‘Never say no’: Matthew Batten blazing a path from Quinnipiac to the MLB


Photo Contributed by San Diego Padres

Matthew Batten made his MLB Debut with the San Diego Padres on June 30, 2022.

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

It is a small fraternity; heading into last summer, only one Quinnipiac baseball alumnus had reached baseball’s highest point. Back in 1993, right-handed pitcher Turk Wendell made his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs. For 34 years, Wendell stood alone.

That was until Matthew Batten joined that same group.

On June 30, 2022, the 2017 Quinnipiac graduate stepped onto a major league field with the San Diego Padres for the first time. The moment was the culmination of hard work and perseverance that encapsulated Batten’s baseball journey. From being drafted in the 35th round in his senior season to fighting for a roster spot during 2023 Spring Training, it has been a whirlwind to get to where he is now.

“You also reminisce (about) everything in your baseball career that’s got you to this point,” Batten said. “I was officially part of the fraternity of big leaguers, like that was just a surreal moment that I’ll definitely never forget.”

As the Bobcats’ all-time leader in hits (249) and stolen bases (55), Batten is widely considered by alumni as the greatest player in Quinnipiac’s lengthy program history. His numerous accolades, which include two selections to the All-MAAC team, are just some of the reasons why the Shelton, Connecticut, native has become gospel around Quinnipiac baseball.

Head coach John Delaney has coached some great players during his tenure in the Bobcats’ dugout, but Batten may just be the cream of the crop.

“He does a lot for the program, but he does even more for Connecticut,” Delaney said. “The kid came here over other schools, he came here strictly because he saw the passion that we have to win and to develop players … He’s there because he continues to push, that kid has earned every single opportunity he’s gotten.”

On the field, Batten was as competitive as could be. His willingness to do anything for the sake of the team was an attribute that was clear early on.

“My dream was to make the big leagues, but at that moment, it was, ‘How can I start (and) how can I help the team win?’” Batten said. “That experience, that work ethic is one of the big reasons I chose Quinnipiac.”

While some may see Quinnipiac baseball as a surprising launching pad for a future major leaguer, it was everything but for Batten’s collegiate teammates.

“It definitely didn’t catch me by surprise,” former Quinnipiac infielder Ryan Nelson said. “I mean, Matt is easily one of the hardest workers on and off the field. You know, always do an extra rep, stuff like that.”

Nelson went toe-to-toe with the draftee during their time as teammates. When Nelson was a graduate student and Batten was a senior, they were either first or second on the team in batting average, hits and doubles. The competitive fire was there, but it was nothing that put them at risk.

“There’s always going to be competition amongst teammates,” Nelson said. “I (tried) to avoid looking at stats at all during the season. He’ll tell you that he would love to beat me any day … that his favorite part of the day was beating me.”

Those extra reps and beating his own teammates helped build Batten into the player he is today. Playing left field for the Padres last season may not have been a surprise for those who watched him play at Quinnipiac. As a freshman who wanted to make his mark somehow, he was accustomed to playing more than one position. It was Delaney that instilled that in him, something he had never shared until now.

Matthew Batten played for Quinnipiac from 2014-2017. (Julia Gallop/Chronicle Archives (2017))

“He was the first one to pretty much tell me, ‘Never say no’ (to) whatever they asked (that) I could do,” Batten said. “So I played shortstop pretty much every day when I was at Quinnipiac, besides the first few games my freshman year … but that’s why I can play the outfield. I can play third base with confidence because it was him telling me like that was probably the best way to the big leagues. And he was spot on.”

The connection Batten formed with Delaney still resonates with the Shelton native to this day.

“I’m forever grateful,” Batten added. “To this day, he still is, if not my favorite, one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever had and I really connected with him well, which was a major reason for success at Quinnipiac personally and then getting drafted and where I’m at now.”

Batten may be a rookie at the professional level, but his work ethic and determination has been evident since his first days in Hamden. Not just by Delaney, but by the teammates that he shared a locker room with.

“He worked hard, he was quiet,” Nelson said. “But you can tell that he worked every single day and that didn’t change from day one, so that (was) the one consistency.”

Whether it was the three-straight seasons batting over .300 or being named to the 2015-16 NEIBA All-New England First Team, Batten’s meteoric rise was aided by one thing: giving him a chance.

“Prospects (are) all, in reality, opinions … You still have to go out there and play,” Batten said. “So at the end of the day, if you put in the work, it doesn’t matter if you’re (from) Quinnipiac, Vanderbilt, high school, it doesn’t matter. If you’re just out there playing and treating it like you belong, you’ll be in good shape.”

Batten’s brief stint in the MLB saw him suit up for 15 games and record two hits. He played all throughout the infield during the summer and even came onto the mound to make his pitching debut, only to allow just one run in two relief innings.

“(He) pitches now, which is crazy,” Delaney said. “It proves that if you want it, the amount of work it takes can get you there if you’re willing to put in the work … That’s where he’s different.”

As the current Bobcats look to write their own chapters and Batten looks to continue writing his major league chapter, all that matters is taking advantage of the opportunities given to you.

“The progression you saw from him as a freshman and all the way through his senior year,” Nelson said. “There was no doubt in my mind that he had a chance and for him, that’s all he needed.”