By Bob Behre
Nick Decker’s remarkable high school career at Seneca High was capped by his team winning a sectional championship, his earning the Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year and then being drafted by the Red Sox in the second round of MLB’s First-Year Players Draft.
Decker’s trifecta of good fortune was interrupted, however, in the last week of June when he suffered a small fracture in his left wrist while swinging a bat. Decker, a talented center fielder, throws and bats left-handed.
“I’m feeling better now,” said Decker in a text on Tuesday. Decker wore a cast for a month after the fracture was discovered.
He showed his improved health immediately when he laced a double in his first professional at bat on August 24 against the Gulf Coast League Twins. Decker played the final three games of the season for the GCL Red Sox, going 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.
Decker had a pair of at bats his first game, inserted in the No. 2 spot in the order as the team’s DH. He played center field and again batted second in his next two games against the Twins and GCL Tigers.
Decker, 18, was tabbed the No. 10 ranked prospect in the Red Sox chain shortly after being drafted 64th overall. He received a $1.25 million signing bonus, which was $239,500 over the slot value. ESPN had ranked Decker 59th overall entering the draft.
Decker burst on the scene in the Garden State early in his high school career and on the travel circuit with the impressive South Jersey program All-Out Baseball. He posted big numbers his senior season at Seneca. He batted .492, hit seven HR, scored 31 runs and drove home 24. He was walked 31 times, often intentionally.
“I approach every day like it’s my last,” Decker told Josh Friedman of the Courier Post after learning he had received the Gatorade award. “Do everything 110 percent and help others. My philosophy is to never put yourself first, go help others and just be a good person before anything else.”
Decker pitched six shutout innings to steer Seneca to a 6-0 victory over Cherry Hill West in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 3 championship game. Seneca’s season ended a few days later when it was defeated by Allentown in the Group 3 semifinals.
Decker and Jack Herman of Eastern were the subject of a Diamond Nation Magazine cover story in April. The two South Jersey studs befriended each other in the process of committing to Maryland. The Terps, however, lost both to the MLB Draft.
Herman surprised many when, after being drafted in the 30th round by the Pirates, he took the professional plunge and the modest bonus money instead of honoring his commitment to Maryland. Herman had been projected to go in the 7th-to-10th rounds.
Herman has gotten off to an outstanding start to his professional career and is on his way to proving those teams wrong for letting him slip to the 30th round.
Batting third in the GCL Pirates lineup and playing center field, Herman hit a robust .340 with nine doubles, three triples, two HRs and 22 RBI in 37 games. He reached base at a .435 pace and slugged at .489 clip to post a gaudy .924 OPS.
NOTES: Decker is the third player from South Jersey to be named Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year. Mike Trout of Millville and the Los Angeles Angels won it in 2009 and Delsea’s Brad Dobzanski, now at Kentucky, took home the Gatorade honor in 2017. … Herman’s Eastern team won the prestigious Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic in an extra-inning thriller against St. Augustine Prep.