Project to prospect: Kearsarge’s Mattos, a 6-foot-10 lefty, develops into USCAA All-American pitcher

  • Kearsarge High graduate Zach Mattos heads off the field during a game with Bryant & Stratton College in Albany, N.Y. Mattos barely played baseball growing up in Springfield, but the 6-foot-10 lefty has developed into a pro prospect in the last three years and was named a First Team All-American by the United Small College Athletic Association this year after leading the USCAA in wins (11), starts (16), complete games (nine), innings pitched (98) and strikeouts (105). Courtesy

  • Kearsarge High graduate Zach Mattos delivers a pitch for Bryant & Stratton College in Albany, N.Y. Mattos barely played baseball growing up in Springfield, but the 6-foot-10 lefty has developed into a pro prospect in the last three years and was named a First Team All-American by the United Small College Athletic Association this year after leading the USCAA in wins (11), starts (16), complete games (nine), innings pitched (98) and strikeouts (105). Courtesy

  • Kearsarge High graduate Zach Mattos delivers a pitch for Bryant & Stratton College in Albany, N.Y. Mattos barely played baseball growing up in Springfield, but the 6-foot-10 lefty has developed into a pro prospect in the last three years and was named a First Team All-American by the United Small College Athletic Association this year after leading the USCAA in wins (11), starts (16), complete games (nine), innings pitched (98) and strikeouts (105). Courtesy

  • Kearsarge High graduate Zach Mattos delivers a pitch for Bryant & Stratton College in Albany, N.Y. Mattos barely played baseball growing up in Springfield, but the 6-foot-10 lefty has developed into a pro prospect in the last three years and was named a First Team All-American by the United Small College Athletic Association this year after leading the USCAA in wins (11), starts (16), complete games (nine), innings pitched (98) and strikeouts (105). Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/31/2019 6:55:17 PM

Zach Mattos drifted in and out of Little League. He played less than two seasons of baseball at Kearsarge High before graduating in 2016. But when longtime college baseball coach Bob Godlewski met the 6-foot-10, left-handed Mattos, Godlewski knew he had to take a chance on him.

“We brought him to the first practice and everybody looked at me like I was nuts because he could throw the ball about 72 miles an hour, maybe,” Godlewski said. “But this is my 43rd year coaching baseball and my background is with pitching, so I knew we’d be able to work with him because he was athletic and he had no bad habits, so everything we taught, he picked it right up.”

Three years later, Mattos has transformed from a project to a pro prospect. His fastball is now reaching 86 mph and he went 11-2 for Bryant & Stratton College in Albany, N.Y., this season, helping him earn First Team All-American honors from the United Small College Athletic Association (to give some local context, NHTI is also a member of the USCAA).

Those 11 wins were the most for any pitcher in the USCAA this season, as were Mattos’s 16 starts, nine complete games, 98 innings pitched and 105 strikeouts. Those numbers include two starts at the USCAA Small College World Series earlier this month, where Bryant & Stratton finished runner-up and Mattos went 2-0 in two starts, striking out 15, allowing four earned runs over 16 innings and earning All-Tournament team recognition.

“He’s worked hard, probably harder than any pitcher I’ve been around,” Godlewski said, “and I believe one day he’s going to be in pro ball.”

Mattos is focused on reaching the next level, but when he takes a moment to look back at the journey that brought him to this point, he realizes just having that goal with insight is incredible.

“I’ve shocked myself a little bit,” Mattos said. “It’s crazy to think that three years ago I was playing basketball at Kearsarge High and now I’m a baseball First Team All-American.”

Mattos was a senior captain for the Kearsarge boys’ basketball team that finished as D-III runner-up in 2016. His younger brother, Tayler, was a sophomore on that team. Tayler led the Cougars to the 2017 D-III title and is coming off a freshman season of playing men’s basketball at Division I Bowling Green in Ohio.

The Mattos brothers are both back home in Springfield for the time being and working out together. Zach is playing in the Puerto Rican Collegiate League this summer, and Tayler will travel to Puerto Rico with him before going back to Bowling Green in July.

Godlewski will be Mattos’s coach for the PRCL Iguanas. This is the first year for the league, but Godlewski believes the competition will be tough and Mattos will get the kind of exposure and experience he needs to make it to pro ball.

“They’ve got several Division I and II college players, and some of the top Puerto Rican players,” Godlewski said. “So, it’s probably not going to be the league it will be in two or three years, but I expect to be a pretty high level of play. ... There will be a lot of pro scouts there, but also a lot of former trainers from Major League Baseball, so we’re going to put Zach in their hands and see what they can do with him.”

Given Mattos’s track record when it comes to increased training, the people in Puerto Rico may be able to do a lot with him.

Mattos started his collegiate baseball career at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vt., where Godlewski was the coach from 2014-18. Mattos’s improvement was slow that first year – the 72 mph he was throwing at the first practice for St. Joseph only increased to 77 mph by the end of the season. Mattos appeared in just four games that first season, but he learned a lot as that St. Joseph team won the USCAA National Championship for a second straight year.

“We had a lot of good players, and a lot of good pitchers, on that team, and being around all those guys gave me a sense of competitiveness within the sport of baseball,” Mattos said. “Being competitive in basketball and baseball are a lot different. In basketball, you can just jump at the moment. In baseball, you have to wait it out a little bit and wait for your opportunity.”

His opportunity was waiting when he returned to St. Joseph for his sophomore season. With much of the national championship staff graduated, Mattos went 5-4 in 2018, striking out 42, walking 31, giving up 66 hits and 27 earned runs for a 3.86 ERA over 63 innings of work, numbers that earned him a spot on the USCAA All-American Second Team.

“His fastball was up to 80, 81, and he could hit his spots, probably as good as anybody I’ve ever been around,” said Godlewski, who also spent seven years as a Tampa Bay Rays scout. “If the catcher put the glove there, that’s where the ball ended up. Plus, he had great movement on his pitches.”

When word started spreading that the St. Joseph program might fold (which it did last winter), Godlewski took the job at Bryant & Stratton and took Mattos with him. Mattos’s training, and improvement, reached another level at the Albany college. He devoted more time in the weight room and bulked up to 255 pounds (he started college at 210). He kept throwing as much as possible, just like Godlewski asked, and his velocity jumped up to the mid 80s.

“This season, Zach was a different fella,” Godlewski said.

It’s been a remarkable transformation so far, but to make it to pro ball, Mattos needs to keep developing.

“He’s a pro prospect, there’s no doubt about it, he just has to get that velocity to a certain point, and I know what that point is,” Godlewski said. “He’s got to get to that 90-plus mark, and he’s going to get there. I’ve talked to certain scouts and they’re keeping an eye on him, but they said, ‘Bob, right now he’s 85, 86, and the average fastball in the major leagues is 91, 92, so give us a call when he’s at that 89, 90 mark.’ ”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)




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