For the past five years Deer has been the minor league hitting coordinator, and many current Padres such as Ben Johnson have credited him with having a major impact with their success.
John Conniff: Could you describe your role within the Padres' organization?
Rob Deer: My goal is to try to get everyone in the organization and on the big league team on the same page. I work with Dave Magadan [the Padres hitting coach] and try to get everyone from Peoria in the Arizona League to Portland in the Pacific Coast League to understand our philosophies.
We want everyone in the organization to know how to hit with two strikes, to work counts and to have quality at bats? Any type of adjustment or suggestion that I make is always in conjunction with the hitting coach of each team. It's so important to have everyone working together for the same thing.
John Conniff: How do you work with the minor league hitting instructors and coaches at each level?
Rob Deer: At this level, [Eugene] we don't make adjustments. We just try to get the guys in, get used to pro ball and have good seasons. The adjustments come in the instructional leagues and above. After their first year of instructional league and spring training, they have an idea of what we want.
John Conniff: How many trips do you make out to each place a year?
Rob Deer: The rule of thumb is a get out to each place for four or five days four times a year, but I'll make an exception when something comes up.
John Conniff: It's strange that you work with Dave Magadan, because both of you were very different hitters in the major leagues. How does that work? There is always some joke attributed to you that you teach hitters not to hit like you?
That seems to be a lot of self-deprecation, because you have had a lot of success teaching hitting, so you must know what you are doing.
Rob Deer: The best year I ever had, I hit .252. I was always trying to figure out a way to push my average higher. Trying to watch other hitters, spent a season in Japan watching their hitters, and studying what they do and worked with Walt Reniak for two seasons.
I think the fact that I wasn't a .300 hitter, helped me. It's not a joke, when I say don't hit like me, I try to teach them what I learned. When I was in the big leagues I always had guys around me like Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, so my job was to get the big hit. I was always in kind of a power situation. Sparky Anderson lived and died with the three run home run.
John Conniff: So much has been made that Sean Burroughs doesn't hit for power in San Diego. Before he got sent down it seemed everything went either to left field or center field. It seems like its not that the Padres want him to hit it over the wall, but to hit it into the right field gap. How do you go about changing someone like Sean's approach?
Rob Deer: Its kind of a different mentality. Its just being aware of certain situations and certain pitches to look to drive into right field. Mags and I have talked about it a lot in the past few weeks, and when I get to Portland I'm going to sit down and talk to Sean about it.
I have some things that I want to ask him, and some things that we could work on. Its not that we want to make him into a thirty home run hitter, but just get him back to using the whole field and drive it.
When you're in the big leagues if people find a weakness, they will keep coming at you. All he needs to do is make an adjustment. Any time a player struggles, you'll just hear too much information, because you are trying to do anything to get back on track. Sometime the best thing that can happen to a player is to be sent down, to regroup and readjust.