Aug. 2, 2002
BYLINE: David Driver; Correspondent
BETHESDA, Md. -- It is believed that the U.S. Naval Academy has never had
anyone chosen in the annual Major League Baseball first-year draft. Ventura's Matt Foster, a 1999 graduate of Buena High, will try to be the first next June.
"Hopefully I will get drafted," he said. "I just want to get the word out
that (as a Navy player) it is possible."
He hopes to join two former Buena High teammates now pitching in pro ball:
Mike Frick of the Modesto A's of the Class A California League and Noah
Lowry, in the same league with the San Jose Giants.
"He definitely deserves a shot," said former Seattle minor league pitcher
Kelton Jacobson, his pitching coach this summer in the NCAA-sanctioned and
wooden bat Clark Griffith League.
Foster, 20, was 4-1 with an ERA of 2.14 as a junior this past spring for
Navy. He was the most valuable player of the Patriot League tournament, then
defeated George Washington in the NCAA tournament at Wake Forest University
in North Carolina in early June.
Foster was playing in a summer league that has sent several players to the
majors, including former Angels outfielder Mike Colangelo, current Oakland
A's pitcher Mike Venafro and San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy.
His performance this summer with the Bethesda Big Train drew the interest of
scouts from the Anaheim Angels and Atlanta Braves.
With some fine tuning from Seattle native Jacobson, the left-handed starter
has improved the velocity of his fastball from the mid 80s to the low 90s.
"He would get out in front and his arm would drag," said Jacobson, who added
that Foster is now using more of his lower body in his pitching delivery.
In his first five starts for Bethesda, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound pitcher was
3-2 with an earned run average of 2.18. In 33 innings, he had allowed 30
hits and just five walks with 25 strikeouts.
In his sixth start, he threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 10
hitters and allowing just five hits in a 2-0 win against the Silver
Spring-Takoma Park Thunderbolts.
There is one other challenge standing in the way of Foster's bid to play pro
ball. He owes the U.S. Navy a five-year commitment after he graduates next
Foster left last week day for one month on a Navy ship as part of his
training before classes begin in August. Last summer he spent four weeks on
a submarine that went from Italy to Turkey.
Foster is quick to note that former Navy athletes Roger Staubach (football),
Napoleon McCallum (football) and David Robinson (basketball), among others,
played pro sports. Former Navy football player Travis Williams is expected
to be in camp this month with the Green Bay Packers.
"It's a case-by-case basis," said Foster.
Can Foster get out of his post-graduate commitments to play pro ball?
"It's unchartered territory (for baseball). The opportunity could present
itself if (pro ball) was an option," said Price Atkinson, who handles
baseball media relations for Navy.
Foster was recruited by several major college baseball programs, including
Stanford, Pepperdine, UCLA and Miami.
But he had surgery on left shoulder in March of his senior year in 1999, and
after that those schools lost interest.
"Once I got hurt, I realized there was a lot more to life than baseball,"
said Foster, who decided to attend Navy after visiting Annapolis. "If
baseball doesn't work out, I have one of the best educations you can get."
Foster was touched by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
"We were on lockdown. It was pretty intense," Foster said. "It changed my
views on a lot of things. I could be out therein Afghanistan some day. I
know (Navy) graduates who went there."
For now, his main concerns are finishing his senior year and focusing on his
rising baseball career.
Foster was also a designated hitter and first baseman for Navy, where he hit
.324 in 37 at bats.
This summer for the Big Train he was hitting .265 in his first 34 at bats as
a first baseman and designated hitter.
"Matt is a quality pitcher and has the opportunity to pitch at the next
level," Bethesda manager Derek Hacopian, a former University of Maryland
standout, said in a story on Foster on the Navy Web site. "What he needs to
work on to make it to the next level is his off-speed pitches. If his
changeup and curve can continue to improve, there is no telling how good he