When one of your favorite Brewers players growing up is on Twitter, you follow. When you have a chance to interview that player, you jump on it. I had the pleasure of interviewing former Brewers slugger Rob Deer, who played for Milwaukee from 1986-1990. Deer hit 137 home runs for the Brewers, placing him at 13th on the all-time franchise list, and never hit fewer than 23 in a season with Milwaukee.
Deer is perhaps best known to Brewers fans for his three-run shot on Easter Sunday in 1987. That homer helped the Brewers extend what would become their historic 13-game win streak to open that season and landed Deer on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Since his playing days ended in 1996 with the San Diego Padres, Deer has been busy as the owner of the Viz-U-Bat system and teaching hitting to kids, minor leaguers and major leaguers, as well.
Q: Many Brewers fans, myself included, fondly remember your majestic moon-shot home runs. You were an iconic slugger while with the Brewers but also struck out over 1,400 times in your long career. When you were at the plate, were you usually looking to hit the home run or just have an aggressive approach?
Deer: Aggressive!!! Unfortunately, being a free swinger, who was a dead pull hitter, and hit a lot of balls in the air, it was cause for a lot of swings and misses, and not a high batting average. As I look back with the knowledge I have learned over the years, and if I would have had me as a Hitting Coach, there would be things I would have done differently. But, we all know that old saying, “If I only would have known then, what I know now.” I very much want all hitters to be aggressive, but I use two words with that: “selectively aggressive.” I never mention the words “home run” to hitters.
Q: Your career is now often looked at in terms of the “Three True Outcomes” concept (home run, strikeout or base on balls). What pitch and location did you feast on most?
Deer: I am real big on “Do as I say, not as I did.” I, like most hitters, LOVED the elevated fastball, little bit inside. I wasn’t real fond of spinners.
Q: Tell Brewers fans who may not know about Rob Deer Baseball, the group camps and individual lessons offered. Where and when in Wisconsin are there scheduled camps for 2014 and what can folks do to encourage a visit to their area?
Deer: Thank you for the chance to speak about my new project. My good friend and partner Mike Keith and I have talked about doing private camps / lessons and traveling camps for quite a while. Next thing you know, we are going full speed ahead. I have been busy over the past few years (except with my stint with the Chicago Cubs last year) with the Viz-U-Bat, and I’m still very passionate about the invention. I had Robin (Yount), George Brett and Tony Gwynn all as unpaid endorsers of this. They weren’t going to put their names on it without believing in it. I will use it at camps but I haven’t mass-produced it as of yet.
The camps for 2014 are being set up as we speak. As of right now, of the seven camps we plan to do, one will take place in the Greenville, SC area, Central Illinois, and the Milwaukee area. I would like to think that at least three other camps will be in the Wisconsin area, perhaps Green Bay and to the western side of Wisconsin. I am open to suggestions! We probably will head back to the southeast in the later part of the fall. Baseball seems to go on for 12 months a year and the weather makes it a little easier for October camps.
Once the website is up and going, it will have different thoughts, blogs, lessons, stories, a store, but what will hopefully set us apart is video-subscription hitting lessons. Three different types and very affordable. People, kids, parents, can sign up for one lesson, talk, or monthly subscriptions. Every time I go to my son’s games, I see every parent filming their child. High school games, Little League, every game, someone has their smart phones, etc., filming. They can send it to me, and I can send back a response three different ways: email with graphics, a video message that can be downloaded and saved, or we can Skype and talk one on one as we look together at the game film.
Q: You spent time as a minor league hitting coordinator for the San Diego Padres and as a major league batting coach for the Chicago Cubs. How did those roles shape or spur your interest in teaching young hitters? When did you first realize an interest in coaching?
Deer: I still have a great love for the game of baseball, and I have always had a great passion for hitting. When I experience young hitters, or major league hitters make successful adjustments that I had suggested, and worked with them on, and then see them become better, it gives me a feeling that’s way better than any of my accomplishments that I had experienced in my playing days. I enjoyed my years of coaching in the big leagues and the minor leagues, but it is a great feeling to teach younger, eager hitters who want to learn and are all ears.
Q: What’s it like traveling all over with your hitting camps and what is the range of talent you see? Do you offer this all over the country?
Deer: As of right now, I have been giving private instructions in the Scottsdale area. In the past I did a little traveling for camps, appearances, etc. I just never really thought something like this could come along and give me the opportunity to go around the U.S. teaching hitting. I also have people that believe in my approach who dedicated to making this happen. It’s going to be fun! This isn’t an appearance camp with two other guys that played high school ball helping. This is me there 100 percent of the time in the cages and on the field.
I will also include some of my former teammates at my camps to help out and speak to the kids. I also plan to offer coaches’ clinics with area high school coaches with hitting instruction. To answer your question about talent, I am contacted quite often to take a look at a “prospect” whether a juco [junior college], D1, or possible pro. It is an incredible feeling to watch these young talented hitters and how well they try to hang on to every word you say. This is why I really want to get out there and see if in some little way I could possibly help a kid achieve his dream, and maybe even have an “Easter day moment!”
Q: Your famous three-run bomb to help the Brewers extend their winning streak to open the 1987 season stands tall in Brewers lore. That “Easter day moment” came in the pinstripes with the Ball and Glove logo. Do you like the Brewers’ current uniforms and logos, or do you prefer the duds you wore with the Brew Crew?
Deer: I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble. I like the Brewers unis they have, I have worn them at Brewers fantasy camp for the past 15 years. Good-looking uni…however, I am an “old-school dude” and I am very attached to the old duds and that great logo. In my opinion some things should have been left alone and never changed, maybe like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers (home). Milwaukee is a special place and an incredible place to have played baseball.
I want to thank Rob Deer for sharing his thoughts and his time with The Brewers Bar. You can find information about his hitting instruction online, and as I gather it, a website devoted to that will be up and running soon. You can also follow Deer on Twitter: @RobDeer45.