Minnesota center fielder Eric Decker is one of the best college athletes available in the draft. He packs plenty of strength in his sculpted 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, and he can get from the left side of the plate to first base in 4.1 seasons. Yet where exactly he’ll fall in the draft remains murky, because he repeatedly has said he’ll return for his senior season of football and because dividing his time between two sports has left him in need of more polish on the diamond.
Decker was an all-Big Ten Conference wide receiver last fall, when he set a school record with 84 receptions, breaking his own mark of 67 he set in 2007. While he ultimately decided not to enter the 2009 NFL draft, he’ll be a football team captain as a senior when the Gophers open 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium, and he’s not willing to become a full-time baseball player yet. He could sign a pro baseball deal this summer, then play one more season of college football before making a decision on his future.
Decker withstood a lot of punishment last fall, suffering a concussion, a sprained shoulder, a sprained ankle that caused him to miss a game and a knee injury that required minor arthroscopic surgery. He may still be somewhat banged up, which would partially explain his .315/.363/.395 numbers this spring, including one homer and nine steals in 32 games. In 2008, his first season with Minnesota’s baseball team, he batted .329/.439/478. The Brewers drafted him in the 39th round as a sophomore-eligible.
While he’s not putting up huge numbers, it’s still easy to dream of Decker becoming a star after he gets 1,500 or so minor league at-bats under his belt. Longtime Gophers assistant head coach Rob Fornasiere likens Decker to another Big Ten star wide receiver/outfielder.
"He reminds me of Kirk Gibson with the body, the speed and the power," Fornasiere says. "The biggest difference is that Gibson was more advanced with the bat."
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