Kata, who came on as a pinch hitter and singled in his first at bat in a Phillies uniform Sunday, will get the chance to play at the big league level, providing depth for the Phillies as they try to make a run in both the NL East and the NL Wild Card races, and no one, especially in the Diamondbacks organization would possibly begrudge him that chance. None the less, there are those who sort of wish he had been able to stay a D'Back.
"I'll be honest, it was extremely hard to lose Matt Kata on this team. We lost Scott Hairston, Koyie Hill and Matt Kata in three days, and that's our number two, number three, and number five hitters all gone in three days." Manager Chip Hale said, and Kata's loss hurts far more often that just when Hale is filling out the lineups.
"The thing about Matt Kata is that he is just the ultimate pro. I had him in Double-A for 144 games a couple years ago, and then this season for a long time, and the thing you notice when you're around him everyday is that this kid is way ahead of his time, as far as his age, in taking care of his body."
Hale knows that Kata is moving to a better situation, and that perhaps, is the silver lining in this deal as far as Hale is concerned.
"He was a fantastic player, and the one nice thing for me, and for him, about this deal is that you're seeing a guy get traded from Triple-A and go to the big leagues. You want to see the guys you coach in the minors go to the big leagues with the same organization, but sometimes that doesn't happen, because sometimes you just have to give up someone you like in order to get something the team needs."
Kata, who was hitting over .300 and playing multiple positions for the Sidewinders, was a fan favorite, and one of Hale's favorite fan favorites.
"He's my 13 year old son's favorite player, and just a tremendous human being," and the raves don't stop there, "We've got guys like Andy Green and some other guys at lower levels, so I think in baseball terms we can replace Matt, but I don't ever think you're going to replace the type of player he was for guys like Carlos Quentin, who Matt was really spectacular at helping out. He was just fantastic with Carlos Quentin, really working with him as far as preparation, how to go about things before the game, after the game, in warm ups, and that's hard to find in a player, because all these guys are so concerned with their own game, and Matt was just like anybody else, always working on his game, but he would help out so much with the other guys too. You just can't replace that."
We at FutureBacks.com were huge favorites of Kata as well. Though (we hope) he would never remember it, Kata was one of the first players we talked to in person, and it was by mistake. A reporter (we won't be any more specific than to say if you've read the site you've certainly read his work), wandered up to Kata during Spring Training, and asked him a very simple question.
REPORTER: Hey Lance, how are you feeling this year, do you think you have a shot at making the Diamondbacks bullpen this year out of the Spring?
Kata smiled, and as the reporter eagerly clutched his notebook, ready to take down what he was hoping would be a great quote, he answered.
MATT KATA: Well, I'm hoping to make the roster as a utility type player, but I'm not sure how much they are going to use me on the mound, my curve ball hasn't really been breaking much the last 10 years or so.
It wasn't hard to tell that the reporter, now crimson faced and looking for a hole to crawl into, was embarrassed, and a funny thing happened, Matt Kata genuinely felt bad. He pointed across the field to Lance Cormier, who was throwing long toss.
"Lance is right over there, and if he gives you any problems you tell him Matt said he should talk to you."
Later in the day we saw Kata again, and trying to be funny, called out, "Hey Lance, did the curve ball start breaking today?"
"Yeah," Kata responded, "I've been working on it with Matt Kata, he's really helped me out a lot."
Best of luck Matt, and congratulations Philadelphia, you've got yourself a winner.