Former MLB-er Matt Kata joins Indians to lead Indians Youth Baseball Camps presented by Cleveland Clinic Children’s
Former Major Leaguer Matt Kata grew up in Mentor and attended St. Ignatius High School before attending and playing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
He went on to play five seasons in the majors, with his best years coming in a Diamondbacks uniform in 2003 and 2004.
He’s back in Cleveland as the Indians Manager of Youth Baseball Development. As summer nears and the organization’s expanded Youth Baseball Camps, presented by Cleveland Clinic Children’s, begin, we asked Matt a few questions about his return to Cleveland, working for the Indians and his passion for teaching youth the fundamentals of the game.
TribeVibe: What prompted you to return to Cleveland and this role with the Indians?
Matt Kata: To be honest, this opportunity started with a random LinkedIn connection at 4:15AM with Mark Shapiro with a joke about (Indians Bullpen Coach) Kevin Cash. Kevin and I are good friends — at least I think we are – but Kevin is horrible at returning calls and texts, so I just asked Mark in a note if he could let Kevin’s Personal Assistant know to have him call me!
I knew that would at least get Mark’s attention! He sent a note back and at the end he kind of threw out a feeler to me about coming back home to Cleveland to work. I had to re-read it a couple of times and told him that I would absolutely welcome a conversation about the prospects. A couple of phone calls talking about the status of youth baseball/softball and next thing I know I am on a plane to Cleveland to spend a day in the offices getting to meet some staff and get a feel for the culture. I already knew the Indians were a first-class organization and it didn’t take very long to figure it out that day! I was sold, but the bigger sell was to my wife, Jillian, who is a Texas girl! In the end, she understood that this was a phenomenal opportunity for us. I just told her to make sure she talks to her Mom and Granny everyday so that she keeps the Texas twang!
TV: What will be your role with the camps?
MK: My role will be Manager of Youth Baseball Development and Initiatives. I will oversee all of the Indians youth baseball/softball camps and clinics, and the development of additional programs.
TV: You spent 14 years in professional baseball, and have remarked that camps like these and learning the fundamentals early helped you immensely. How will the Indians Camps help young participants in the Cleveland area?
MK: Growing up as a kid in Mentor, I had a passion for playing the game of baseball and loved the Tribe. Starting with my parents, I had some outstanding coaches and mentors who instilled in me the values of hard work, persistence and grit. They taught me the proper fundamentals, respect for the game, and the importance of having fun and enjoying the process. These key elements were no doubt the biggest reason I was able to put on a Major League uniform and will be the foundation of the Indians Youth Baseball Development program.
TV: What will you stress to camp participants?
MK: Baseball is a game of failure, and as a player you can only control so much. You can take a great swing at the plate and hit it hard right at a guy. Out! A pitcher can throw a quality strike right where he wanted to and the batter sticks his bat out and gets a hit. The camps will emphasize keeping the focus on the process rather than the result and the things you can control: your Attitude, Concentration, and Effort. A-C-E the day! There are so many life lessons engrained in the game of baseball and the A-C-E mindset carries over into all other aspects of life.
TV: What do you remember about being a Tribe fan growing up in Cleveland?
MK: Some of my greatest memories growing up were going to Indians games with my Dad. We would always get to the game early for batting practice and watch the players get ready for the game. Dad and I would start out close to home plate to get an up-close view of the players and then move to the outfield to try and get a home run ball. At our seats, we would eat a hot dog and some peanuts and Dad would tell me which players to watch. The great part about an Indians camp is that the same fundamentals being taught are the same fundamentals that Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Justin Masterson are doing!
I am pumped about joining the Tribe and coming back home. My big league dreams started on the little league fields here in Cleveland. I was very fortunate to have some outstanding mentors and coaches coming up that all played a huge role in my development as a baseball player and man. I am excited about the opportunity to be able to positively impact youth baseball and softball in the greater Cleveland area and strengthen the bond with baseball and the Indians.