In his role as the on and off-field leader at the first professional stop for at least 14 draftees of the St. Louis Cardinals this June as well as ten foreign-born players, the man known to all as simply "DJ" also has to deftly mix in considerable elements of being a surrogate father.
In fact, though at the third level of the Cardinals' US teams, DeJohn's 2008 Batavia roster includes at least seven teenagers, including his lead-off man and centerfielder on Wednesday night, Frederick Parejo. The Venezuelan-born .327-hitter was still aged 17 just two short weeks ago.
One month into the season, with a record of 16-13, 4.5 games out of first place in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League, DeJohn's club is a contender. Yet, his job is more than wins and losses, with the goal being to prepare his players to advance their careers. This is an action for which he is very familiar, having been a coach or manager for a quarter of a century now.
DeJohn is in his fourth year managing the St. Louis Cardinals short-season affiliate in the New York-Penn League, yet this is the first year he returns to the same town in doing so. He led the New Jersey Cardinals for the 2005 season, then the State College Spikes in 2006 before the Cardinals re-settled in Batavia, New York prior to last season.
The Connecticut native spent the three previous seasons managing the Cardinals' Double-A franchise before it moved to Springfield, then between the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League and the New Haven Ravens of the Eastern League.
Prior to his recent minor league managerial stops, DeJohn served as a coach on Tony La Russa's staff in St. Louis from 1996 through 2001. He began his coaching career in 1983 and also served the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals 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 before signing with the Detroit Tigers in 1978. The shortstop reached the major leagues with the club in 1982, when he appeared in 24 games.
In this exclusive, extensive and candid interview, the Muckdogs skipper discusses how his roster came together and he helps them acclimate to their careers, between and outside the white lines. We then discuss standout defenders, hitters and pitchers on the 2008 Batavia club as well as those who need to improve their game.
Part one: (11:24)
Part two: (11:50)
One of the unglamorous aspects of the job is pitching batting practice.
How would you like to be Jose Garcia about now?
Another important task is to defend his charges. In this case, an umpire made a questionable call that a ball was out of play, reverting a likely triple for one of his players to a ground-rule double.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com
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