FEATURE FRIDAY: FORMER RIVER HAWK STANDOUT DEGROOT A FRONT OFFICE STAR FOR MARLINS
Geoff DeGroot will do whatever it takes to win a baseball game. As a River Hawk from 2012 to 2015, he cycled through three positions as the team went from Division II to Division I. He initially arrived at Lowell a shortstop, transitioned to a center fielder and graduated a pitcher.
His former coach Ken Harring bestows glowing praise for his tenacity and sharp intelligence, culminating in an uncanny baseball instinct. As a player, he inspired.
Harring testifies that DeGroot went through a short rut in his sophomore year, having trouble throwing and with the general mental element of the game. Rather than give up or feel sorry about himself, DeGroot chose to work harder and transform his game. It was DeGroot who suggested he be moved to another position on the field, and this move jumpstarted his game.
“He became an all-conference, all-region center fielder and didn’t miss a beat because he just wanted to win,” said Harring. “I remember that phone call: [he said] ‘I just think it’s better you move me.’ We did and he ended up being an unbelievable outfielder.”
Even when he deduced that he may be more useful to the game as a front office employee than as a player, DeGroot made that leap knowing that he was helping something greater than himself. Although it was difficult for him to make that final decision, he has never regretted it.
“I am still challenged on a daily basis in ways that I have never been challenged before, which I think is great for my overall development as an employee and a human being as a whole. I am still very close to the game so I really don’t miss playing all that much,” DeGroot wrote in an email interview.
His career change has most recently taken him to the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft in Secaucus, New Jersey as a representative of the Miami Marlins. From June 4 to 6, DeGroot was stationed with baseball legend and MLB Network analyst Juan Pierre, taking calls from Derek Jeter.
Just one minor detail: DeGroot is only 27 years old. And yes, that would be the very same Derek Jeter.
DeGroot wrote that he was thrilled to work the draft despite the hours of exhaustive work it took to get there.
“I feel very honored that the Miami Marlins asked me to represent them at the Draft. It was an incredible experience,” wrote DeGroot.
DeGroot’s coach at UMass Lowell, Ken Harring, is far from surprised at DeGroot’s meteoric success. Harring, who has been the head coach of UMass Lowell baseball since 2005 has seen several players come in, graduate and go beyond in baseball, but calls DeGroot one of the most special of the bunch.
“He had tremendous instincts for the game… he knows who’s good and who’s not good,” said Harring. “Having such a big position for [an MLB] team as a 27-year-old, the trust the Marlins have put in him is pretty impressive. They see all of the things in him that I did.”
DeGroot began working with the Marlins in 2018 and writes that it is an experience which never loses its novelty. It cannot hurt to work alongside one of the greatest players of all time, either. DeGroot, who grew up idolizing Jeter as a player, writes that the legendary former Yankee shortstop is a dream to work with.
“[Jeter] continues to inspire me now on a professional and personal level as I am fortunate enough to be around him and see how he treats everybody he comes into contact with the utmost respect. He is also one of the hardest working people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting,” he wrote.
Still playing in the Yankees’ minor league system in 2016, DeGroot was looking to expand his involvement with baseball. Gary Denbo, the vice president of player development for the Yankees at the time, offered DeGroot a position in the Yankees’ front office.
DeGroot writes that although Denbo and the Yankees offered to support him if he chose to play baseball while working in the front office, he opted to focus entirely on his new position. He felt that he could contribute more to the Yankees as a front office employee than as a pitcher in their minor league system.
His new move paid off.
“I learned more about the game of baseball in the two years I spent working in player development for the New York Yankees than I had in the previous 22 years of my life,” wrote DeGroot.
That statement is even more impressive given Harring’s memory of DeGroot as a player. He praised DeGroot’s keen eye for the game as well as his dogged determination to constantly improve.
“Everything he’s done is due to him and his work ethic and his passion. It’s a credit to him and his family,” said Harring.
While he writes that he works mainly in front office operations in addition to scouting talent, DeGroot got out of the office and onto a big stage this past weekend. He writes that his career in Division II and I baseball at UMass Lowell informs his scouting responsibilities on a more personal level.
But more importantly, DeGroot credits his experience playing for Harring at UMass Lowell to be a uniquely inspiring experience.
“UMass Lowell is where I really fell in love with the game of baseball and when I decided that I wanted to stay in the game for as long as I could, whether it was playing, coaching, scouting [or] working in a front office,” wrote DeGroot.
DeGroot’s success comes as no surprise to his former coach.
“It’s humbling. I get goosebumps every time I see it and talk to him. You think about where he was recruiting him as a player, what he did here… on and off the field. He was the ultimate River Hawk role model,” said Harring.
As for DeGroot’s future with the Miami Marlins, he believes it to be as bright as the sun glinting off of the beautiful Floridian seas.
“To have a whole team of players and coaches all pulling on the same rope and working for the same goal is a pretty special thing to be a part of and we had that at our baseball program at UMass Lowell. It is something that I am beginning to feel now in the Miami Marlins organization,” he wrote.
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