Sagehens in the majors: Arizona Diamondbacks coach Drew Hedman PO ’09 is bringing DIII to the MLB

Drew Hedman PO ’09 hitting during his senior season as a Sagehen prior to being drafted by the Boston Red Sox (Courtesy: Sagehen Athletics)

In November, as part of an article on the long-standing relationship between Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) baseball and the Boston Red Sox, TSL interviewed former Sagehen first-baseman and current assistant hitting coach and head of minor league hitting for the Arizona Diamondbacks Drew Hedman PO ’09. Hedman, who was drafted by the Red Sox and played four years in their system, spoke on his time with P-P, experience moving from Division III to the minors and his approach to coaching today.

This conversation has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

TSL: What was it like to be the trendsetter to start this wave of players from P-P getting drafted by Boston?

DH: I ended up waiting until the last round. I think I was a third from the last pick. I remember when the Red Sox selected me, it was a no-brainer. I [had] accepted a consulting job and happily called them the day after I was drafted and told them I was [going to] go play instead of pursuing that opportunity. At the end of the day, [I am] fortunate that that was a reality for me. In many ways, even after I finished playing, it paved an early path for the types of opportunities I pursued after — from coaching at the collegiate level and now being back in professional baseball as a coach, and I certainly think it opened some doors for me.

TSL: When James Kang PZ ’10 was interviewed, he talked about being a DIII player making the transition into the minors. He was saying that there’s no bias against people coming from different levels. Would you agree with that?

DH: I think in that setting, if you perform, you’re going to get opportunities … you’re [going to] move up the ladder and [it could] manifest itself in getting an opportunity at the major league level. A couple years ago with the Diamondbacks, [I] coached Tim Locastro, who was a DIII player at Ithaca College. He performed and he’s been getting some opportunities in the big leagues. He was with the Yankees just last year. 

TSL: Do you think that you could tell me a little bit about your time in the Red Sox organization, how each level was different or just any general thoughts you have?

DH: My first year was the summer of 2009, which was the year I was drafted. And I think back to our biggest games — we probably had 100 people in the stands for a P-P versus CMS (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) matchup. And, you know, most of them are a couple of roommates and parents and siblings. One of my first games playing for the Lowell Spinners [the Red Sox class A short season affiliate at the time], there were 6,500 fans in the stands. And 6,500 is still a far cry from what you’re gonna see at Fenway Park, but it was definitely different than having 100 People at Alumni Field on a Saturday morning. I remember just that kind of energy and experience … They won a World Series just a couple years before I was drafted and so [there was] a lot of buzz and support throughout the organization. 

I played my first year in Lowell, Massachusetts and my next year trumped up to High-A. And I split time, or served as basically the backup first baseman, to a guy named Anthony Rizzo … I remember thinking, ‘Man, this 20-year-old player [is] … pretty good.’ And then, before you know it, he ended up winning a World Series with the Cubs and just had a great year with the Yankees … I played, whether it’s from training or on different teams, with Mookie Betts, Anthony Rizzo, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez and Ryan Pressley, who just closed out the World Series for the Astros … So a pretty impressive list of players there and just getting to compete against athletes at that level and, you know, seeing how talented they were and being on the field with them was a pretty special experience as well. 

TSL: What do you think are some of the main things you try to focus on as a hitting coach?

DH: I think the biggest thing is really individualizing instruction … and planning … for each athlete. Obviously, everyone’s very talented and everyone’s different, and I think the more that we can tap into that individuality for each player [the better] … That includes everything from biomechanically how they work, technically how their swing works, fundamentally what areas of the game they need to improve upon, whether it’s swing decisions or training more bat speed.

TSL: What do you think that as a player you’ve taken away from your minor league or collegiate career to put into coaching?

DH: A lot of different parts. And I think one that is important to remember is knowing it can be a hard game … And I think that can be true for people as they make adjustments, whether it’s going from high school to college, college to the minor leagues or minor league to the major leagues. Understanding what everyone’s going through emotionally and physically as they’re trying to acclimate is going to help them on their journey … I was able to play for four years and at times when you’re in it … four years can go by pretty quickly. And it’s also just trying to enjoy that moment, enjoy the practices, the trips, the games, seasons and all of those experiences as much as you can.

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