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Baseball: Matt Deggs’ baseball philosophy begins, ends with ultra-aggressive approach

Kevin Foote, Staff Writer, The Advocate, July 19, 2019


New UL baseball coach Matt Deggs meets two of his current players Tremaine Spears, left, and Alex Hannie, right, at Thursday’s introductory press conference at Russo Park’s stadium club.   STAFF PHOTO BY LESLIE WESTBROOK

At some point in his early days as UL’s new baseball coach, the tearful reunions and thank yous are going to dwindle some and life is going to get back to the daily business of baseball.


Even in the midst of Thursday’s hoopla, Deggs took a moment to remind everyone willing to listen that “I’m going to take my time. So everybody knows, this is not a one-year fix.”


Much how his mentor Tony Robichaux would have responded, Deggs took to metaphor to explain his plans in the coming months.


“I think you’ve got to look at it as, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” he said. “Anytime there’s a big transition, it’s kind of like drinking through a fire hydrant at times. You’ve got to pick out one thing and be great at it … one day at a time. We’ll have to tackle things as they come.”


With that said, it didn’t require any hesitation for Deggs to describe the kind of players he’ll be looking for to fill out Ragin’ Cajuns baseball rosters in the coming seasons.


“Same formula — speed and strength,” Deggs detailed. “Guys that love to compete, guys that love to work, guys that are winners. Speed and strength, have good arm action, great bat speed, can get their swing off.


“And then guys on the bump that can pitch to both sides of the plate with the fastball. You’ve got to be able to pitch off of your fastball, have the makings of an out pitch, can field their position, hold runners and have some tempo and compete about them. They’re out there. We just have to flip every rock and find them.”


Simply put, Deggs is more interested in aggression than perfection.


“Fast, hard and loose,” Deggs said in describing his approach to the game. “We’re always going to look to be the aggressor. We’re always going to take extra bases and we’re always going to look to get our swing off. More than anything, I like guys who can play the game unafraid to crash and burn.”


Look at his history as a hitting coach and his teams made a habit of shining in the areas that illustrate aggressive play.


For example, his 2007 Texas A&M team set a Big 12 record with 151 stolen bases, his 2017 Sam Houston club was 10th nationally with 102 stolen bases, the 2013 Cajuns led the nation with 74 homers, his 2005 Arkansas lineup produced the seventh-most doubles in team history with 133.


Interestingly enough, however, that 2017 Sam Houston club was also 10th nationally in sacrifice bunts with 70 and third with 28 triples.


“Coach Deggs has been successful everywhere he’s been,” UL senior centerfielder Brennan Breaux said. “He left a big, big mark on this community and this team in the past. I’m excited to hear what he has to say, excited to hear what he’s bringing to the table. I know everybody trusts him. He’s a proven winner and everybody’s very, very excited to play for him.”


Whatever it takes to build this program back to that 2014 form when the Cajuns led the nation with 58 wins, Deggs won’t accept complaining about the obstacles along the way.


“It’s never a good time to move,” Deggs said. “It’s just not. When we lost coach, I knew in my gut it was time to step up. I just felt it was time for us to step up and step forward. This is a place where our heart is. Our heart is in Lafayette.


“Whatever sacrifices we’ve got to make or however difficult it might be, trust me it’s very temporary and it’s a lot, lot less and not even in the same universe as what the Robichauxs are dealing with right now and a lot of people in this community.”


Furthermore, there will likely be high standards from two coaches for future UL players to live by each day.


“We’re going to honor coach Robe by the way we go about our daily actions every day,” Deggs said. “How we develop men — mind, body, spirit. How we maintain relationships. How we handle our business on and off the field.


“How we get down the line, how we get off the field, how we play hard, play with a passion, get dirtier than the other team. We’re going to honor coach Robe through our actions. That’s the No. 1 way his legacy will live and it’ll live forever.”


First things first, Deggs will go through the process of deciding on his coaching staff. In addition to Robichaux’s vast pitching knowledge no longer around, assistant Daniel Freeman had left the program prior to the head coach’s death.


Deggs said Thursday not only had no staff decisions been made at that time, but the staff hadn’t even met yet.


“We’re going to sit down as a staff,” he said. “Obviously I have a history with all of these guys and we’re going to visit. Trust me, there are three guys here who understand and know pitching and there’s a lot of good pitching guys out there.


“There’s proven relationships there. Everybody knows each other.”


As for the schedule, Deggs indicated that will take of itself. It’s just about winning.


“The schedule is great,” he said. “It’s a matter of winning some of those tight games and taking care of business mid-week.”