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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
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Do you agree with Ted Williams that the hardest thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball?

I would probably say that is pretty accurate. I talked to him six or seven times for hours. It was pretty amazing to be around him. You would give him a concept or ask him a question and he would interrupt you halfway through and say, “Here's what you do” or “Here's what you should be thinking.” There wasn't anything (about hitting) that ever caught him by surprise.

Who was the better hitter? Williams or Joe DiMaggio?

My first manager was Ralph Houk and in rain delays, I would get him talking about Joe DiMaggio. He said (DiMaggio) was the best breaking ball hitter he had ever seen. The best way to get good hitters out is throwing him a bunch of curves. He said (DiMaggio) could wear a curve ball out. He would just rake Bob Feller.

So you would look forward to rain delays just to hear the stories?

Isn't that the truth. Plus he managed Mickey Mantle, so he had Mickey Mantle stories, which was one of my other heroes.

What is your best advice for young players?

Play hard. Play smart. Play with confidence and have fun.

When you played for the Astros (1976-77), were you embarrassed to wear the old Houston uniforms with the rainbow colors?

At the start we looked like a bunch of clowns. But after about two or three months it wasn't that big of a deal. They were pretty bright.

Where were your favorite places to play?

Fenway has a lot of nostalgia. Old Yankee Stadium has a lot of nostalgia, the old St. Louis park. Probably those three. In St. Louis you could hardly get a ticket and you would go in there and it's all bright red.

And your least favorite places to play?

There were a lot of places in the minors. I was in the American Association, which got swallowed up by the PCL (Pacific Coast League). Evansville, this old Oklahoma (City) ballpark, Wichita, places where there were two showers and one worked. You had to hang your stuff on nails. No hot water. The dirt was real hard and you had strawberries all the time. Bad lights so you couldn't see the spin on a breaking ball.

So the guys playing in the minors today have it a lot better than when you played?

I can remember going into places where you had to fight a tarantula for some cold water. You were riding buses for 14 hours with no air conditioning.

Is hunting is your favorite pastime away from baseball?

Probably. I have hunted all the Western states for big game except Utah and Nevada. Elk, deer, bear, sheep, antelope, moose. My passion now is quail hunting though. You can get a lot more shots off.

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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