On Tuesday, it was announced that the former Blinn College athletic director and head baseball coach Leroy Dreyer will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Dreyer is known for building the Blinn College baseball program in his hometown of Brenham from the ground up starting in 1959 and remaining the head coach for 27 seasons despite offers to coach for Division I programs.
“I always wanted to be a coach and I never wanted to leave Blinn. I was happy here and my family was happy here,” Dreyer said as he sat in the dugout at Leroy Dreyer Field on the Blinn College campus.
“The reason that he wasn’t interested was because of his love of Blinn College and working with the young kids who came out of high school,” Dreyer’s wife of 66 years, June, said. “It was just the love of his life.”
Although he was inducted into the NJCAA Football and Baseball Hall of Fames as a coach and was the first NJCAA All-American football player out of Blinn, it was his 27 years on the diamond that he became known for. From 1959 to 1986, Dreyer compiled a 653-249 record, while leading five teams to the NJCAA World Series and being named the Texas Junior College Coach of the Year a total of 12 times.
“The man was a legend in the 70’s and 80’s,” former Major League Baseball player and 1975-76 Blinn Buccaneer Ron Davis said. “I played for him in the mid-70’s and coming out of high school and never being away from home, he was the scariest thing around being my college coach, but after the first year we got to realize that he was just a teddy bear and we had a blast with him.”
Dreyer saw big league potential in the 6-foot-4 pitcher that was “throwing straight over the top” from the first time he saw him.
“Over the winter, he had me start throwing with a three-quarter delivery and all of a sudden I got everybody out,” Davis said. “He thought I’d be more successful, more effective on right handers and it would make the ball sink more.”
In 1976, Davis was the only player selected out of Blinn in the third round for the Cubs and went on to spend 11 seasons in the major leagues using the three-quarter delivery.
At 86-years-old, Dreyer still reminisces about his players such as Davis.
“Now I can look back on my players like Ron and think about how I changed his arm angle and dropped him to four seams for a strike out pitch and he made his 11 years in the major leagues on the submarine delivery and the list goes on and on,” Dreyer said.
Gary Weiss, former 1975-76 Blinn Buccaneer who played alongside Davis, was another one of 52 players who played under Dreyer to sign a professional contract.
“At the time I was right out of high school, Blinn College was like a Division I program and it was really a great honor to play there because they had so many great athletes who had been there in previous years,” he said. “It was definitely a step up and a noticeable step up.”
Like with Davis, Dreyer worked with Weiss in preparation for his first season at Blinn and decided it would be beneficial for him to learn to switch-hit.
“I was a right-handed hitter when I went to Blinn and I struggled with right-handed pitchers’ curve balls and things like that, so being blessed with speed he told me that it would be beneficial for me to switch-hit,” he said. “That was one of the things that I think helped to extend my career for the two years at the University of Houston and the three years that I played professional ball. It was probably five to six years right there that I would have never got to experience had he not taught me how to switch-hit.”
Weiss would go on to be drafted in the 19th round of the 1978 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers and play parts of two seasons in the major leagues.
“He was just an incredible man to play for and prepared me extremely well for the University of Houston, so when I went there it what like a parallel level move,” he said. “I don’t think you could say that for every junior college, but because of the program, because we had an Astroturf infield, which was unheard of in those days, it was like a lateral move.”
In fact, there were more than five Blinn players who played alongside Weiss at the University of Houston.
“It means a lot that a Division I program went into just one junior college program and took six or eight guys from that program and in that same group there was one that went to the University of Texas and there were several that were drafted,” he said. “At Blinn, we were always at the top and we had those expectations especially with Leroy. You always knew you were going to win and he would always instill that mentality and that attitude to win in us.”
Aside from winning, Dreyer’s focus was to shape his young players’ futures.
“The things that I wanted my players to take away from their time as a Blinn baseball player is number one, discipline, and secondly, respect for everyone,” Dreyer said. “Now when I see them at baseball reunions they tell me the best two years of their lives were at Blinn.”
Weiss agreed that playing for Dreyer wasn’t just about baseball, but learning to be disciplined, respectful, structured and always on time.
“There is a story that had a real profound impact on me,” Weiss said. “One day there was just chaos all over the place during baseball practice because everybody was working on something and I heard him holler out to the entire group to stop what they were doing, face the road and remove their caps.”
The reason being that a funeral procession was going by the field.
“That always stuck with me more than anything we did at Blinn,” he said. “We did it until the last car drove by and then went back to work. It tells you a lot about who Leroy was.”
Current Colorado Rockies pitching coach and former 1986 Blinn Buccaneer Steve Foster describes Dreyer in the same light.
“I missed home, but Leroy was a calming influence who demanded discipline,” Foster said. “He encouraged and showed me he believed in me.”
Foster went on to be drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 12th round and play two seasons in the majors.
Although Dreyer’s career has been fulfilled with many highlights including the dedication of Leroy Dreyer Field in his honor and the retirement of his number 34, Dreyer doesn’t hesitate when asked what meant the most.
“To be honest about it, the success of my players. If they weren’t drafted, they had opportunities to go to college,” he said. “That’s all that really mattered.”