Playing catch with dad is common for many. But what if playing catch with dad helped to shape a professional baseball player into a man? For Matt Dean, a corner infielder in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, this is the case.
Dean, a product of Highland Village, Texas, spent his high school years playing baseball for The Colony High School Cougars. There, his father Martin was the head baseball coach and also a football coach. Matt feels his time spent playing under his father’s leadership helped him to get better as a player, despite some difficulties along the way.
“It was hard to make the transition between Dad and coach. Eventually, I realized he was Dad at home and Coach Dean on the field. He pushed me really hard, which I hated at the time, but I needed it,” Matt said.
For Martin, it was easy to tell baseball was going to be strong interest of Matt’s. He noticed him running around the house swinging a baseball bat when he was about four or five-years-old. As a coach and a father, this was pleasing to Martin. When Matt reached high school, Martin was able to do something many fathers would love to do: coach his son.
“It was the highlight of my coaching career [to be able to coach Matt]. At home, I think we talked a lot of baseball, but we left his play on the field,” Martin said.
The time spent playing high school baseball was just the beginning of the journey for Matt. In June 2011, he was selected in the 13th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I was excited. I was in school at the time, and was listening to the draft with my dad. It was a dream come true,” Matt said.
Matt spent the 2012 and 2013 playing for the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League, combining to hit .286 with 8 HRs and 59 RBIs while splitting time at third base (51 games) and first base (57 games). Last season, he was promoted to Toronto’s Low Class-A affiliate the Lansing Lugnuts. With Lansing, Matt posted his best professional season yet, hitting .281 with 9 HRs and 51 RBIs while playing 64 games at first base and 16 games at third base. Despite the frequent position changes, Matt says he does not mind.
“I have no preference [which position I play], as long as I am on the field,” Matt says.
For a professional baseball player in pursuit of his dream of playing Major League Baseball, and for a high school football coach and head high school baseball coach in the state of Texas, being able to see family is not always easy. That is no excuse for Martin though.
“I will get a weekend to watch him from time-to-time. We will make it our family vacation to see Matt play,” Martin said.
As Matt continues his push for the Major Leagues, he has his focus on improving his entire game.
“My whole game could improve. I don’t think there is just one game that can improve. Day-in and day-out, I will work on improving,” Matt said.
When it comes to advice, though, father knows best.
“If he calls me to ask for it [advice], I will give it to him. I let the guys with the Blue Jays coach him now,” Martin said. “I have never forced it down his throat. As a parent, I just want him to have fun,” Martin added.
While coaching his son and watching him turn into a professional baseball player is something Martin certainly enjoys, he does not feel that that is even the most important reason to be proud of his son.
“It makes me feel good that he listened and appreciates my work. I am more proud of him as a person than as a baseball player,” Martin said.
Unsure of where his next professional assignment will be, Matt will reporting for Spring Training on February 27. His father’s advice from his entire life will certainly be with him.