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Matt den Dekker didn't make the big leagues alone

Matt den Dekker
Matt den Dekker
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Like most athletes, New York Mets lead-off hitter Matt den Dekker didn't reach his dream of making the Major Leagues alone. He had help along the way.

But unlike most athletes, den Dekker was accompanied by his close cousin Kevin Chapman on his life long journey to the show.

The two are related from their mothers being sisters. They lived right across from each other in Fort Lauderdale, FL and from baseball to funny business, they did everything together.

“We used to live on a golf course,” Chapman said. “Me, [den Dekker] and a buddy skateboarded to the golf course and when adults would take their swing, we blew an air horn. The funniest thing is that we never expected them to chase after us, just yell at us.”

At Westminster Academy, the two cousins played like twins. They would alternate playing in the outfield and pitching every game. They didn't win a state title -- what with the whole playing against Major Leaguers such as Alex Avila, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Sean Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez -- but their best high school memory was when they were getting out and moving on up to the next level.

“He signed with Florida and then I ended up signing right after to go to Florida,” den Dekker said. “So we got a little signing/graduation party.”

As a senior, Den Dekker was a second-team All-State selection in 2006 after hitting .455 with 7 home runs as an outfielder, but had Chapman to thank for getting recruited by the Gators.

“I wasn’t really recruited heavily in high school,” den Dekker said. “He was one of the top prospects in South Florida and the coach from Florida would come watch him pitch and he saw me playing and was kind of talking a little bit. I ended up going to their camp and got a scholarship with them through that.”

The duo had plenty of success at Florida, but their favorite year was when they defeated South Carolina for the SEC Championship and went on to make an appearance in the College World Series. They were pretty good in the series but they had a symbolic moment at the end.

“He closed that game out and I caught the last out,” den Dekker said, “so it was kind of cool.”

Both Chapman and den Dekker were drafted in the 2010 MLB Draft. The two were excited that they have become professional baseball players after playing together throughout their entire childhoods.

“It was kind of like it was meant to be,” den Dekker said. “We never really wanted to separate or stop playing.”

But they had to. Den Dekker was drafted by the New York Mets and Chapman was drafted by the Houston Astros. So they had to finally forge their own path in the minors. That didn’t stop them from keeping in contact with one another.

“We’re always texting back and forth making sure we’re working hard trying to stay the course,” Chapman said.

Last year, the two finally got to face each other during Spring Training. They couldn't help but laugh at the idea of facing each other because of the familiarity they had with one other, which was contradictory to how they normally feel with their opponents. Chapman struck out den Dekker but den Dekker hit a triple off Chapman in the next at-bat. They settled for a draw.

Later that year, their dream finally became a reality. Both Chapman and den Dekker were called up in August. But Chapman came before den Dekker, and the news came in Las Vegas while the two were set to face each other in a Triple-A game.

“I got to him from the other side and I expected to face him but I got called up,” Chapman said. “I told him to keep balling and soon enough he was in the Majors, too.”

This year Chapman started the season with the Astros as their only lefty in the bullpen and den Dekker was in Triple-A Las Vegas. Chapman struggled and was quickly optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City while injuries prompt the Mets to give den Dekker a chance.

One day the two cousins will both be established Major Leaguers.

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