Former Major League pitcher Mike DeJean has been hired as the new head baseball coach at St. Frederick.
DeJean’s only previous high school coaching stint was short but successful. In two years at Neville (2012-13), he guided the Tigers to a Class 4A semifinal appearance in 2012.
Six years later, DeJean is surprised to find himself back in the high school ranks.
“This kind of came out of nowhere,” DeJean said. “Coach Andy (Robinson) called me a couple of week ago. I talked to Mandy and the family about it, and it all came together.”
DeJean’s first move as the Warriors’ new skipper was to bring in Jim Rushworth as pitching coach. Rushworth, a local travel ball coach, has held several head coaching positions, including a stop at St. Frederick.
“I won’t have to worry about the kids’ mechanics,” DeJean said. “Jimmy is probably going to call the game just like I would. He will probably let the kids call their own pitches at times to make sure they understand what he is teaching.”
DeJean says he will stress pitching and defense.
“It all starts on the mound,” DeJean said. “You have to be able to make good pitches, and when you make good pitches you have to make plays.”
At St. Frederick, DeJean inherits a team coming off of a 6-23 season.
“We have a ton of work in front us to compete with the OCS’s,” DeJean said, referring to defending Division IV state champion and District 2-1A rival Ouachita Christian.
During his playing days, coaching hardly crossed DeJean’s mind.
“When I was playing, I was so focused on what I was doing,” DeJean said.”The offseason was all hunting and hanging out with the kids.
“I never really thought about coaching when I was young. I thought I would coach my kids in travel ball, but I never thought about high school until the Neville job came up.”
DeJean’s rise to professional baseball is a story in itself. A product of Walker High School, DeJean signed with Mississippi Delta College and Livingston University (now Western Alabama). He spent most of his college career as a shortstop before making a chance appearance on the mound as a senior.
“We were playing Delta State when I was at Livingston,” DeJean recalled. “It was a non-conference game, and we were saving our (front line) pitching for a weekend conference series, so we ran out of pitching. Coach told me, ‘You’ve been telling me you coach pitch, so get your arm warm, and go get on the mound.’”
DeJean had no idea at the time, but his path to the big leagues had just begun.
“I thought I would get drafted as a catcher or third baseman,” DeJean said. “After the game, coach told me I was going to get drafted as a pitcher. I asked him why he said that, and he said, ‘You topped out at 94 tonight.’ I had no idea I was throwing that hard because we didn’t have radar guns all over the place back then.”
DeJean’s college coach was right as he was selected in the 24th round of the 1992 draft by the New York Yankees.
“The Yankees gave me a $1,000 bonus and said, ‘Go get ‘em,’” DeJean said.
DeJean went on to spend 10 years in the Majors with six different teams as a right-handed reliever. Appearing in 565 games, he compiled a 30-33 record with 52 saves and a 4.30 ERA.