Things Are Looking Up for ROB DEER
If you’re weary of hearing about major league baseball’s usual miseries such as the pending strike, drug problems, salaries, ticket prices and the designated hitter, spend a few minutes with Rob Deer.
Deer, a Canyon High School graduate now with the San Francisco Giants, is a 24-year-old who maintains an outlook on his sport of someone half his age.
Deer’s smile as he popped out of the visitor’s dugout before Wednesday’s Dodgers-Giants game at Dodger Stadium had “rookie” written all over it. Deer, however, is one rookie who is not embarrassed about his awe of playing in the big time.
“Baseball players on my team and around the league have been great to me,” Deer said. “When I play, I’d rather play outfield, but when I’m at first base, I get a chance to talk to the players when they get on base.
“When people like Pete Rose, Dale Murphy or Mike Schmidt come up, you don’t want them to hit home runs--you’d rather see a single so you can talk to them.”
The road from Anaheim Hills to the company of baseball’s elite was a steady climb for Deer, who was drafted by the Giants out of Canyon in 1978.
Since then, Deer visited such minor league ports as Great Falls, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Fresno, Shreveport and Phoenix before first being brought up to the Giants last September.
Having appeared in only 13 games in 1984, Deer is still classified as a rookie this season.
Used primarily by the Giants as a substitute, Deer has nonetheless found that being a major leaguer offers many rewards in itself, including the travel that takes him back to the Southland, where his friends can see him play.
“I’ve got a lot of people coming out here (during the series),” Deer said. “My quarterback, Mike Byars and Mr. Lavalle were here Tuesday.”
Mr. Lavalle, of course, would be venerable Canyon baseball Coach Hi Lavalle, who Deer played for during his career as a Comanche. In Deer’s senior year in 1978, Canyon qualified for the Southern Section playoffs but were beaten in the first round by Villa Park.
Deer also played football at Canyon and was all-Century League in both sports. He was a defensive back and wide receiver in football, teaming with Byars on the passing end of it.
“That’s back when I was fast,” Deer cracked.
At present, Deer stands 6-feet 3-inches and weighs 210 pounds, possessing strength that helped him lead the Pacific Coast League in home runs (31) while at Phoenix for most of 1984.
In Deer’s very first at-bat this season he hit a home run off of Dodger reliever Carlos Diaz at Dodger Stadium.
“L.A. and San Diego are probably my favorite road trips,” Deer said. “Back here I get to see all of my old friends.”
Deer lives with his wife Jennifer in Foster City near San Francisco while his parents live an hour away from there in Santa Rosa, but he still keeps in touch with friends from the Anaheim area.
“It’s funny when I think back to going to games at Anaheim Stadium and now I’m playing against some of the same guys,” he said.
“Once, in 1971, I saw Vida Blue of the Oakland A’s pitching against Nolan Ryan of the Angels. Blue won that game, 1-0.
“Well, my locker at Candlestick Park is next to Blue’s and Ryan is the best pitcher I’ve faced thus far. I haven’t seen Fernando (Valenzuela) or Dwight Gooden yet.”
If Deer makes the same steady progress he has thus far, it’s a safe bet that he’ll eventually get a chance to face those other premier pitchers in the National League.
Looking around the spacious ballpark with fans quickly filling the stands, Deer beamed.
“Only 650 people in the world have this job and I’m one of them,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.”