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RedHawks hitting coach Leon Roberts almost played football

Q&A: RedHawks hitting coach and former major leaguer was recruited by Michigan as an end.
by Ed Godfrey Published: April 20, 2012

Leon Roberts, the new hitting coach for the Oklahoma City RedHawks, spent parts of 11 major league seasons as a player with six teams (Detroit, Houston, Seattle, Texas, Toronto and Kansas City).

Before joining the RedHawks this year, he spent 13 seasons in the Atlanta Braves organization, including four as the minor league hitting instructor.

Roberts, 61, also has served as a hitting coach in the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays organizations and managed in the minor leagues for farm clubs of Atlanta and Detroit.

You are a Michigan man?

I went to the University of Michigan from '69 to '72. I went there on a football scholarship to play football and baseball. I was an end. They never passed. I ended up playing basketball and baseball for three years.

You played for Bo Schembechler?

I was recruited by Bo like crazy but I didn't physically play for him. He was a pretty interesting guy. He used to scare me to death. He goes, “I am going to make you an all-Big Ten tight end” and they didn't pass much. He was three yards and a cloud of dust. They never passed, so that's why I went out for basketball. I was going to play baseball anyway.

What sport did you enjoy the most?

Baseball. I loved football. I tried out for the Houston Oilers in '77 as an end/punter and had their team made. There was really nobody in the way of two-sport stars back then. Dave DeBusschere did it a little bit. Pitched for the White Sox and played for the Pistons. Gene Conley pitched with the Red Sox and played basketball for the Celtics. I was going to play (football) only on Sundays and then when the baseball season was over play full time. We had it all set up and then the (Astros') front office found out about it and upped my salary to buy me out of it.

Do you regret not trying to play both sports professionally?

No, not really. I see what Bo Jackson went through and his hip blown out. I watched Deion Sanders do it. Brian Jordan did it. But it's almost like you need to put your eggs in one basket.

What is your fondest memory of being in the major leagues?

It was probably the first day I got there and walking into Tigers Stadium. I grew up in Michigan, watched the Tiger teams and all the players and went to the University of Michigan.

How did you get to be a hitting coach?

I always had a passion for hitting and studied it like crazy from when I played. I thought I had some ideas to help guys. I have been like a hitting coordinator for 18 years.

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by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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RedHawks back home

The Oklahoma City RedHawks return home from their first road trip of the season Saturday and open an eight game homestand beginning at 7:05 p.m. at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

The RedHawks open a four-game set with the Albuquerque Isotopes on Saturday then begin a four-game series with the Round Rock Express on Thursday.


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