From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with Rob Deer
(Photo by Stephen Green)
If you watched baseball in the 1980s, the name Rob Deer definitely means something to you: gigantic swings, titanic home runs and a whole lot of strikeouts. The 52-year-old Deer spent 11 seasons in the big leagues, several as the teammate of Cubs manager Dale Sveum in Milwaukee, before becoming the Cubs first-ever assistant hitting coach. So how does a noted free swinger who led the NL in strikeouts four times in his career preach patience and a good approach to Cubs hitters? It’s about doing what he says, not what he did. For the June issue of Vine Line, we talked to the new hitting coach about coming to Chicago, hitting home runs and teaching young hitters the right way to do things.
THE BEGINNING I had a couple of opportunities with some other major league clubs. It just so happens Robin Yount and I were hanging out one day, and I tried to get one of the managers’ numbers because there was word that another team wanted to interview me. So we called Dale [Sveum] and asked if he had the number for the other manager. Dale got it for me and asked what I was doing … and he just said, “Well, I didn’t know you were looking to do that, because we’re thinking of hiring a second assistant coach.”
SECOND IN COMMAND If you’re doing this by yourself, you’re there at 11 or 12 o’clock in the afternoon [for a night game] going over scouting reports, just doing all the things you have to do. Then you’re having drills on the ﬁeld, having drills in the cages. There are 12 guys who have to get work in every day. It’s going to help alleviate the workload and the time. I’m surprised more teams haven’t done it. I think they will in time.
DO AS I SAY People ask me, “How does a big swing-and-miss guy, who hit home runs and didn’t hit for a high average, teach hitting?” But I say, “Do as I say, not as I did.” I would never talk about the way I hit. I was a free-swinger. They paid me to hit the ball over the fence, so I made my living doing that. I talk about a two-strike approach, I talk about hitting the ball to all ﬁelds, and I never, ever mention hitting home runs. That’s just a result of something that happens that’s perfect. Everything comes together. You can’t go up there looking to hit home runs.
REWARD SYSTEM The greatest reward is being able to give a player knowledge that turns his career, or his season, or his day, around. That, to me, is way more gratifying than getting a hit in the big leagues or hitting a home run. When you can change somebody’s career or you can help somebody prolong their career by something that you [give them], it’s a great feeling.
FEELING AT HOME The ﬁrst day I got here, we took a cab and drove by the ballpark and took pictures. There’s something about what this city is about, what the fans are about. I’ve seen people walk down the streets with Cubs jackets and jerseys and shirts. [There are] billboards. The airports are full of stuff. If you can’t play anymore, you’d love to coach here or manage here. This is baseball. This is what it’s supposed to be like.
To read the complete interview with Deer, pick up the June issue of Vine Line, featuring an interview with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, available now at select Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Meijer, Barnes & Noble, and other Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.