Despite swirling trade rumors and questions about his role with the team, former SRU slugger Matt Adams signed a one-year, $2.8 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals to avoid arbitration on Jan. 12. Adams is under the Cardinal’s team control until 2019, when he is set to hit free agency. Adams has found success in professional baseball since his three years at The Rock.
He rose up through the Cardinal’s minor league system after being drafted in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft, finally reaching the majors in 2012.
In parts of five major league seasons, Adams has slashed .270/.314/.455 with 55 home runs and 210 runs batted in.
“We’re proud of him, he’s done really well,” Rock baseball head coach Jeff Messer said. “He’s still only 28 years old so hopefully he’s still going to have a bright future.”
Adams has struggled with injuries the past few years, playing in only 60 games in 2015 and getting only 327 at-bats last season.
Messer said that Adams has lost up to 25 pounds this off-season in hopes of staying healthy.
While it is uncommon for athletes from small schools like Slippery Rock to find success at the highest level of competition, anyone who had seen Adams play at SRU would not be surprised at what he has been able to do.
In three years at SRU (2007-09), Adams set the school career record for batting average (.454), slugging percentage (.746) and on-base percentage (.525).
He also ranks second in school history with 57 doubles, third with 148 runs batted in and fourth with 27 home runs.
Despite the long odds for Adams to make it to the majors, Messer said he never doubted him.
“You never think that any of your guys are going to go that far because it’s very, very difficult to make,” Messer said. “But he could always hit, whatever level he was at, be it the college ranks, the summer leagues we sent him to that were predominately big-time Division I players, single A, double A, triple A. He did good all the way through. He’s been pretty much exactly what we thought.”
SRU Athletic Director Paul Lueken thinks that having someone represent Slippery Rock in such a way is a boost to the school.
“It think it’s a nice outlet of exposure,” Lueken said. “We don’t get a lot of (national exposure) so it’s a positive. With Brandon Fusco (Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman, SRU graduate) and Matt (Adams), their success has been great for us. I know, with our unique name, the announcers often mention that Matt Adams is from Slippery Rock so it’s kind of fun.”
Messer thinks that if Adams had the opportunity to play every day he could see his next contract jump way up in value.
“If he could get 500 at bats, he’s going to go from $2.88 million to more like eight, nine or 10,” Messer said. “It’s going to be significantly higher, but he’s got to stay healthy.”