Jan. 30, 2012
BERKELEY -Senior Matt Flemer has been a motivating force for the California baseball program with his positive attitude and leadership. As a junior in 2011, Flemer was the Golden Bears' closer and had the privilege of finishing two of the biggest games in Cal history: earning a save in the Bears' 6-2 victory over Dallas Baptist to clinch the Santa Clara Super Regional, and earning a save in Cal's 7-3 win over Texas A&M in the College World Series to give the Bears their first CWS victory in 31 years.
Calbears.com had a chance to talk with the talented right-hander as Cal prepares for the upcoming 2012 season beginning Feb. 17 versus Pacific at 1:30 p.m. at Evans Diamond. Fans can also get a preview this year's team and help celebrate the 2011 squad's achievements at the Fan Fest, Saturday, Feb. 11 at Evans Diamond. Festivities begin at 11 a.m. and an intersquad scrimmage will begin at 1 p.m.
Q: How has spring practice been going since you no longer have to worry about reinstatement, and with all you achieved at the College World Series?
A: Spring practice has been going well. Obviously were very excited to be playing this season after all the uncertainty at this point last year, but the goals are still the same. We have the same goals that we did last year, winning a conference title and going to Omaha. But now we know what it takes to get there and the work that needs to be done to accomplish these goals.
Q: What were the reasons you came back for your senior season after being drafted by the Kansas City Royals?
A: There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to return for my senior year. But that doesn't mean it was an easy decision. Becoming a professional baseball player is something that I've dreamed about ever since I was a kid, and the Royals gave me the opportunity to follow my dreams. There were many reasons to take their offer and move on, but at the same time I just couldn't leave here. Finishing my degree was a major factor in returning to Cal. Having the chance to play in front of my family and friends was another. But the final factor that really capped it off for me to return was the team and guys that we had coming back this year. We have a real opportunity to win a national championship this year, and to be able to do it with the group of guys we have and the different characters we have on this team was too great to pass up.
Q: Your parents, Paul and Ann, have been very involved in the Cal Baseball Foundation. Has that been a motivating factor for you?
A: It has. Like a lot of parents at this point last year, they were very frustrated with the possible elimination of our program. The time and effort that they have put in, along with everyone who is a part of the Cal Baseball Foundation, has motivated me throughout the past year and a half. We knew as a team the only way to repay them for everything that they have done is to go to Omaha. We did that last year, but this year we want to bring them a big trophy at the end of the year.
Q: You were Cal's closer last year but will be transitioning into a starter this season. How has that transition been going?
A: That transition has been going smoothly. Obviously as a closer last year it was more based on judging the situations of the game and preparing for the 8th and 9th innings. This year it's more about navigating the game and what situations pop up during the game. I have been working very hard on building my stamina to last 7 or 8 innings rather than one inning. But I think with the variety of pitches that I throw and the command I have been working on with Coach (Mike) Neu, I'll be right where I need to be come February 18th.
Q: How would you describe the low points and the high points of last season?
A: Well,the low point would be in September when our program was cut for the first time, and then when we weren't reinstated in February. But we were able to overcome every punch that we took. Andrew Knapp's walkoff hit against Utah that first weekend was an unbelievable feeling. Then we went to Coastal Carolina and showed the nation we were a dangerous team. Just the way we were able to overcome every obstacle, whether it was finishing our regular season playing bad baseball or losing our first game in Houston, we always fought back. The whole season itself was a high point because of the way we played for each other and those who were helping save our program.
Q: What was the highlight for you at the Houston Regional?
A: I'd say there were two highlights that I will always remember from Houston. First would be waiting out the rain delay against Rice and coming back to score three runs in the ninth inning to beat them at their own place. The second one has become famous on YouTube, but Devon's (Rodriguez) hit to win the game after scoring four runs in the ninth inning against Baylor was the greatest single feeling I've felt as a Cal Bear. The happiness that everyone felt when Tony (Renda) scored was something I know I'll never forget.
Q: What was the highlight for you at the Santa Clara Super Regional?
A: For me it was seeing Derek Campbell catch that line drive to end the second game to send us to Omaha. Being on the mound for that moment and being underneath the dog pile on the mound was an amazing feeling. But the way Erik Johnson and Justin Jones pitched that weekend was unbelievable. All we had heard was how good Dallas Baptist could hit and how they had one of the best offenses in the country. Erik and Jones gave it to them and gave us the feeling that we were the team that was going to move on to Omaha.
Q: What was the highlight for you at the College World Series?
A: On the field, it had to be getting the final out in our win against Texas A&M to give us our first win at the College World Series in 30 years. That was the perfect game to represent our season as a whole. We went down 1-0, coach grabbed us and from that point we took off. Offense, defense, pitching, we played such a team game. (Kyle) Porter was awesome that game and guys like Darrel (Matthews) and Derek (Campbell) and Mitch (Delfino) stepped up huge for us at the plate. Off the field, we had the opportunity to visit the Children's Hospital in Omaha and meet some of the kids that were suffering from diseases. To see the joy on those children's faces when we gave them signed baseballs and took pictures with them, it made everything that we had gone through earlier in the year seem so miniscule. It was such a wonderful and humbling experience.
Q: What lessons did you learn last season?
A: Take whatever negative situation you may be in and make it as positive as possible. We continued to work hard as a team during a time of turmoil, fighting through the struggles we had at the end of the year, being one loss away from elimination in Houston. We always stayed positive. We can only control what we do on the field, in between the white lines. We knew we could only take care of what we could control, what we would have an impact on. And I think that motivated everyone involved in our season last year.
Q: What are your goals for the 2012 season?
A: I'd like to be the best pitcher in the conference and to be on the best pitching staff in the conference. We have a lot of talent on our staff, from the starters to the relievers. We know the type of guys we have coming back on offense and the runs that they're going to produce for us. So we have to step up as a staff this season, and I have the utmost faith in the guys we have that we're going to do that. I feel like if we can do the simple things, a conference title is a real possibility for our team. And with that goal comes the desire to win a national title.