Greg Deichmann worked himself into a sweat well before LSU’s practice Thursday afternoon, a couple splotches of grass and dirt already worked into his gold uniform top.
LSU director of baseball operations Micah Gibbs was standing near home plate feeding baseballs into a FungoMan machine, which spit the baseballs out into those tricky outfield spots Deichmann was just starting to get accustomed to.
“You can top them, you can sink them, you can backspin them — you can do all kinds of stuff,” Deichmann said. “I can tell Micah to pinpoint a place and he can put it there. I took three or four in foul territory running up on the mound. I told him to put it in the right-center gap, let me go run down a few and try to dive for some.”
Deichmann, who started 50 games at first base for LSU last season, is transitioning into a spot in right field. It’s a spot that, up until this summer, was completely foreign to him.
“I’ve been an infielder all my life, other than like 11-year-old baseball when I played a little bit of left field,” Deichmann said.
While he hasn’t played a live game in the outfield in about a decade, he said the move has almost felt natural.
That’s what LSU coach Paul Mainieri was banking on when he approached Deichmann about the position switch this summer in his exit interview.
“Coach Mainieri said, ‘Get you an outfielder’s glove,’” Deichmann said.
With Jake Fraley pursuing a professional baseball career, Mainieri had a spot to fill and was intrigued by Deichmann’s potential at the position. As shown by Deichmann’s pre-practice routine, Mainieri was also confident he would put in the necessary work.
“I knew he possessed some of the basic tools — he can run much better than people think he can, and he’s got a really good arm,” Mainieri said. “The only question would be how his instincts would be.
“So far, the returns have been very positive.”
Before Deichmann left for the Cape Cod summer league, Mainieri told him he wanted Deichmann to get some work in the outfield, even if that meant just going out there during batting practice to get used to the flight of a baseball from that perspective.
Deichmann played first base this summer, but dutifully worked in the outfield during batting practice. That was when he suffered a stress fracture in his foot while chasing a ball down.
He was on the shelf for the first few weeks of LSU’s fall practices. Mainieri said he wasn’t cleared to “cut it loose” until last week.
While Deichmann was unable to run at full speed, he could still be found in the outfield learning the ropes of his new position with the help of Gibbs and the FungoMan.
“Even when I was shut down, I was walking and seeing balls in the air, positioning myself a couple steps to my left or right,” Deichmann said. “Anything that you can do, regardless of how immobilized you are at the time.”
Mainieri knows what it’s like to be an infielder playing the outfield. When he was a freshman baseball player at LSU, he switched from shortstop to left field as a way to try and crack the lineup.
He said there are two big adjustments for lifelong infielders who switch to the outfield: Learning to read the ball off the bat and getting used to long gaps between your opportunities to make a play.
“When you’re in the infield, you’re involved on every pitch, it seems,” Mainieri said. “So you have to learn to be mentally ready out there.”
Deichmann has been working solely in right field so far, and from the sounds of it, Mainieri plans to keep him there. It’s crucial for Deichmann to get the work in now because of the havoc the afternoon sun can create on fly balls to right field, and he wants Deichmann to get a good idea of that early.
For his part, Deichmann is a fan of his new position.
“I actually like the move a lot, because I can use more of my athleticism — my speed, my arm, I get to showcase that a little bit,” Deichmann said.
That’s good for Deichmann, because it looks like he’s found a new home.
“My strong sense is that he’s going to be able to handle it,” Mainieri said. “I’m virtually certain that he’s going to end up being our right fielder.”