UNO junior third baseman Dakota Dean doesn’t call his coach “Coach.”
He doesn’t call him “Coach Blake” or “Coach Dean” like the rest of his teammates do, either.
Dean simply calls him “Bro.”
That’s all he knows to call Blake Dean, UNO’s first-year head coach who just happens to be his older brother.
It’s rare to see someone coaching his younger brother in the collegiate ranks, but Dakota is relishing the experience. When Blake was named successor to Ron Maestri last June, Dakota’s recruiting process came to an end.
“As soon as he got the job, I told him right then that I was on board,” Dakota said. “I knew if he got the job, I wasn’t going anywhere else.”
Texas Tech, Georgia Southern, Florida Atlantic and Florida International were recruiting Dean out of Northwest Florida State College, but he ended up in Louisiana with his big brother, back in the state where both of their college baseball journeys began.
Blake Dean, now 28, was an All-American at LSU, helping the Tigers to the NCAA championship in 2009. Memories from his college days in Baton Rouge are showcased by pictures and plaques in his office.
And another memory is still etched in the mind of his little brother’s mind, whose eyes lit up recalling watching one of his big brother’s first at-bats at the old Alex Box Stadium.
“It was his very first at-bat, and he sent one over the Intimidator,” Dakota recalled.
Blake Dean went on to hit 43 more homers in his stellar career at LSU, and he was drafted in the eighth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010.
Dakota followed his big brother’s footsteps and signed with LSU but stayed there only one season before transferring to Northwest Florida State, a junior college in his home state.
“LSU was definitely somewhere I knew I would be comfortable,” Dakota said.”It’s where my brother was, so I felt like it was going to be a good fit, but in the end it wasn’t.”
The junior has found UNO to be the perfect fit. His .352 batting average leads the team. He also has six doubles, three triples and four home runs for the Privateers, who visit Jackson State at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
That’s just the type of production Blake was hoping his little brother would bring.
“It’s interesting when you coach your brother, because you know people are thinking you might be showing favoritism,” Blake said. “He solved that quickly, coming in and showing he was the best player on our team, so it hushes that.”
Dakota admitted he felt the pressure.
“No doubt,” he said. “I definitely felt I had to prove myself, and I think I did.”
And even if he didn’t put up lofty numbers, Blake wouldn’t take it any easier on him.
“I’m harder on him than anybody else,” Blake said. “I let him have it because I expect more out of him than anybody else. He gets the brunt of it, but he responds to it pretty well.”
There are similarities between the two. Dean wears the No. 17 that his brother wore in high school before switching to 34 at LSU. Both bat left-handed. And both have won national championships. Northwest Florida State won the Division I JUCO title last season, with Dakota hitting his only two homers of the season in the championship game.
“Everyone tells me our swings are similar,” Blake said. “But he plays the game probably harder than I did. I was probably more talented, but he works harder than I did.”
Dakota’s decision to play for his brother has made life easier for their parents: They can travel to one place on the weekends to watch their two baseball sons.
“It’s exciting but nerve-racking, too,” mom Georgina Dean said. “It’s exciting because I’ve seen Blake show more emotion coaching third base than I have ever seen him show. He used to be the quiet one. They are polar opposites. Dakota is intense, passionate. They’ve done beautifully with it.”
The two have helped UNO get back on track after going 5-55 in the Southland Conference over the previous three seasons. The Privateers have eclipsed that win total (6-9 in conference play) heading into this weekend’s series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Privateers are 20-15 overall after going 14-40 last season.
Dakota wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I had no idea what their record was before I got here, and I really didn’t care,” he said.
“There is one thing to do it for yourself, but it’s another to do it with your brother and help him succeed at his job.”