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DAILY BREEZE: Mustang Quite a Catch

May 3, 2007

The following feature by John Klima ran in the April 24, 2007 edition of the South Bay Daily Breeze.

In a recent Bay League game against Peninsula, Mira Costa's Matt Koch showed everything one might need to know about him as a high school catcher.

He nailed a runner at second base with a quick, strong and accurate throw.

He hit a home run to straightaway center field.

He also struggled to adjust to a few breaking balls, but this is high school baseball, where it's OK to learn on the job.

Put all those actions together and they add up to Koch's skill set. The catcher has thus far succeeded in one of the most important steps a young player must make: improving between his junior and senior year of high school baseball.

It's a natural progression for Koch, the fourth brother in his family to play baseball at Mira Costa.

Older brother Brady was a standout catcher before moving on to Loyola Marymount University and getting a taste of professional baseball. Brothers Chris and Scott also played for the Mustangs.

"I've been catching since I was 6," Matt Koch said. "My dad (Ron) put me back there in Little League because nobody else could do it."

Not much has changed.

After establishing himself last season, Koch is on pace to have a strong senior season.

In his first 20 games, Koch has five home runs, 20 RBIs and is hitting .406.

"I feel like I'm more mature from last year as a catcher," he said. "I feel like I have more power than I did last year. I lost about 15 pounds. Now I want to work on technique behind the plate."

Last season, Koch was a first-team Daily Breeze All-Area selection. As a junior, he hit .433 with six home runs, 37 RBIs and 11 doubles.

His arm strength and release times are above average for a high school player. As a hitter, he has the ability to lift the baseball.

"He was a good player last year and he worked hard to make himself a better player this year," Mira Costa coach Mike Neily said. "I think he's shown that he's a very good high school catcher and that he can succeed at the next level. He's been prepared by his brothers and I think that helps him a lot. He really solidifies our defense and the middle of our batting order."

Baseball is a family affair for the Koch clan. Matt's mother, Cathy, is president of the Mira Costa baseball booster club.

"It's a total family picture for them," Neily said. "It's fun to see."

Koch's skills and attributes should translate well at the collegiate level. Koch will play for Loyola Marymount, an inviting hitter's park for right-handers.

LMU has special meaning for Koch because his brothers played there.

"I had other options, but I like staying around here. Why leave?" he said. "I like the campus and the baseball field and I've been around it forever."

Koch said he's pleased with the progress he made entering this season.

"I wanted to be a team leader and keep hitting line drives," he said. "Don't let it get in your head when you get behind in the count. Don't go after bad pitches. Be smart behind the plate and don't do anything stupid."

He said he knows what awaits him at LMU.

"I'll have to work as hard as I can," he said. "(Frank Cruz) is very demanding. I want to improve as a catcher and a hitter and try to be a team leader at one point."

That transition began this year, with Koch being less hesitant to take charge of running a game.

"I'm a lot more vocal than I was last year," he said.

That goes for behind the plate as well at the plate.