Exclusive Interview – Manager Mark DeJohn

The manager of the State College Spikes sits down with Brian Walton to discuss his job and his 2006 charges, many of whom he had never seen play until two or three weeks before. The players and their coaching staff are still learning about each other.

52-year old Mark DeJohn may be considered a second-year manager in the New York-Penn League after guiding the New Jersey Cardinals for the 2005 season and now the State College Spikes here in 2006. But, the truth is that he has pretty much seen it all.

In other words, "DJ" has been around the proverbial baseball block more than once. He spent the three previous seasons managing the Cardinals' Double-A franchise, between the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League and the New Haven Ravens of the Eastern League.

Prior to his minor league managerial stops, from 1996 through 2001, DeJohn served as a coach on Tony La Russa's staff in St. Louis. He began his coaching career in 1983 and served the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Cardinals organizations.

Early managing stops in DeJohn's Cardinals career included Savannah in 1986, Springfield in 1988 and Johnson City in 1989 and 1990, before he returned to the organization in 1993 as minor league field coordinator.

DeJohn's playing career began in 1971 when he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 23rd round. He played in the Mets system for seven seasons then signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1978, reaching the major leagues with the club in 1982, when he appearing in 24 games.

Before a recent Spikes game, DeJohn talked frankly about his job, his development of players, his managing career, the facilities and much more in the following audio clip.


After the recorder was put away, I joined DeJohn and his coaches, Steve Balboni (hitting), Sid Monge (pitching) and Mike Shildt (position) in a long and interesting chat about the real life in the minors.

DeJohn told a hilarious tale of their bus driver, who took too-frequent breaks, left two players behind at a rest stop and got a ticket on the way to the ballpark for illegally making a two-lane lane change.

As the skipper filled out his line-up card, Shildt was jokingly dressed down for prematurely posting the line-up card. That led to a discussion of superstitions.

Next up was lamenting over today's ballplayer, some of whom just don't seem to be motivated to play. Several graphic examples were offered.

I asked Balboni if his fame helped him get through to players. He said most of them never heard of him. For him, it is all about establishing trust. The players hear, but they don't always listen. One particular player has been tasting early success, but became pull-happy as a result. The coaches talked about how best to take care of it.

All the discussions were laced with good-natured joking among a bunch of guys who were doing their jobs because they want to, not because they have to.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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