Touring the Bases With Mike Devereaux
In the run up to the 2011 first-year amateur draft, Mike Devereaux was called the best baseball talent to come out of Wyoming until Brandon Nimmo was taken 13th overall by the Mets. It’s a tough call. After all, Mike played in the same outfield at Arizona State with Barry Bonds and Oddibe McDowell.
However, he is known in these parts as the center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles from 1989 to 1994, during the heart of the Cal Ripken years. He had his best year in 1992 when he led the team in many categories. He came back for a year in 1996 when the Orioles had one of their best teams in the past 15 years. I talked to Mike about those Oriole years in an interview that will air Friday night on “Outta the Parkway,” on the Seamheads Podcast Network. Here is the heart of the interview:
Q. Mike, what are your fondest memories of those Oriole teams back in the day?
Mike Devereaux: My favorite team was the 1989 team when we had the youngest team in the league. Opening Day everyone expected Roger Clemens to throw a no-hitter against us but we beat him when Cal hit a home run. That year we really took great pride in our defense. We knew we weren’t going to out hit a lot of teams. It was a lot of fun being on that team. We were called the “Why Not Team.” We came close to winning the league, right down to the last week. I think we finished just a game or two back.
Q. You’re the hitting instructor now for the Frederick Keys, the high-A affiliate for the Orioles, you must be pretty pleased with the progress of Tyler Townsend, who is tearing the cover off the ball so far.
Mike Devereaux: I had Tyler last season at Delmarva, the low-A team for the Orioles. He played real well for us there as well and was called up to Frederick at the end of the 2010 season. Tyler is someone who opens the door up for other players in the lineup. Hitting is contagious and when he hits the rest of the team hits. He is really a talented ball player. He can hit in any count. He can hit the first pitch or wait it out. He uses the whole field too. He can hit it out to any part of the park.
Q. He’s hitting a lot more home runs this year. His slugging percentage is pretty much the same, but more balls are going over the fence. Is there something that he is doing different or just his natural growth as a hitter?
Mike Devereaux: No, Tyler squares up on the ball real well. I tell him to hit through the ball and he is just driving the ball further this year. With his stroke the home runs are going to come, but I don’t try to teach power hitting to players. If he ends up hitting 30-40 home runs that’s the way it goes.
Q. How did you get into coaching. You were out of the game for a few years. Was coaching always something you wanted to do?
Mike Devereaux: I have always wanted to coach and I heard there was an opening here. I contacted David Stockstill when he was in charge of the Oriole’s minor league system a few years back. He told me the job was available to me if I wanted it. I jumped right on it. I have really wanted to get back into the game. I have been out of it way too long and I plan on staying in it as long as possible. That is my plan. I missed the game. It is the greatest there is.
Q. Do you have any coaches from your playing days that you want to emulate?
Mike Devereaux: Absolutely. Frank Robinson was one of my managers and Tom McCraw my hitting coach. Curt Motton, may he rest in peace, taught me a lot. He was a great friend and helped me out through my rookie years. Those guys really brought me through the game. Johnny Oates also. Â Just coming up through the Orioles organization and the way they play the game.Â The crowds, the fans that supported us, all of that was important to me, whether it was Memorial Stadium or Camden Yards, the fans supported us and I really respect that about the Orioles.
Q. There’s been a little bit of a shake up in the Orioles organization this year. Jim Presley who had a lot of success with the Marlins and Diamondbacks has been brought in as the hitting coach. Does that filter down throughout the organization? Is there a new hitting philosophy?
Mike Devereaux: Yes there is. It starts with Buck Showalter and his people coming in, and that certainly trickles down throughout the organization. We are all on the same page, the same plane philosophically. And it’s definitely a plus to have these guys in the organization.
Q. Is there any difference in approach between a major league hitting instructor like Presley–who is working with ball players who have proven they can hit–and you, who is functioning more as a teacher, working with younger unproven players?
Mike Devereaux: Those players at the major league level have all been through what these players are going through and it is certainly Â more of a learning experience here in the minors. When you talk about Low-A and High-A this is the first experience some of these guys have had, playing baseball all year long. They have to get accustomed to playing every day and it is a whole new atmosphere for them. Most of these guys have never really been in any kind of hitting slump. If they are coming out of high school or college, they are always at the top of their game. So they have never really struggled and every ball player goes through that. It is the way this game is. You have to learn to deal with failure which is what this game is all about.
Q. You have another young player here in Frederick in his first full year, Trent Mummey. He was a relatively high draft pick coming out of Auburn University last year. What are you doing to help him adjust?
Mike Devereaux: I had Trent last year in Delmarva when he first joined the Orioles. Again, the adjustment is playing every day. And the ball comes off the bat differently, they are accustomed to the aluminum bats for the most part, and they are playing with better athletes overall than they did in college. Trent is a great outfielder, but he has improved so much from last year, just that time he has been with us. He is a hard worker and a great student of the game. Trent is quite coachable and that is important. I can see good things from him. He can hit for power, again, not that I am trying to coach him to hit for power. He is very quick from the left side, has a good time to first base, so it is not just power with him. He is still young in the game. This is his first full year and I am expecting good things from him.
Q. Who else are do you see making real progress here at Frederick? This team can hit.
Mike Devereaux: LJ Hoes has just gone up to Double-A and he is a fine talent. He came in as an outfielder but has been playing second base. He is a line drive hitter and a fine talent. Steve Bumbry–Al Bumbry’s son–is here. Once he makes the adjustments that we think he can, he is going to be a fine player. I was impressed with Buck Britton who was hitting real well with runners in scoring position before he was called up.
There is more to the interview, but I don’t want to give the entire interview away. Listen in on Friday to “Outta the Parkway,” to hear Mike talk about Vladimir Guerrero’s approach at the plate, more about Mike’s hitting philosophy and whether the hitting game has been over-thought and broken down too much into its component parts.