A Healthy Hagen Is A Happy Hagen

Let’s look through Matt Hagen’s Atlantic League resume, shall we?

Two seasons with Somerset.

Two championships.

Two All-Star Game appearances.

.313 batting average

27 home runs

146 RBI

59 stolen bases

And the list goes on.  It’s safe to assume that he didn’t need any references when he re-signed with Somerset for the 2010 season.  But if, for some reason, he did, it’s just as safe to assume that he’d have a clubhouse full of guys willing to provide them.

“This is a great group,” said the 30-year-old second baseman.

“I had a lot of fun with the guys over the last couple years.  And that’s all the way from the top down; from the front office to Sparky to Brett Jodie to everybody, it’s just the kind of place where you look forward to going to the ballpark every day.  You don’t ever feel like you’re going to have a bad day when you walk through those doors.”

And yet, there were some bad days last season for Hagen, who battled his way through injuries for seemingly the entire season, but especially during the second half.  Having rehabbed in Florida with current housemate Josh Pressley, the California-born slugger is optimistic he’ll be as good as new once Opening Day rolls around.

“I think by the time the season starts, I’ll be 100 percent,” he said.

“I’m definitely feeling a lot better than I did at the end of the season.  I feel close.  I’m not quite in game shape yet, I’ve got to do a little bit more running to get there, but I’m feeling a lot better.” 

Now healthy, Hagen is seemingly surrounded by all of his closest friends for another season in Somerset.  Jeff Nettles, Josh Pressley, Jason Belcher are among the notables returning to TD Bank Ballpark in 2010, and that core group of players is arguably the best of any Atlantic League nucleus. 

It also makes the answer to this question to Hagen very easy: Any reason you can’t win three in a row?

“I don’t think so,” he said.

“I think we’re going to be just as good as last year’s club, if not better.  And having experience doesn’t hurt, either.  I know with the guys who were there two years ago, it helped experience-wise with the playoffs last year.  I expect that everyone who experienced this last year for the first time, it’s only going to help them coming into this year.”

Atlantic League playoff experience is great, for sure.  But having been out of affiliated baseball since the end of the 2006 season, Hagen hasn’t exactly given up the thought of gaining some more affiliated experience, either.

“I don’t know if it’s in the front of my mind, but it’s definitely in your head,” Hagen told me.

“You see guys get picked up, and you’re excited for them.  You only want the best for the guys from the Atlantic League who’ve gotten back, you feel like those guys kind of represent you.  But it’s so far out of your control.  So many things have to go just right, it seems like.  I try not to worry about it too much.  If it happens, great.  If not, then I’m just going to enjoy my time in Somerset and do the best I can there.  It’s the best franchise in the best league.  You couldn’t ask for a whole lot more.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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