Written by Erik Bacharach Wednesday, 17 July 2013 00:00
Roslyn has proved to be the perfect breeding ground for University of Delaware star Matt Soren, who was selected June 8 by the Phillies in the 19th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball first year player draft.
And Roslyn is embracing its hometown hero. Support for Soren has poured in from the community since his name was called on draft day. Soren says that friends, former teammates, and even Roslyners he barely knows have left encouraging messages on Facebook and elsewhere—and he couldn’t appreciate it more.
“I’ve heard from all over the area, getting congrats and good luck, which I really appreciate,” he says. “It’s great to know that I have Roslyn behind me all the way and rooting me on.”
Soren’s baseball roots are deep in the town where he first picked up a glove. His father, Joel Soren, introduced him to the game when he was four years old, and the boy’s enthusiasm grew through many Saturday afternoon games at Christopher Morley Park.
“As soon as I could catch, throw and hit, it’s all I wanted to do,” Soren says. “From playing catch and whiffle ball with my dad in the front yard for hours to going to the batting cages twice a week to getting throws and swings in no matter what time of the year, I always had a passion for it.”
Soren’s natural talent was initially developed in Little League, where he experienced “some of the best moments of [his] life.” As an aspiring big leaguer, the young Soren showed remarkable focus.
“When other kids were going to birthday parties and going to the beach, I had tournaments and workouts,” he says.
His passion and skills were nurtured by those around him. He credits pitching coach Doug Hecker and fellow Roslyn grad Ethan Peck with having a priceless impact on hisabilities. But for his top influence and mentor, Soren points to his father, Joel.
“He coached me from a young age until my early teenage years. Everything I learned, I learned from him,” Soren says. “I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for him. He pushed me to be great.”
The success Soren found in his early years carried on into high school. By his senior year, he was about 6-3, 190 lbs. and consistently hitting the mid 80’s with his fastball, topping out at around 88 miles per hour. He was blowing away the opposition, and he had yet to peak.
At the University of Delaware, Soren grew two more inches and another 35 lbs., helping him to pack an even greater punch in his throwing arm. Soren called the difference between the pitcher he was as a freshman and the pitcher he was as a senior “astonishing.”
While he was consistently hitting 90 miles per hour as a sophomore in college, by his senior season, he was sitting at 92-94 miles per hour and peaking at 95. Reflecting upon his Little League days, Soren finds it “surreal” how hard he can throw now.
“And the crazy thing is,” Soren said, “I know I have even more in the tank.”
As he continues to build his game with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Soren looks to Matt Harvey, the New York Mets ace who has emerged as an early frontrunner for the Cy Young award this season, for pitching inspiration.
“Matt Harvey, that’s a guy I try to emulate,” Soren says. “Very composed, compact and consistent.”
Even in a Philadelphia uniform, Soren is still the same Long Islander he was in Little League, idolizing Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax and finding role models in Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. As a true fan of the pinstripes, Soren found some irony in being selected by their National League rivals.
“It’s pretty funny that I got picked by the Phillies,” he says. “Everyone that knows me, knows that I was a die hard Yankee fan growing up. But [the Phillies] are a first class organization and I couldn’t be happier with the situation I’m in.”
While Soren was the 20th Delaware alumnus to ever be drafted by Philadelphia, he’s currently the only Roslyn athlete active in professional sports. There’s a certain responsibility there, Soren acknowledges, and he has no plans of shying away from it.
“I want to make Roslyn proud,” Soren says. “And I want to put the town on the map for future athletes and show that anything is possible if you put the hard work in.”