Earlier this summer, Vermont Mountaineers baseball coach Charlie Barbieri pulled catcher Matt Oldham aside and into the batting cage.
Oldham, a former Northwood high school baseball star playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League this summer, said that while he had some prior success that summer, Barbieri made a few adjustments to his swing and worked with him on new drills.
The next day, the backstop hit a home run, one of his eight long balls this summer, earning him a spot at the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. Oldham hopes that this success will benefit him in his next opportunity.
After spending four years at Elon University, Oldham committed to North Carolina State as a graduate transfer. With more than 400 college at-bats and 118 games started behind the plate, Oldham hopes to provide experience and leadership to a program coming off a College World Series appearance.
“I bring a lot of veteranship to the table and knowledge that a lot of the young guys may not have or may not have experience doing,” Oldham said. “I’ve caught a lot of great pitchers in my career. That’s something that N.C. State has. I think I’ll be able to handle them and be able to swing the bat a little bit too.”
Oldham waited to commit to N.C. State until after the MLB Draft because he wanted to find the situation and place that was the best fit for him. The Wolfpack had their starting catcher, Luca Tresh, selected in the draft and he saw an opportunity to compete for the starting job right away next year. That’s why, although being contacted by Clemson and Rutgers among other schools, he chose to stay close to home.
“The opportunity to play in the ACC, (that) should pretty much sell itself right there. You’re playing in Raleigh, at a great university, 45 minutes away from home. I couldn’t think of a better situation than N.C. State.”
Rick Parks, Oldham’s high school baseball coach, has remained in close contact with his former student. He helped Oldham think about life after baseball when he was considering a transfer destination and knew how valuable he would be at N.C. State.
“He works hard at the game of baseball,” Parks said. “It’s like almost his craft, his passion. The opportunities that have come up these past few weeks, months, years is a direct correlation to his hard work.”
Oldham is a career .238 hitter with seven home runs and in 2020, tied for the league lead in runners caught stealing. This summer, he said that he’s used platforms such as TrackMan and Synergy to look at advanced analytics like spin rate. It has helped him see what pitches he’s hitting well and the ones he should lay off of. He has also played around with different techniques such as catching on one knee to see if it helps him frame pitches at a higher level.
“A lot of the tools that we have here, I didn’t have at Elon or have access to,” Oldham said. “They’ve really benefited me because now I’m able to take the data in my own hands and use it the way I want to.”
He credits his time at Elon for helping him grow both on and off the field and bringing him some of his closest friends.
“You don’t really remember the stats and the outs or home runs, but you remember the good times with your teammates on and off the field,” Oldham said. “There’s friends that I’ve made that will be at my wedding someday.”
But now, he’s on to Raleigh, where he will have the opportunity to play college baseball for one more season, and Parks believes he’s got a shot to be an impact player.
“He’s got a smooth looking left handed swing and it plays,” Parks said. “He’s solid behind the plate, he’s got a lot of experience and he’s got a strong arm. Where that directly correlates when shows up at N.C. State, I don’t know. But I know he’s got a chance. I know he’s in a good position.”
Reporter Max Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Maxbaker_15.