Baseball managers are inundated with responsibilities that don’t end with the last out of a season, yet over the past eight years, Denison’s Mike Deegan has made time to share his insights on team building, leadership, and life lessons.
Visitors to the Coach Mike Deegan website, home to his popular newsletter, are treated to a cornucopia of topics — and not all about baseball. Deegan opines on work-life integration (a must for coaches), little league parenting (savor the present season, stop focusing on the next level), chewing tobacco in baseball (it’s gross), and lessons learned from harness racing (stats can be misleading and longshots sometimes win).
“I had all these thoughts about coaching and life, and my wife encouraged me to start writing them down,” Deegan said. “I went to school for business management; I’m not a trained writer. It started out as a blog, and it kind of grew from there.”
His page views are aided by the fact that Deegan has transformed the Big Red into a perennial winner heading into his 11th year.
Denison has reached the NCAA regional tournament the past four seasons — save for Covid-shortened 2020 — and Deegan’s .666 winning percentage (259-130 record) is the best in the program’s 125-year history. A father of four children under the age 13, Deegan understood he could no longer spend as much time away from home recruiting ball players. What the manager discovered is his newsletter could work as a recruiting tool, offering high school prospects a window into his program and his beliefs.
“I think it’s a good way for people to know what they are getting into,” said Deegan, who also wrote a book, Let It Rip, in 2019. “If I share my thoughts and feelings, hopefully it will attract people who want a similar experience.”
The newsletter and website have helped Deegan network inside and outside of baseball. Mark Shapiro, president of the Toronto Blue Jays, has become a friend and mentor after reading Deegan’s work.
His philosophies on leadership and team building also have earned him speaking engagements, including a two-day presentation at American Electric Power (AEP) in Columbus, Ohio, where he spoke about culture as a competitive advantage and attracting, developing, and retaining talent.
Deegan is heavily influenced by his own former manager, Don Schaly, who led Marietta College to three NCAA Division III titles in 40 years. Schaly’s approach was so businesslike and thorough, Deegan said, that the coaching legend “could have been the CEO of General Electric.”
“He believes how you do anything is how you do everything, whether it’s taking care of the field or cleaning the press box. That’s leadership.”
– Eric Zmuda ’17
Former Denison baseball player Eric Zmuda ’17 said Deegan possesses similar traits.
“He has great attention to detail,” Zmuda said of Deegan. “He believes how you do anything is how you do everything, whether it’s taking care of the field or cleaning the press box. It’s why he’s able to connect with an 18-year-old recruit just as well as the president of AEP.
“He’s someone who shows you with actions, not words. That’s leadership.”