Tucson Padres: Hitter plays name game with announcers

2013-04-19T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Hitter plays name game with announcersZack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Jaff Decker comes to bat, PA announcers rarely pronounce his name right - it's "Jeff," not "Jaff."

"I gotta check with them and say 'It's Jeff,' " Decker said. "It's happened quite a few times."

Decker, a Tucson Padres outfielder, belted a home run deep to right field in the first inning of Wednesday's game against the Salt Lake Bees.

The Padres PA announcer at Kino Stadium, Jonas Hunter, got it right, but Decker's not usually as lucky on the road.

"I still have people mispronounce it every day, but it's good," Decker said.

As the story goes, he was named after his uncle, whose name was misspelled as "Jaff" on his birth certificate.

Decker doesn't mind because, in a way, it represents where his family comes from.

"My grandma's German," Decker said. "My grandpa met her over there in Germany. The way they pronounce it over there is with the 'a.' It's pretty out there, but it's cool."

Decker's grandmother was in the stands on Wednesday night and saw him go 2 for 4 with three RBIs and that one long ball, which traveled nearly 400 feet.

He's only in his first year at the Triple-A level, but for someone who's name is more often mispronounced than not, he's making a name for himself.

Decker leads the Padres with three home runs in 13 games and has impressed manager Pat Murphy.

"He's never played Triple-A, and he's being thrown into the fire hitting at the top of the order," Murphy said. "He's had his moments and he's had some moments where he looked like a young player, but he's a ballplayer. He knows how to play baseball."

In 2011, Decker had his best season as a minor-leaguer, batting .236 with 19 home runs, 92 RBIs, 90 runs and 15 steals for the Double-A San Antonio Missions.

But he didn't do much for a follow-up the next year. In 2012, he missed time after tearing the plantar tendon in his left foot and batted .201 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 56 games.

"There was some high expectations for me going in," Decker said. "Being held up by injury kinda set me back a little bit."

Now, both Decker and Murphy believe he's back at 100 percent and ready to continue an ascension to the major leagues.

"I think he's on the cusp right now," Murphy said. "He's a good ballplayer that has a chance to, I think, be pretty good."

Murphy has known Decker for a long time. Coming out of Peoria Sunrise Mountain High School, Decker signed to play at Arizona State, where Murphy was the head coach. He backed out when the Padres selected him in the first round of the MLB Draft in 2008. Still, Murphy remembers what he first thought as he started talking to Decker in high school.

When Murphy read Decker's name on paper for the first time, he did a double take.

"When I first started recruiting him I thought it was a mistake," Murphy said. "I think it's kinda cool though. It's part of his story."

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