Prep Baseball Report

Q&A With Michigan State Commit CJ Deckinga

By: Peter Hamot
Area Scout, Staff Writer

Few players have risen within the state quite like 3B/OF CJ Deckinga (Minooka, 2025) did this past year, jumping 74 spots within our rankings since April and now sitting at No. 5 in Illinois. Deckinga took the Future Games by storm this past summer, where he quickly made his name known on the workout day with his loose and projectable swing. He wasted no time from a production standpoint in gameplay, homering in game one and collecting numerous hits throughout the entirety of the event. Listed at 6-foot-4, 180-pounds, there's a lot to dream on with Deckinga just by looking at him, but his upside swing and defensive abilities around the diamond make him an uber-intriguing prospect at the next level. He'll be a fun one to watch this spring as he'll look to help lead Minooka to another deep playoff push. 

We recently had the chance to talk through Deckinga's recuitment process, his time at the Future Games, and more below. 

Our Q&A

PBR: What were your expectations about the recruiting process? What were you looking for out of a college program to continue your baseball career at?

CJ: My coaches told me to expect 10-15 phone calls, but when August 1st hit, I got 52 phone calls within the first week. I was looking for a strong academic school with a solid athletic program. I also wanted to go somewhere with a well-developed team culture.

P: Did location or distance from home play a factor in your decision?

CJ: I wanted to stay somewhere in the Midwest because it's important to me to have my family watch me play. They invested a lot of time and money into my baseball career, and I want them to be able to see me play as much as possible at the next level.

P: When did the recruiting process really start to heat up for you? Where did the school you committed to first see you play?

CJ: Even though there were scouts at most tournaments we played over the summer, recruiting started to get intense with a lot of coaches watching when I was playing for Team Illinois at the Future Games. It continued on August 1st and the following weeks. I was definitely not expecting that level of interest in me. I'm just a kid from Minooka who loves was all just so surreal to me. I am just humbled by everything. 

P: What do you like most about the program you chose, and what were the key factors in making your decision?

CJ: I definitely love the Michigan State coaching staff. I really feel like I have gotten to know them over the last 11 months. I love MSU's player development programs and just fell in love with the campus. MSU just feels like home to me. I really like being able to text and call the coaches anytime to catch up. I really respect them all, and they are very relatable. I feel like I have known them forever. You can see the culture they have built in every player you talk to.

P: What other schools were on your short list before you made your final decision?

CJ: Iowa, Purdue, Illinois and Kentucky.

P: Who is the best player you have faced in your state? What about them makes for a tough opponent?

CJ: Ethan Eberle from Normal Community HS is an amazing player. His arm slot from the left side paired with the movement and control of his pitches makes him a tough opponent.

P: At what point in your career did you realize you were a college-caliber player and became serious about taking your game to the next level?

CJ: I've always been serious about taking my game to the next level, but it really started to hit me during my 16U summer travel season that I could compete at the college level. I had always dreamed of that, but during this last summer season, I realized that my dreams of playing college ball could come true.

P: What advice would you give to young baseball players striving to get where you are?

CJ: Definitely put in the work every single day. You have to do a lot of work on your own. Put as much effort into academics as you put into baseball. I would also tell young players that no matter what negative things people may say, just let it drive you to work even harder. Use it to fuel your work ethic and determination.  

P: What is the most memorable moment in your baseball career to this point?

CJ: Future Games was definitely a week I will never forget. Another incredible week was my 12U Cooperstown trip to Dreams Park. We were there in 2019 the week before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony of Jim Thome. I got to see his plaque in the museum and take a picture by it, and this fall I was able to work with him. It was definitely a full-circle and surreal moment for me.

P: Preview your high school team's season for us. How do you feel your team will be?

CJ: I think the Indians will definitely be tough to beat and will make a run in the playoffs. The team has a tight bond, and I am thankful to play with the best. 

P: How did the Future Games and/or the Illinois State Games affect your recruitment process? Did you receive more attention following the event(s)?

CJ: Starting in February of 2022, I was sending consistent email updates and posting film for 40+ schools at all levels to view to get on their radars. It was exciting to see so many of those schools/coaches represented at the Future Games. Future Games really helped my exposure to southern schools, too, most of which weren't even on my radar before. I believe Future Games created a lot more attention for me.   

P: If you could steal any tool or quality from another player in the state, what would it be and who would it be from?

CJ: I would definitely steal Jack Bauer's electric arm. The spin rates on his fastball and slider are amazing.

P: Who is the next talented young player to keep an eye on out of your high school or travel program?

CJ: Brady Kozlowski from Minooka HS is definitely one to watch for. As a freshman on the sophomore team, he held his own on both the offensive side and defensive side. He's just a great person, too. He's a great teammate who always has positive body language.

P: Did Prep Baseball assist in your recruiting? Whether it be through a showcase, tournament coverage, tweets, etc? 

CJ: By attending PBR showcases the past few years, it helped me store my metrics/data and get on schools' radars. The Twitter coverage helped a lot because it provided actual game footage for coaches and other people in baseball to see. The coverage at Future Games was incredible, and PBR really helped keep me relevant. I really felt like PBR was along with me for this journey. It was awesome to get to know PBR guys like Drew Locascio, who was my Team Illinois coach. It was humbling that Diego Solares and Shooter Hunt were invested in me as well. It was awesome to hear their input throughout the summer.

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