If you were to ask Blake Dean where he was headed in the next five years after his playing days at LSU ended in 2010, he would have said he’d be well on his way to a career in Major League Baseball.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
Instead, the 27-year-old was standing at a news conference Tuesday, where he was as the next head baseball coach at UNO, the youngest in the history of the program.
“It’s such an honor for me to take this job,” Dean said. “I’m truly humbled and excited for this opportunity. ... Many of my former coaches have told me that people will try to knock me for my age, but I plan to use it to my advantage.
“I believe I can bring an energy to the program that will get people excited again.”
Dean, who served as an assistant coach for the Privateers the past two seasons, takes over the UNO program as one of the youngest head coaches in the NCAA.
While it will be a challenge to lead a team at such a young age, UNO Athletic Director Derek Morel said Dean has many of the qualities that will immediately allow him to galvanize players.
“He has such a maturity about him for a guy his age,” Morel said of Dean. “His experience as a player, his ability to relate to people and his excitement about the program were all qualities we thought made him a great choice for the job. I think him already having that experience with the guys on the team over the past two years will allow him to immediately come in and lay down some of his principles without having that period where he has to get to know the players.”
Dean was named interim coach in May following the retirement of former head coach Ron Maestri, who concluded his second stint as the Privateers’ coach.
Maestri helped raise the profile of the program during his time as coach from 1972-85, and once the program fell on hard times, Maestri decided to take on the job once again in 2013.
Although Maestri’s record over the past two seasons was 25-78, Dean said Maestri helped rebuild the UNO program — and he hopes to pick up where Maestri left off.
“Coach Maestri believed in me. He gave me an opportunity to succeed,” Dean said. “I hope he knows that I’ll continue to push this thing forward, and I will do everything that I can to make sure everyone remembers his legacy, and we can build it back to what it was.”
Dean added that one of the keys to ensure the growth of UNO’s baseball team is to continue making local recruits view the school as a desired destination.
He invited former Jesuit outfielder Scott Crabtree — one of the prized recruits from UNO’s 2015 class — to Tuesday’s news conference to emphasize his point.
“One of my biggest goals I want to achieve is, I want to put up a fence around New Orleans again,” Dean said. “I want to start getting the New Orleans guys to come back to UNO. Delgado has a great program there. I don’t want to let the kids gets out of the city anymore.
“Most of these guys still remember when I played at LSU, so I think that gives me an edge. It gives me an in with those guys.”
Dean played four seasons at LSU from 2007-10, winning a College World Series championship in 2009. He was MVP of the 2008 SEC baseball tournament and an All-American following the 2008 and 2010 seasons.
Dean was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and retired as a player following two years in the minor league system.