Saturday May 2, 2009Former Gator Matt LaPorta Called Up To The Big Leagues
Former University of Florida All-American first baseman Matt LaPorta was called up by the Cleveland Indians from the Class AAA Columbus Clippers on Saturday. He could potentially make his Major League Debut against the Detroit Tigers this weekend at Comerica Park.
Indians’ manager Eric Wedge said that the 24-year-old LaPorta, who was batting .333 with five homers, 14 runs batted in and a 1.054 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) in 21 games at Columbus, will serve as the right-handed complement to left-handed veteran David Dellucci. That could mean LaPorta is due to see regular playing time against left-handed starting pitchers. The Tribe will face a pair of southpaws in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday.
"We're going to take it day by day," said Wedge. "But he's coming up here for a reason. He's been swinging the bat well down there."
The 2007 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and a consensus All-American, LaPorta became the seventh player in school history to eclipse the .400 plateau in a campaign with a .402 batting average. He established single-season marks for both slugging percentage (.817) and on-base percentage (.582) and led UF in home runs for the third-consecutive year with 20 round-trippers. A finalist for the prestigious USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award and the Brooks Wallace Award, LaPorta completed his collegiate career third on the SEC's all-time list with 74 dingers, a total which ranks among the top 10 in Division I history. His 206 runs batted in are second on UF's chart behind Brad Wilkerson (214) and he was the squad's leader in nine different offensive categories during the '07 season.
A first-team All-SEC pick for the second time, LaPorta batted a league-high .446 in league play and ranked first in slugging percentage (.904) and on-base percentage (.627) in his final campaign. He boasted a career-high 20-game hitting streak between March 23 and May 4, 2007, a span in which he batted .466. In addition, the first baseman reached base in 51 of the 52 games he played and totaled 20 multiple-hit outings and 13 multiple-RBI games. LaPorta struck out just 16 times in 244 plate appearances and drew an SEC-best 55 walks, 30 of which were intentional.
He was the first player in SEC history to receive the league's Player of the Year accolade twice and set a school record by being tabbed as the SEC Player of the Week five times. In the Gator record book, LaPorta is also first in times hit by a pitch (51), third in slugging percentage (.681), fourth in walks (140), fifth in runs (197) and tied for ninth in on-base percentage (.459). He was just the fifth Gator to achieve All-America status in multiple years, joining Perry McGriff (1959, 1960), Tom Moore (1962, 1963), David Eckstein (1996, 1997) and Wilkerson (1996, 1997, 1998). In addition, he is one of three UF players to earn first-team All-South Region twice, along with Jim Watkins (1978, 1979) and Scott Ruskin (1984, 1985).
LaPorta was selected seventh overall in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, and was named to the 2008 All-Star team in the Class AA Southern League. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians' organization as part of a package for Cy Young winner CC Sabathia last July. LaPorta earned a bronze medal while representing the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, China.