Victorian favourite baseball son to manage Melbourne Aces
24 August 2016
With the Australian Baseball League entering a vital transitional phase, national Head Coach and Australian baseball Hall of Famer Jon Deeble has accepted the playing management role with Melbourne Aces for the 2016/17 season.
The highest achieving coach in Australian baseball history, Jon Deeble has been courted for some time by a club that has in playing terms under-achieved over the first six seasons of a resurrected Australian Baseball League that now faces a daunting raft of challenges – and potentially profound rewards – with the withdrawal of Major League Baseball as the principal shareholder.
While the Deeble signing is a major coup for the Melbourne Aces, it is but the beginning of a process that many hope will lead towards building the club into a league powerhouse that will help – along with the other five current teams – to progressively raise the public profile of baseball and the playing standard of a league that has not developed the traction to match the euphoria earlier generated at its revival.
A former Victorian who has been based on the Gold Coast for several years, the incoming manager is cognisant of the challenges ahead and will be giving the task his all – as he has throughout a stellar playing and management career spanning decades.
“It is a job that will take a full-on commitment,” Jon Deeble told Australian Baseball Alumni this week. “Flying in and out would not be an option, so I will be moving down to Melbourne for the summer.”
He will assume the role with impeccable credentials as a baseball lifer well-placed to bring the passion, the excitement, the knowledge, the people management skills and the success that have characterised his lifetime in baseball as a player and manager.
Enjoying a distinguished playing career at national and international level, Deeble had stints with Melbourne Monarchs and Waverley Reds in the original Australian Baseball League, he managed the Monarchs to a championship and he has been enagaged either as a scout or a professional baseball coach since 1994.
He was a Minor League Manager with Florida Marlins and he became the first Australian to coach at Major League level when appointed by Boston Red Sox as first-base coach in 2005.
Along the journey, Deeble has been national Head Coach since 2000, he led Australia to an Olympics silver medal in 2004, managed our national team at the World Baseball Classic in 2006, 2009 and 2013 and he has overseen the enormously successful Major League Baseball Academy Programme since its introduction.
Currently coordinator of Pacific Rim scouting for Boston Red Sox, Deeble (pictured below with Graeme Lloyd) remains as national Head Coach in preparation for the 2017 World Baseball Classic and beyond.
Impeccably well-qualified for the Melbourne Aces gig, Jon Deeble has clear ideas of where the club and the sport should be heading.
“There are a number of dimensions to my role and to what the club needs to do, but our main goal here simply is to win,” he said. “The Aces haven’t made it to the playoffs in a long time. We plan on getting there this year and will take whatever comes from there.”
“All of the clubs are putting together their playing lists at the moment, and I am sure that will include some high-profile and very good players. We are not in a position to make announcements just yet, but I can guarantee there will be some exciting news to come for our supporters.”
A rusted-on supporter of grassroots baseball who has never forgotten his own seminal time at club level in Melbourne, Jon Deeble is committed to engaging more closely with club baseball through a range of strategies delivered in concert with Baseball Victoria.
“The support of Major League Baseball at all levels of our sport has been extremely important, and we should never forget that,” he said. “However, I think it is a good thing that the state associations are going to become more closely involved in the ABL clubs.”
“We seem to have lost some of the sense of ownership that people had of their baseball teams – like in the old Claxton Shield, when the administrators and the players and the supporters all felt part of it and got behind the team.”
“We plan on getting the mainstream clubs behind this team through what we believe are really positive strategies,” he said.
“We will be training on Wednesday nights at Altona and we plan to train one other night at various club fields to get the local people back involved. We will do some junior clinics while we are there and the Under 18 state team will be training with the Aces squad.”
“We will have a club coach in the Aces dugout for every home series.”
“I think we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the grassroots clubs should be the feeder groups and should always be seen as a part of the bigger picture,” Deeble continued.
“We want to run the Aces like a pro team, with the clubs and the junior state teams being a central part of all that. I am hoping that winning will encourage people to come to games, but we have to embrace the clubs and their members. We need them on our side.”
“I would love to run another campaign like we did out at Preston a few years ago when the baseball community all got together and supported the Victorian Claxton Shield team,” he said. “That was an awesome night where everybody did their part and became really engaged in the game.”
“I know that some people have concerns about travelling out to Altona, but that is what we have for now at least. It is still a great ballpark - for players and supporters - and we’re aiming to make it more attractive by running more events on game days.”
Among the activities being planned are a Claxton Shield Old Timers Game, a Reds versus Monarchs Old Timers Game and a Women’s All-Star Game that will be played between double-headers during the season. The club also anticipates holding a major business luncheon with a famous guest speaker.
“It is all exciting stuff and I am really looking forward to the challenge,” Jon Deeble said.
“We want to get Victoria baseball back on top – where it should be – and we plan to make that happen this coming season through integrating all of Victorian baseball with the Aces club.”
“There is a lot of work to be done, but I think having Baseball Victoria and the Aces on the same page – with the same goals - is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Australian Baseball Alumni thanks Jon Deeble for his assistance in the preparation of this story. We wish him every success in his tenure with the Melbourne Aces as the Australian Baseball League moves into a challenging and potentially rewarding new era.
In doing so, we extend our best wishes for the upcoming Australian Baseball League season to all clubs, which – as always - are invited to share their stories with Australian Baseball Alumni.
Image: Australian Baseball League