JJ Matijevic returns to baseball, says he learned lesson during suspension | TribLIVE.com
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JJ Matijevic returns to baseball, says he learned lesson during suspension

Bill Beckner
Corpus Christi Hooks
JJ Matijevic, a Norwin grad, is back with the Class Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks after serving a 50-game suspension.
Corpus Christi Hooks
Norwin grad JJ Matijevic has six home runs in his past 10 games since returning from a 50-game suspension June 21.

Humbled and motivated by mistakes, slugger JJ Matijevic is back in the swing of things.

Matijevic, a minor leaguer with the Houston Astros, recently returned from a 50-game suspension for violating league rules pertaining to the use of banned drugs. The former Norwin and Arizona star twice failed a test for a drug that was not revealed by the commissioner’s office in April.

Matijevic has come back with abandon, producing a pair of two-home run games and belting five homers since he was cleared to play again June 21.

More than a wake-up call, the free-and-easy Matijevic considers the suspension a life-changing event.

“I not only became a better baseball player through this down time,” he said, “but also a better person, and that means more.”

Matijevic was with Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League when he was suspended and upon his return was sent down to Class A-Advanced Fayetteville Woodpeckers, a member of the Carolina League.

Just five games later and off the hook, he was promoted back to Corpus Christi, where he hit four homers and drive in seven in six games.

He has six home runs in his last 10 games. He went 3 for 5 with two homers and five RBIs — a two-run, two-out homer, and a three-run shot — Tuesday against the Frisco RoughRiders.

Staying baseball-ready was a key challenge during the suspension, but Matijevic put in plenty of work in the cage to preserve his timing and power. He said he worked closely with coaches to stay sharp.

“The down time was tough, but I take pride in being a very mentally strong human being, and I just did my best to stay as positive as possible through it all,” Matijevic said. “What I learned was that life is more (than) about baseball. Life is about learning and overcoming adversity, so what I do is take each day and do my best to learn more and become the best JJ that I can be.”

In 25 games this season with the Hooks, Matijevic carries a .253 average with six homers, six doubles and 14 RBIs.

He homered twice and hit .333 in five games with Fayetteville, which led to the swift promotion and smooth merge point.

“I took pride in waking up every day doing my best to become the best person I could be, not just for myself but for others, and brightening their day and that helped me a ton while I was suspended,” said Matijevic, who has played first base, designated hitter, right field and left field this year. “Doing that made me a better baseball player because I was always in a good mood no matter what and could focus more on my skills on the field and just have the most fun possible.”

With the suspension behind him and an apparent lesson learned, Matijevic’s focus is more on where he goes from here, not what happened in the past.

“I never once felt bad for myself,” he said, “because I knew I had the chance to just get so much better in every aspect of my game, and that’s what I did.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Other Local
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