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How Matt Boyd made his dream come true

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State's Matt Boyd wanted to pitch in the College World Series. And, boy, did he pitch for the Beavers on Wednesday, going the distance in a 1-0 must-win over Indiana.OMAHA, Neb. -- Before he left the Embassy Suites for the team bus headed to TD Ameritrade Park on Wednesday, Matt Boyd stopped by the room of his parents.

There was a little chit chat. Then it was time to go.

"How you feeling?" Kurt Boyd asked.

"Feeling really well," Matt replied.

"You know, your college career could end tonight," Kurt said.

After a pause, Matt looked his father in the eyes.

"Not now. No way," he said. "It's not going to end today."

"He gave me a big hug, and he was out the door," says Kurt Boyd, choking up at the thought. "And then he went out on that mound and … it was almost surreal to watch what he did out there on that grand stage."

Matt Boyd's four-hit gem propelled Oregon State to a 1-0 victory Indiana that keeps the Beavers alive in the College World Series losers' bracket. They now have to beat Mississippi State -- a 5-4 victor over OSU in the CWS opener last Saturday -- two in a row to advance to the best-of-three championship series.

Don't tell Kurt Boyd the Beavers can't get it done.

"This team is so bonded together chemistry-wise," says the senior Boyd, 55, a construction manager who lives in Mercer Island Wash., with wife Lisa, 48, a real-estate broker. "Mississippi State will be an interesting game. (The OSU players) wanted the rematch. The way (the Bulldogs) went about things during and after that win rubbed some people the wrong way."

Kurt Boyd is a Medford native whose parents still live in southern Oregon. He attended Washington with the intention of playing football, but a knee injury cut his career short.

"Matt grew up with a mom and dad who were Huskies," Kurt says. "They only got interested him after Oregon State and Washington State had offered him. Oregon State was the best place for him, anyway. Now he bleeds orange and black. He loves his school."

The Beavers recruited Boyd as a two-way player, and as a freshman he played some first base and designated hitter, batting .264 with six doubles and three home runs in 29 games. Kurt Boyd heard one coach say his son was the best pitcher-first baseman to come out Washington since John Olerud.

"But I never thought Matt would see the mound at Oregon State, because their pitching staff was so strong," Kurt says.

Matt Boyd's dream as a kid was to play in the College World Series. That dream was rekindled when, after his junior season, the 6-3, 215-pound left-hander turned down a six-figure signing bonus last summer as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds.

All Boyd did this season was become OSU's Friday night starter, earn first-team all-Pac-12 recognition and pitch the game of his life with his team's national championship hopes on the line. Two weeks ago, the Toronto Blue Jays took him in the sixth round of the draft. Boyd's gamble paid off, but it wasn't about improving his draft stock.

"That may have crossed his mind," Kurt Boyd says, "but he really wanted to come back to be with his buds, his coaches at Oregon State. And to try to help them get to the (College) World Series."

Players who return for their senior year have no leverage in negotiating a pro contract. Boyd took that into consideration and still chose to return to Oregon State.

"Dad played a big part in it," Matt Boyd says. "He said, 'It's your decision,' but he told me what he thought I should do. He recommended that I come back. He knew I had more to prove here. He envisioned it as a win-win (situation), and it really was."

Kurt Boyd is more than Matt's father. Kurt coached Matt from T-ball and Little League and through two years at Mercer Island and Eastside Catholic high schools. Kurt, who has coached baseball for 29 years, created the Mudville Pinnacle summer team primarily for his son and continues to serve as its head coach.

"Dad's always going to be my coach," Matt says. "He was my first coach. He taught me the game, the intangibles, the stuff about toughness and battling through adversity. That's the biggest thing that resonated with me and has paid dividends in the long run."

Sometimes, father/coaches can be problems for college coaches. They can interfere and mettle and be a distraction. That's not Kurt Boyd, who gets along fine with OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie, though there has been some middle ground reached in terms of philosophy over the past four years.

"Matt's dad has always been his biggest advocate," Yeskie says. "He kept telling us about his toughness. Sometimes you take it with a grain of salt. After all, he's the kid's dad. But Kurt has been right all along. He knows his kid as good as anybody.

"We've wised up in some areas and looked at things a little bit different with him, and we've stayed firm on some other things. The marriage of those two perspectives has allowed Matt to become who he is right now. I wish he had more eligibility. His better years are ahead of him. Toronto got a steal."

When the Reds chose Boyd in the 2012 draft, spring term was still in session at OSU. At his father's behest, Matt sat down with Yeskie and OSU head coach Pat Casey. One of the things they told Matt, who had been a reliever through his first three seasons, is that he would be given the opportunity to be a starter.

"I wanted him to talk to them and thank them for what they have done for him," Kurt says. "Without them, all this would have never happened. Pat and Nate and all the coaches have been great with Matt. There's a strong element of trust. Matt wouldn't have made the decision if he didn't trust his coaches.

"After he returned home (to Mercer Island), negotiations were going on (with the Reds). The head of the scouting department told me (the delay in signing) was costing Matt money. I told him I had already set up a flight for Matt to the Cape."

Boyd pitched 11 games for Orleans of the Cape Cod League, starting three, all the while working on a personal trainer's regimen to gain strength.

"About three weeks after he'd been there, maybe four or five days before the deadline (to make a signing decision), it hit him," Kurt Boyd says. "He woke up one morning, called me and said, 'Dad, I'm coming back to Oregon State.' "

Boyd started the season with a 6-0 record, including a two-hit, seven-inning performance against Arizona and a one-hit, 11-strikeout masterpiece in a 5-0 win over Arizona State. Two outings later, he threw a two-hit shutout against Utah. Boyd, 11-4 with a 2.04 ERA, has been all about consistency. In his 18 starts, he has never given up more than three earned runs and only once has gone fewer than six innings.

The coup de grace was Wednesday's jewel against an Indiana team that came into the game batting .303 and hadn't been shut out all season.

"I guess it shouldn't have surprised anybody," Yeskie says. "Matt's always had a point to prove."

Boyd is one of the most popular players on the Oregon State team, both with the players and coaches.

"Any time you see a great kid like Matt, all you have to do is look at the parents," says veteran OSU assistant coach Pat Bailey, who has known the Boyds for years. "I've been doing this for 36 years. I know it's a reflection of the family. One of the most important qualities you can have as a player and a person is humility. Matt has such a good head on his shoulders."

"Matt gets that from his mom," Kurt Boyd says, chuckling. "It's not me. Matt was like a pied piper in school, at church growing up. His makeup is like his mom's. My daughter's makeup is more like mine."

Jessica Boyd, incidentally, is also coming to Oregon State. A four-year varsity softball letter-winner at Eastside Catholic, she had offers to play in college. She'll be a freshman in the fall.

"Softball is not her passion," Kurt says. "She's a brainiac. She'd like to work in sports management some day, and she wants to be a Beaver."

Her brother may have thrown his final pitch as a Beaver.

"He knows it's coming to an end," Kurt says. "College life and the school part have been great, but the tight-knit relationship he has with his coaches and teammates -- you just don't see that. It's hard to give that up. Matt knew that when he made the decision to come back."

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