By Greg Price
There is a new man at the helm of the Vauxhall Spurs baseball team in Ronnie Deck, who brings a wealth of pro baseball experience.
Deck played college baseball to go along with playing in the MLB minor league system for seven years, rising to ‘AA’ with the Tampa Bay Rays. After that, Deck immediately started coaching youth baseball in Dallas and a Division III school in Atlanta at Oglethorpe University. Deck then took a full-time coaching job at Northeastern Junior College in Colorado.
Deck got a call back to the Major Leagues to be the bullpen catcher for the Baltimore Orioles for six years before moving to scouting in the organization, covering Latin America. Deck would end his MLB experience coaching the Miami Marlins in ‘AAA’ for two seasons.
“I decided it was time to get off the road and be home with my wife in pursuing other avenues like education,” said Deck, adding he was still looking for baseball coaching opportunities with less commitment to keep him in the game that he loves.
“This opportunity with the Spurs, it’s nice to explore a place I’ve never been, and second, the time frame is less constrictive than professional baseball with the travel. The travel is less intense. I’m always going to coach and be at the field, I’m never going to lose that.”
Catcher in baseball lends itself to a leadership role, which Deck sees as a natural progression to coaching off the field.
“You look at some of the great managers in the majors like the Mike Scioscia and the Clint Hurdles of the world. There’s a long list of catchers that have been managers,” said Deck.
“As a catcher, you are running the game, calling the game. You are the first line of communication from the dugout. You are looking at your defence, seeing the field and the alignment. You are seeing what guys can do on every play. You are dictating the action on every pitch of the game. There is a thought process to all of that, that you are putting down. It gets you mentally prepared to manage baseball.”
Deck will be taking his 18 years of professional baseball experience to the youthful Spurs in American Legion ‘A’ baseball, and has been impressed with what he has seen so far in the game surrounding southern Alberta.
“In the brief time I’ve got to know these kids, I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to coach in this region. All these kids have a humility about them in the way they carry themselves in practice, there’s very little entitlement in these kids,” said Deck.
“It’s a tribute to everything else they are doing, the standards that have been set by their parents, their teachers and their other coaches. I’m really impressed by the kids’ mental makeup here. Skill wise, I think it’s pretty underrated here. The games I’ve seen, skills wise, competitive wise, pace wise, I like where the game is. It’s a treat for me to be in this region. I’m looking forward to the summer.”
The Spurs roster has not fully been determined yet, in which players will have a chance to prove themselves at this weekend’s Ron Matthews Memorial Tournament which goes this weekend in Lethbridge.
“I’ve watched all these guys play several times already since I’ve been here, from the stands. But this tournament, apart from the practices, will give me a much better idea with how they are as teammates, how they compete and react to game situations,” said Deck.
“Those are the things in the end that create the best teams. Seeing how they are as teammates, how they react when things don’t go quite their way. There are skills you can see from anywhere in the stands, but I want to see the more in-depth picture of how these guys play the game. I want to give every kid that wants to be a Spur some true evaluation time in game situations.”
Deck knows physical expectations of high school teenagers in American Legion “A” baseball will be vastly different than professional or college baseball.
But mentally, the game should be approached the same way regardless of physical ability.
“You are going to start from a different point of reference when you are teaching what your team is working on, but the mindset of how you approach the game every day, that I believe, across the board, stays the same,” said Deck.