SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cody Decker is one of those baseball lifers. A 22nd-round pick by the Padres in the 2009 Draft, it took him seven years, 761 Minor League games and 2,556 at-bats before making it to the Major Leagues this past September.
This spring with the Royals, he finds himself in a familiar situation: In camp trying to win a job.
"I'm just trying to fight for a spot," Decker told MLB.com this weekend in the new Royals clubhouse behind Surprise Stadium. "These guys are putting me in a good position. They're giving me at-bats. I'm giving it my best shot to make this team. I feel like I'm playing well. Let's see how camp progresses."
Decker is 29 years old and grew up in Santa Monica, Calif. He's an affable young man with a great sense of humor. The kind of guy you love to root for in his seemingly endless quest to land a spot on a 25-man big league roster, any 25-man roster.
Mostly he's played first base this spring, but Decker can also catch, play third and the corner-outfield spots. He had one of his best days for the Royals on Friday with a single and a homer in a 7-4 win over the Angels while most of the current squad was in San Antonio playing the Rangers at the Alamodome. Decker also booted a ball at first base for an error.
"That really made me mad," Decker said. "I don't make many errors at first base."
He is batting .308 (8-for-26) with two homers, two doubles and four RBIs in 13 Cactus League games. The rest of his slash line also reads well: a .379 on-base percentage and a .995 OPS.
The Royals are definitely giving him a good chance, which is all Decker can ask.
"The coaching staff here is unbelievable," he said. "The players have been great."
The story about how Decker finally made it to the Major Leagues is worth retelling.
Decker had consistently put up power numbers playing for San Diego's Triple-A team, which has been located in El Paso, Texas, the past two seasons and previously was in Tucson, Ariz. Power numbers are always skewed in the Pacific Coast League, where many teams play in high altitude or desert environments.
Decker hit 67 homers during the course of those three seasons, 21 last year to go along with 75 RBIs, and he didn't get a sniff from the big league club.
Thus, when the Chihuahuas were eliminated from the playoffs in mid-September, Decker figured his season was over, and the Padres didn't give him any reason to alter that perception. He went home for the Jewish holidays and was waiting for luggage to come off the rack at LAX when his cell phone began to ring.
It was Sept. 13, and the Padres were opening a three-game series against the D-backs at Chase Field the next night. A voice on the other end of the line told him to reroute to Phoenix immediately.
Decker is a prankster of the highest order. In 2014, playing in El Paso, he convinced buddy Jeff Francoeur that another teammate was deaf. So with all this as background, Decker figured the call was a prank.
"I was standing at baggage claim and I thought it was a joke, somebody pranking me," Decker said at the time. "I thought Francoeur was behind it."
Francoeur certainly owed him one, but it was no prank. Well before batting practice on Sept. 14, Decker was in a corner of the visitors' clubhouse at Chase Field, donning a big league uniform for a Major League game for the first time. He was given No. 28.
"That turned out to be one of the greatest days in my life," Decker said this weekend.
The evening was just beginning. Decker had a rooting section of Padres fans behind their first-base dugout well aware of all he had gone through in that organization. By the late innings, they were chanting his name, urging then interim manager Pat Murphy to give him an at-bat.
In the ninth inning of what was a blowout Padres victory, Murphy obliged. Decker was given a standing ovation from this group of loyal fans. We'd love to report that the storybook evening continued on that type of note, but it didn't. Decker popped out to first.
Murphy said he was thrilled to fulfill Decker's dream by putting him in there. Decker was thrilled, period. But it was the beginning of the end for him in San Diego. Decker had 11 at-bats in eight games and still doesn't have a Major League hit.
On Nov. 3, he received another call from the Padres. This time there was no sense that Decker was being pranked.
"I was told that I was being taken off the roster and that I would be a free agent in three days," Decker said. "That was it."
No explanation for the move was given and none was requested. Not even a thank you after seven years of service. After 761 Minor League games, it would've been nice.
"They didn't have to do that. They're under no obligation," Decker said. "I had seven good years there and I'm happy about my time there."
That's all behind Decker now. He's with an organization that's been to the World Series the last two falls -- beating the Mets in 2015 -- after a long period of time wandering through the wilderness themselves.
For Decker, it's a perfect fit.
"I think I'm in a very good place here," he said. "So far, so good. I love the people here. I love the way they treat people here. I love it."
Good guys deserve good outcomes. Hopefully it will all work out for Decker.