 I found a way to adapt to this situation by setting up a blanket that I hang between 2 trees. The blanket is my throwing partner right now since it is prohibited to come into contact with other people in Italy. I also built a weight room in my garage with the help of my father, who made me a barbell and 2 dumbbells while he was at work.


What are your sports related goals going forward?

My main goal is to play in MLB. To reach my goal I will have to work really hard on my body to reach my full potential. 


What are the major hurdles to making those goals reality?

Competition. Out there, there are thousands of players that want to take away my spot. It will all come down to who is more determined, and who will invest the most time and money on themselves to be the best.


What is the best thing about playing baseball for the Cubs?

The best thing about playing baseball for the Chicago Cubs is that every single staff member wants to make you reach your full potential.


Over your career, who are some teammates you really enjoyed playing with?

Victor Santos is probably the player I’ve enjoyed to play with the most because he taught me a lot about baseball. Victor played six years in the Big Leagues before joining my team in Italy. I was 16 and didn’t know much about workouts or throwing programs. Victor made me workout and throw with him for 2 years changing me mentally and physically.


Who or what has inspired you to keep working hard and playing?

It's hard to answer this question because there are so many people that inspired and pushed me through my career.


Any Classic or funny stories you’d like to share about your player experience?

A funny but not funny story is when in JUCO I got my only college at bat. I was a PO, and hadn’t hit live pitching in over a year and a half. We were down 15-3 in the 3rd inning and every single one of us wanted to get a run ruled and go home. Somehow we kept avoiding the run rule by scoring runs with 2 outs. Since the 5^ inning I was messing around in the dugout saying that I would have hit that day and sit curveball because I knew I would have got a curveball. We tied the game up and then the other team scored 2 in the top of the 10th. We had a pitcher playing first base that didn’t even know how to hold a bat. As planned by me, my coach called my name. The other team’s coach couldn’t find any scouting report on me and didn’t know how to pitch me. The pitcher comes set and delivers a pitch…. it’s a curveball, the pitch I was waiting for since the 5th inning, and of course I was ready for it. The first and only pitch I’ve seen in college was a curveball and it wasn't even a strike but I hit a rocket over the third baseman’s head. Now I tell everyone I hit 1.000 in college and I should be in the HOF. 


How can you describe the recruiting process for college?

Recruiting processes are always very weird. You might hear many stories of “great” players that stayed uncommitted and ended up playing D3 baseball. But let me tell you this: if you are good, you are going to get signed by a good school. It may not be your dream school but it will be a good school. 

However, college coaches might come to your games once or twice and if you do not perform that day you might think you missed an opportunity. But trust me, coaches come to your games for a reason. They already know you are good enough and that you can fit in their program. One piece of advice is to always give all you have in the warm-up, batting practice, and when you field a ball in between innings. If you are hitting .500 and you are good, hitting 0 for 3 that day will not hurt you.


What about the draft process?

On the other side, the MLB draft is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen because there are thousands of players and only 1200 are going to get signed. There will be teams that think you can be a top 10 rounder, and other teams that don’t like you and won’t even speak a word to you. Here projectability is probably the most important factor teams want to see. I’ve played with Kody Clemens. He broke the UT school record for home runs, was a Golden Spike finalist, regular season MVP, playoffs MVP, and he signed in the 3rd round. If teams would have looked only at performance, Kody should have gone top 10 picks in the first round. My message here is to keep playing and do your best to raise interest in you. There will always be things you cannot control.


What tools or resources do you lean on to further your success?

There’s definitely not only one thing I have to lean on. Every aspect of the game can get better. If you throw 98, well you can work to throw 99. If you run your 60 yard in 6.5, you can do 6.4. 


What is a piece of advice you’d want to pass on to young players coming through the ranks?

I’ve already given some advice but the most important one is that there will always be someone that puts in more work than you if you allow him to do so. Not a single coach would ever be mad with you if you put in extra work, or if you do an extra rep in the gym.