By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
A lot can be said about senior infielder Matt Prokopowicz's character just by talking to him for six minutes. Not even three hours removed from being hit in the head while at bat in the first inning against NYIT on April 6, "Proko" took time to answer a few questions from The Chronicle staff.
Growing up in Massapequa, NY, Prokopowicz was part of a very supportive and close family. " My mom and my brother were always there for me," he said. "I'd go out into the back yard and play wiffle ball, pretending I was Ken Griffey Jr. trying to beat my brother, but that never happened. But those two are definitely the two biggest influences in my life.
They're the hardest workers I know and the two people that care most about me." Prokopowicz excelled at Massapequa High School, amassing a .500 career batting average with 18 home runs in four years of play. He lead the Chiefs to a state title in 2006 and was a two-time All-New York State selection.
Though many schools recruited Prokopowicz when he was coming out of high school, there was no question that Hofstra was the place for him. "Playing here gives my family the opportunity of seeing me everyday. The conference that we're in is close enough so that they can make the trip down and see me play," he said. "Hofstra as a whole has great academics and the campus is gorgeous and I felt home when I came here."
It seemed like Prokopowicz made his home right at University Field being named to the Freshman All-America teams by Baseball America and Ping! and was named CAA Rookie of the Year while leading the Pride in batting average (.416), hits (82) and home runs (6).
Prokopowicz saw no sophomore slump in 2008 as he was named to the All-CAA third team and The College Baseball Blog's Top 50 Players to Watch in 2009. Once again, he led the team in home runs (8) as well as RBI's (39) and slugging percentage (.432).
The success at the plate continued into his junior year when he batted .344 and lead the Pride in RBI's for the second consecutive year. He set a new school record in the home opener (since broken by senior outfielder Ethan Paquette) against St. John's driving in eight runs while going 4-6.
While Prokopowicz has played on a high level the team has not achieved the same level of success and much of the pressure falls on the senior infielder's shoulders. "It's more lead by example. I'm not big on talking, cheering or getting the guys up but going out there and playing hard and playing the game right is one of my best qualities," he said.
The Pride have gotten out to a slow start this season, starting 0-10 before getting to 11-17 where the team currently stands, but the team like Prokopowicz has remained aggressive. "You have to take it one pitch at a time. Every at bat I go up there, look for a first pitch fastball and if it is there I'm going to swing," Prokopowicz said.
If Prokopowicz keeps doing what he knows best, his family may have to travel a lot further to see him in the Major Leagues. "I don't care if it's the last pick in the last round, I just want that shot," he said.