Brodie Jeffery: A baseball man who was born to coach
by Randy Pascal
The signs were there early – new Laurentian baseball skipper Brodie Jeffery was born to coach.
“My parents still tell the story of when I was eight or nine, I would be drawing up hockey plays with a bar of soap on the mirror,” said the 25 year old
native of Whitby with a laugh.
A product of the “AAA” hockey system and member of Team Ontario in lacrosse, Jeffery always seemed to lean moreso to the strategic side of sports,
garnering more satisfaction in thinking the game than competing in the activity itself.
“I remember when my brother and I first got play station, in the intermission of the video games, I would draw up a play for my brother to do,” he
recalled. Still, scholarship opportunities are doled out to athletes, not coaches, and thankfully Jeffery had help, close-by, to help show him the way.
“My brother (four years older) eventually started doing the baseball thing – he played college ball in Texas – and he's a big role model of mine.
I came downstairs one day and told my dad I was quitting hockey and wanted to do baseball.”
Being the athlete he was, the talented catcher would earn scholarship opportunities to both Wallace State Community College (Hanceville, Alabama)
and Martin Methodist College (Pulaski, Tennessee). Yet it wasn't long at all before Jeffery faced the stark reality of staying true to himself.
“It got to a point in my baseball career where I fell out of love with playing the game, but had created a passion for coaching,” he said. “Being able to
interact with kids, every day, is something that I love the most.”
For a while, it appeared this path would steer him to a future that would remain south of the border. “I had to make a big decision last May, either
keep going in the U.S. or come back to Canada,” he said. “I decided to come back, but when I got back, I quickly realized I didn't like it there. I don't
like the city, I don't like Toronto.”
Thankfully, his travels had crossed, along the way, with Jean-Gilles Larocque, the face of baseball in Sudbury in recent years and owner/operator
of The Baseball Academy. A partnership, however, did not initially seem part of their destiny.
“It was about four years ago and we were evaluating the Ontario youth team together,” reminisced Jeffery with a smile. “It was Saturday night,
when coaches and evaluators get together to assess what we have. We were sitting in the room, and I knew most of the guys in the room, but had never met
him (Larocque) before.”
“We were talking about two strike hitting. The philosophy of his coaches and mine from my coaches were completely different, so we sat there and argued
for like two hours, while everyone else is trying to put together the roster.”
Hardly the foundation of a match made in heaven.
Still, their paths would continue to cross. “I had started helping out with some different projects,” said Jeffery. “He asked me to help him on a trip to
Michigan. We drove, he talked about his vision, and then he brought me up here, to Sudbury. I just love it here, I want to be here. And, of course,
what he's doing is incredible. I wanted to be part of that.”
When the push to launch varsity baseball as a component of the Laurentian Voyageurs' athletic lineup finally came to fruition recently, Larocque
had a ready-made, eager young coach with whom he could work, as he continued his own efforts in helping to oversee the program. In the eyes of Jeffery,
there are some definite advantages to this option versus his original foray south of the border.
“The problem with the U.S. system is that you are an assistant coach for 10 years, and then the coach gets fired for some reason and you clean up the
mess,” he said. “Here, it was an opportunity for me and J-G and Michel (Larivière) and everybody to kind of build our own mess.”
Though that statement is somewhat tongue in cheek, Jeffery has recognized, despite his youth, that starting with a clean slate does offer some
interesting potential rewards. “I spent six years in the States, the hotbed of baseball,” he said. “Kids that come in at this age down there already know
how to take lead-offs, already know how to do this and that, so there really is no coaching there.”
“You kind of guide them. Here, you get to create and mold baseball players.” That kind of environment does not come without challenges. “Being part of
something that is new, there are going to be bumps in the road, but we have a good supporting staff around us. We're going to learn together and grow
together as a coaching staff.”
“All of those bumps in the road are part of the process of becoming a better coach”, Jeffery continued. “The way that Jean-Gilles and I work is that we
are always learning, we don't know everything. I like to say the we win and learn, instead of winning and losing.”
With all of this learning ahead, Brodie Jeffery may want to invest in a much larger mirror, and a pile of soap bars. Designing plays for his new
post-secondary crew may well know no boundaries.