DeShields excited to get back into game
Former baserunning threat to be Minor League hitting coach
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
For Delino DeShields, it was just a matter of time.
Time to be spent at home with his five kids.
Time being "Mr. Dad," coaching their baseball and basketball teams.
Time enough to miss the game of baseball and be ready to return to it.
The 13-year-veteran second baseman, who retired in 2003 as one of the top 50 basestealers in Major League history, was announced as the hitting coach of the Billings Mustangs, the Cincinnati Reds' entry in the short-season Pioneer League.
"I just felt at the time I was way behind as far as my kids and my family and what was going on at home, so I wanted to take some time off and get everything back up to speed, catch up with them," said DeShields, who turned 40 this past January. "Now I've had a chance to do that. I had a long talk with my family about going back and everybody thought it was good time. I'm in a good place."
When DeShields retired in 2003, he took the time to unwind and be a stay-at-home dad to what would eventually be the quintet of sons Delino Jr. and DeAngelo and daughters Diamond, Denim and Delaney.
"I've been watching a lot of youth baseball and working with kids at home in Atlanta," he said. "Just trying to catch up because we miss a lot of time when we're playing."
Ironically, a future in coaching was not something DeShields ever thought about during his playing days. It wasn't until he retired that he started to think this might be something he'd like to do down the road.
"I actually caught the bug first when I started coaching my kids," he laughed. "It's been a learning process but I feel like I'm ready to get back on the field."
So when June comes and the Reds send their Mustangs off to Montana, DeShields will make his pro debut in that capacity.
He certainly has the credentials.
Originally a first-round Draft selection in 1987 by Montreal out of high school in Delaware, the world-class athlete turned down a scholarship to play basketball at Villanova to sign with the Expos.
By 1990, he was in the Majors and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting that year.
Over 13 seasons with Montreal, the Los Angeles Dodgers (to whom he was traded even up in 1993 for Pedro Martinez), St. Louis, Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs, DeShields hit .268 with 80 homers, 561 RBIs and 463 career steals.
"He's got a world of experience," said Terry Reynolds, the Reds' director of player development. "As an athlete originally better known for his basketball, he had to develop his baseball skills and I think he can translate that to our kids. And he had a long Major League career which is always nice to have on your resume when you're talking to a kid who wants to get there."
DeShields has also always been known as a thoughtful player, one who respects the game and its history -- he was known for being the first player to wear high socks in honor of the Negro Leagues -- and that is something that will no doubt add further to his coaching ability.
"When you get to pro ball, all those kids have talent and everyone knows how to play the game at that point so what separates someone is the mental part," DeShields said. "Coaches who could get in my head and make me think were the best ones I had. Jerry Manuel, for example, was one of my early instructors and he's always been a really deep, thoughtful person who made me think. He and [former big league coach] Gene Glynn in particular were instrumental to me in the Minors."