Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hadley and USC Baseball coach Rod Dedeaux

Rod Dedeaux, 1955 Okinawa Japan

Kent Hadley's early years of baseball were influanced by legendary coach Rod Dedeaux. Yankee scouts directed Hadley to the USC skipper. Under his wise counsel, Hadley played a year at Pasadena to get academic and baseball seasoning and then, like so many other players Dedeaux nurtured the tall quiet kid from Pocatello turning him into one of the most sought after in-fielders of the 50's.
Kent Hadley treasured this letter from Rod, and Rod could barely hide the excitement of having a .355 lefty at first! Hadley confessed to his parents that the going was rough at Pasadena, but once he was under Rod's wing at USC it was smooth sailing and the Pocatello kid that complained that he couldn't fit in with college kids, excelled as a USC athlete and frat boy.

Hadley put in his time at USC and studied under one of the greatest baseball minds in the game. He refined his game with a healthy dose of fundamentals from Dedeaux and it paid off. In 1956 the Trojans went 24-9 and Hadley hit 17 homers, 47 RBI's for a batting average of .387 and slugging percentage of .901, SC and conference records. It was no surprise that Dedeaux recommended Hadley for All-American honors.

The Tiger scouts were in a dogfight with the Yankee scouts over the All-American. Hadley had visited Tiger Stadium, yet he had visited two Yankee camps, one in Boise right out of High School. At first he signed with the Tigers but they traded him away and Yankees won by default.

In 1961, when Hadley had his fill of the Yankees and frequent trips to the minors; he turned to Dedeaux who told him he could play excellent baseball and still make more money and Japan. For Hadley who was trying support a young family this was sage advise. He signed with then Nankai Hawks, an organization that Dedeaux visited every summer.

Dedeaux compiled what is arguably the greatest record of any coach in the sport's amateur history winning more than 1000 games at USC.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dedeaux attended the University of Southern California, and after playing two games as a shortstop for the 1935 Brooklyn Dodgers ; he suffered a career ending back injury. He turned to coaching in the semi-pro and amateur ranks at USC; He was the Trojoan head coach for 44-years.

"The things I remember best about playing at USC are that we worked hard, learned a lot and had a really great time doing it,” said Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. “I learned more in one year at USC under coach Dedeaux than I would have in two or three seasons in the low minors. I learned concentration and to stay in the game mentally."

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