CRESTVIEW — Former Crestview High School baseball star Blake Dean was home on April 23 to watch his brother, Dakota, and the Bulldogs face Niceville in the District 2-6A tournament.
Blake hung up the spikes last spring after a stellar career at Louisiana State University and two years of minor league baseball in the Los Angeles Dodger organization.
The Dodgers drafted Dean in the eighth round of the 2010 draft; he was having a strong spring when he decided to call it quits last year.
"Pro ball just wasn't for me," he said. "I enjoyed college ball a lot, but pro ball was just too much. I enjoyed playing baseball and I enjoy being around the sport, but I just like to have a life outside of it as well.
"Once you get into pro ball, it's like they basically own you. Whatever they say, you do. I just got tired with that aspect of life."
Coaching a possibility
Dean — a 2006 Crestview graduate and All-American for the Tigers — ranks in the top five in school history in several offensive categories. He is still involved with LSU’s baseball program as an undergraduate assistant coach while finishing his sports management degree. He said he could end up coaching baseball as a career.
"I enjoy it and keeps me in the game, so it's definitely a good option right now," Dean said. "I played it my whole life and it's nice to just see a different side of it. So it's new to me and, as far as the game, it gives me something else to try and accomplish."
Blake said he couldn’t see Dakota play football last fall, so when the Tigers had a day off, it was important to make the trip from Baton Rouge to see the Bulldogs face the Eagles.
Joining Blake was LSU assistant coach Javi Sanchez, who was also there to watch Dakota, who has signed to play baseball at LSU next year.
"I didn't get to see him for his senior football games or anything like that so I was talking to coach Sanchez and he said, 'Let's go make a trip and get to go watch him and see him play a little bit.'
"He's not just here looking at my brother. He's watching both the infield and outfield, and he's watching the hitting. You never can tell when you will find another guy."
Having transitioned from high school baseball to college baseball, Blake knows what it takes to succeed at Louisiana State. He is more than happy to pass along his wisdom to Dakota.
"I guess the biggest advice is you just have to know how to do the fundamentals of baseball," he said. "You've got to know how to bunt. You have to play the game hard.
You can't make mental mistakes. (LSU head coach Paul) Maneri looks for his guys that can do stuff — and he doesn't have to teach them — because they already know the game.
Blake said Dakota — and any other player who plays for Crestview High baseball coach Tim Gillis — has learned to play the game the right way.
"Coach Gillis most certainly prepares those guys for the next level well," he said. "He's been around the game so he knows what to do with them."
High school memories
Blake doesn't get to come back to Crestview much these days, but when he does return home, the memories come flooding back to those early years when he was learning the game.
He said many of his old friends and teammates are still in town, and it's always nice to get together with them and remember the good times they had at Crestview High School.
When recalling his favorite high school baseball memory, he quickly points to his senior season in the spring of 2006, when the Bulldogs lost to Pace in the region finals.
"We made a pretty good run there, but we fell a little short," he said. "I had a great time with ... all my friends: Trey (Hayes), Anthony (Brown), Chase (Jaramillo) — all those guys.
"You could go on, but I had a great time my senior year. We had fun and we went far."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.