CRESTVIEW — Former Crestview High School baseball star Blake Dean continues his fast track in the world of college baseball.
Dean, a 2006 CHS graduate who served as a volunteer assistant at the University of New Orleans this past season, has been named an assistant baseball coach for the Privateers.
'A QUALITY COACH'
“I’m just excited that I got the opportunity even at a young age,” Dean said. “Most coaches can’t get a full-time assistant role until later ... I’m thankful for the opportunity and I plan to take full advantage of it.”
The 26-year-old was an All-American at Louisiana State University and helped the Tigers toward the 2009 national championship under Coach Paul Mainieri.
"We are getting a quality coach that played the game at its highest level and already comes in with the respect of our clubhouse," head baseball Coach Ron Maestri said in a UNO press release. "Blake is an up and coming coach, and his energy is contagious. We are excited to have him and glad that he is a Privateer."
Crestview High School baseball Coach Tim Gillis said he isn’t surprised by Dean’s quick rise through the coaching ranks.
“It’s an awesome thing,” Gillis said. “He has paid his dues. Obviously, he’s been a great player.
“He’s a hard worker. I talked to college coaches on the recruiting trail that sing his accolades."
'A GREAT PEDIGREE'
Gillis said even in high school Dean displayed a high baseball IQ. The baseball IQ, combined with a strong work ethic, enabled Dean to quickly climb the coaching ladder.
“He has such a great pedigree behind him and he’s had a lot of success as a player, and it helps,” Gillis said. “He knows what it takes (to be successful), but he's also been around some good people at the college level and he has soaked it up. I talked to him about how much he has learned from those guys and it really helped that he learned from great people.”
Dean will be the first to tell you how fortunate he’s been as a player and a coach.
“Baseball is something that you just can’t walk into it and do it, especially the coaching side,” Dean said. “It’s something where you have to learn everything from a baseball perspective. Having the experience under my belt and learning from Coach Mainieri, not only as a player but as a coach, and then last year as a volunteer assistant (at UNO), gives you a lot more knowledge.
“It shows you a lot more things that as a player you didn’t recognize. So it has definitely helped me and made my progression a lot easier and is making my coaching career go a little more smoothly.”
IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTER
Dean said he will primarily coach the UNO hitters and infielders. He also will be the school’s primary recruiter in Northwest Florida.
Dean knows what his best sales pitch for UNO will be.
“Obviously we want to get the best players we can,” he said. “LSU’s backup could come to me and probably start for me at shortstop, so the perks that we offer are a greater chance of early playing time.
“For us it’s a little different (than big schools offering a player early in their high school career). I’m going to follow you and build an actual relationship with you.”
Dean said the most important lesson he learned from Gillis during his days at Crestview is character counts.
“The thing that I learned from Coach Gillis is that, whether you are good at baseball or not, that at the end of the day what matters the most is what kind of person you are,” he said. “I haven’t met one person that has one bad thing to say about Coach Gillis and the type of leadership he has, not only on the field, but (also) off the field with his character.”
Dean hopes this job will just be the next step in his coaching career.
“I’d love to be at UNO and build this program and be the cornerstone of change and get this place back to where it used to be,” he said. “At the end of the day, my overall goal is to one day be back at LSU or another big Southeastern Conference School.
“The SEC is the powerhouse in college baseball so I hope to be in the SEC somewhere pretty much. Long term, I’d like to be a head coach. I think if someone gets in the coaching thing at my age that is definitely one of the goals.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.