Rob Sasser gets immense gratification from helping players in their quest to play in the Major Leagues one day. The veteran hitting coach for the Winston-Salem Dash has a lifelong passion for baseball, which explains why coaching the game at any level gives him a great sense of fulfillment.
“I’ve had great experiences playing pro ball and coaching pro ball,” said Sasser, who played 13 seasons in the minors and hit .258 with 98 home runs and 543 RBIs. “When I’m no longer in pro ball, I want to keep coaching at one level or another until I can’t do it any more. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the pros, college, high school or youth leagues. I’ve always enjoyed helping players develop to the best of their abilities.”
As a minor-league coach in upper-level Class A, one of the major challenges for Sasser is to help players make the transition from the amateur ranks to the pros. Many players who start out in Class A are draft picks who were stars in high school and college. The transition isn’t always smooth.
“You hear about how the game is more mental than physical when you get to the pros,” he said. “When you reach that level, then you come to understand how true that is. It doesn’t take long to discover that what worked in high school and/or college does not work at the pro level. There’s so much that goes into preparation and developing an approach to playing the game that enables a player to be successful.”
Tutoring young players about hitting is an ongoing process. During a game, Sasser closely observes what takes place with every hitter on every pitch with every at-bat. As hitters gain more experience, they develop a better feel for what to expect from opposing pitchers in different game situations.
“I get a lot of satisfaction when a kid can tell what he did wrong (at the plate) and knows what he needs to do to correct it,” said Sasser, who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 10th round of the 1993 amateur draft. “The emphasis is to dwell on the positive and focus on what they do when they’re successful. It’s about developing consistency. Whatever it is that they do that works, we want to develop an approach that will keep that going.”
In his coaching role, Sasser, now in his seventh season as a hitting coach, explained that he isn’t interested in accolades, applauds and recognition. Coaching provides a vehicle for Sasser to contribute to a game that he has cherished since his high school days in Oakland, Calif.
“I don’t look at what I do for the purpose of me getting the credit or the blame for how someone plays,” he said. “I’m not here for the glory. I’m here to give back (to baseball) in any way I can.”
Sasser did get one brief stint in the Majors, when he played in one game with the Texas Rangers in 1998. He knew that when he was called up from the minors that he wouldn’t be there very long. Sasser was a temporary replacement for a player who had been acquired in a trade. In his only MLB appearance, Sasser fouled out in a game against the Chicago White Sox. It would be his first and last trip to the big leagues.
“I thought that I’d get another chance at it, but things just never happened,” he said. “It was my childhood dream to play Major League Baseball and even though it was only one game, I accomplished that. Therefore, there are no regrets.”