Rod Allen Feature Story on MLB.com
Sept. 5, 2002
By Gary Rausch/MLB.com
With TV networks forever developing new series, producers could do far worse than patterning one after the Rod Allen household.
Then there's Rod Jr., 19 and a sophomore outfielder on the nationally ranked Arizona State baseball team. If Rod Sr. isn't in the booth, he's probably sitting in the stands at an ASU game. And when he can't be there, he makes do with modern technology.
''I get to see him play just about every home game in February and March, then it gets spotty when the (Diamondbacks') season starts,'' said Rod Sr., looking forward to a home series with California this coming weekend. ''When I can't be there, I'm listening to the game on the radio, the internet or calling on my cell phone every 15-20 minutes.''
''He's always checking to see how I'm doing,'' said Rod. Jr., with a chuckle. ''If he's not calling people in the stands, he's calling the pressbox.''
Junior doesn't mind dad's attention. ''He makes sure I work hard,'' Rod Jr. said. ''He's always telling me how much harder I have to work to get to the Major Leagues. In high school I thought he was too hard on me at times, but that was in high school. I didn't understand then.''
When Rod Sr. speaks, people listen, including his children. Allen was a Round 6 selection of the Chicago White Sox in 1977. His 15-year playing career included big league stints with Seattle, Detroit and Cleveland, and ended with a three-year tour in Japan.
Allen was hitting coach for the Diamondbacks' Arizona Rookie League entry in 1996, a club that included current Arizona second baseman Junior Spivey. He also managed the organization's instructional league club before heading to the booth.
Rod Jr. is about the same height (6-2) his father was at the same age, but about 10 pounds heavier thanks to weight training, -- frowned upon in the 1970s. There are other similarities.
''I was a wristy hitter and a dead pull hitter just like he is,'' Rod Sr. said. ''We hold the bat in a similar manner, too. I don't think he patterned his game after me. I think it's more of the work I did with him.''
Rod Jr. has watched old game tapes of his father, probably even the one of him charging the mound and chasing a pitcher all over the outfield after being plunked in a Japanese Central League game.
''It's not something I tried to copy,'' Rod Jr. said of the similarities, ''although the way we run and the way we throw are very much alike.''
Rod Jr. knows he's blessed and isn't ashamed to admit it. ''I am so grateful to have a dad being in the same profession I want to take up,'' he said. '''He knows baseball. He can tell me what I'm doing wrong by listening on the radio. That's how much he knows me as a hitter.''
While in high school Rod Jr. worked in the Bank One Ballpark clubhouse. He had a uniform and handled such tasks as putting out the water jugs, performing soft toss and shagging flyballs. Occasionally, then hitting coach Jim Presley would throw him batting practice.
''It was a real good experience,'' said Rod Sr., ''seeing superstar players that make millions of dollars are very down-to-earth human beings in a quiet setting. He was probably in awe, but he absorbed a lot of information.''
Players like Bernard Gilkey, Tony Womack, Greg Swindell, Matt Williams and others befriended Rod Jr.. Those that hadn't played college baseball told him they wished they had; those that had said to make sure he had fun and enjoyed those college years. It was something the father wanted his son to hear.
''I was able to see the lifestyle at the top,'' Rod Jr. said. ''Seeing how hard they work made me want to work that much harder. I picked up bits and pieces from every guy.''
Drafted by Cincinnati in the 34th round, Rod Jr. remained firmly committed to ASU. Last season Baseball America selected Allen to its Freshman All-America team after he hit .389, a school record for a first-year player, hit six home runs (a pair of grand slams) and drove in 53 runs. The first Sun Devil freshman ever voted all-Pacific 10 Conference first-team honors took his line-drive stroke to Alaska for the summer.
Allen hit .314 and stole 24 bases for the champion Anchorage Glacier Pilots, made the league All-Star team, was voted the No. 8 prospect and helped the club capture the National Baseball Congress World Series title in Wichita.
Rod Sr. saw the summer in Alaska as a good learning experience. ''It was a real grind for him having only five days off before going to Alaska,'' he said. ''It was similar to a professional season. He got a taste of what everything is like as a pro.''
It was Junior's first time away from home. Even attending ASU and living near the campus, he knows mom and dad are only a few miles away ''and he comes over when he gets hungry and needs to go do laundry,'' said Rod Sr.
''It's been a great experience,'' Rod Jr. said of his short collegiate tenure. ''You definitely get the chance to grow as a player, and maturing is definitely beneficial for you in your career.''
Allen's numbers have not been quite as productive as a sophomore; .271 with five homers and 33 RBIs through 35 games. One reason might be a change in his hitting alignment.
''Last season I had a slightly open stance, more like Luis Gonzalez's, but not that drastic,'' he said. ''Now it's pretty much like it was in Alaska and in high school, more closed. But it doesn't matter.''
What's important to Rod Jr. is getting to Omaha and competing in the College World Series. He attended some CWS games while traveling through Nebraska with a youth team a few years ago.
''This year I've learned to deal with the difficult situation of trying to live up to what everybody else expected me to do,'' Rod Jr. said. ''Right now I want to finish strong for the team. I'll take a half-way decent season for a championship any day.''
Those words will make his father proud.
''I always tried to give good advice to all my kids, like concentrating on having fun and contributing to the team,'' Rod Sr. said. ''Everything else will take care of itself.''
Rod Sr. admits he was tough on Rod Jr. growing up, dragging him off to the batting cages when the teenager probably wanted to be doing something else with his friends.
''Not too many guys have a parent that can throw them BP or have baseball background,'' said Rod Jr. proudly. ''At times it would be hard, but he was constantly working on my game to make me better. Now he's trying to make sure I don't stress too much.''
Father had an ulterior motive for pushing son to his limits and beyond as a younger player.
''It's a dream very few kids ever get,'' Rod Sr. said, ''a chance to sign a contract, much less play in the big leagues. Sometimes we take it for granted because we were talented in high school or college. We never look at the flip side to see those who sweat and work harder, but never get that opportunity.''
Rod Allen Jr. has never been more thankful for his talent or, more importantly, his parentage.