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Former Tiger Assistant Coach Uses What He Learned At Clemson Today

Former Tiger Assistant Coach Uses What He Learned At Clemson Today

July 30, 2000 would like to thank former Clemson baseball player Mike Milchin for making this interview with Dave Littlefield possible.

by Brett Sowell

One Friday earlier in July, it was almost six o’clock and I was packing my things up to close the office and head home. The phone rang and I wondered who could be calling me this late in the afternoon on a Friday. It was the assistant general manager of the Florida Marlins, Dave Littlefield.

Littlefield and I had talked earlier in the day to set up a time for me to interview him for We had agreed that we would talk the following Monday morning, but Littlefield said he had a little bit of time to talk now.

While he was giving me his answer to the first question I could sense his attention was being drawn elsewhere. As I finished jotting down his answer, he said, “Brett, I’m sorry, but I have to go.” Before I could even get a chance to say, “bye,” he was gone.

On Monday morning, Littlefield called me from Atlanta where he was attending the Major League All-Star game. He told me he was sorry about Friday. On Friday, Littlefield’s presence was requested by the Florida general manager for a conference call about a possible trade the Marlins were involved in.

“As an assistant general manager, my job is to basically service the owner and general manager. Whenever they need me, I drop whatever I am doing,” Littlefield said.

Littlefield is in his 12th year working within the professional ranks of baseball. His last stop before entering professional baseball was Clemson.

Littlefield came to Clemson in August of 1985 as an assistant coach to then Clemson skipper, Bill Wilhelm. He worked three years under the tutelage of Wilhelm. During his stay at Clemson, Littlefield worked in all phases of the Tiger program on the field, but off it he was Clemson’s primary recruiter.

Littlefield was very talkative about the influence Wilhelm had on him during his three years in Clemson.

“Wilhelm has a real perceptive feeling for the game. He sees and understands things well from a player’s perspective. That enabled him to use his teaching skills and motivational skills wherever necessary. Wilhelm is extremely intelligent. He has great foresight and that made him a good coach and teacher. He has an excellent feel for things that will happen later,” Littlefield stated.

Littlefield added, “since players are young and this also applies to young coaches, sometimes you didn’t understand Wilhelm’s message until later. There were a lot of areas where he helped us dodge some potholes, if we listened to him.”

A good example of Wilhelm’s foresight came after Littlefield’s third year as an assistant at Clemson. Littlefield had an offer to become an area scout for the Detroit Tigers. Wilhelm told Littlefield he should take the position.

“At first I didn’t realize what Wilhelm meant by pushing me towards the scouting job. I thought it was his way of telling me I wasn’t doing a good enough job. But in the end I realized that this was a perfect example of Wilhelm’s foresight.

“Wilhelm’s thoughts were that there may be bigger and better things for me down the road in this profession. He felt like if I went into professional baseball, I had a chance to do some big things,” said Littlefield.

And Littlefield has done big things since leaving Clemson. Following his stint as area scout for the Tigers, he became the club’s supervisor scout on the East coast. Then he became the national scout for the Montreal Expos before advancing to become the team’s director of player development. It was in this position that he was exposed to another person with a wealth of baseball experience.

“The great thing about the Expos was we didn’t have a lot of staff so I had a lot of interaction with manager Felipe Alou. Talking with him is like going to a library of baseball knowledge,” Littlefield stated.

Littlefield left the Expos in November 1998 to become the assistant general manager of the Florida Marlins. With the Marlins, he oversees the club’s minor league system as well as scouting in the Orient, he handles contract negotiations and he is responsible for overseeing the building of a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

Looking back on his days at Clemson, Littlefield credits Wilhelm for the influence the legendary coach had on him during his three-year stint in Tiger Town.

“Wilhelm was tough and if you want to win, you have to be tough. People don’t comprehend that until you get into a big game. He would harden you so you would be ready for those types of games. The good players became more battle hardened and those are the type of players I look for.

“A lot of things I learned from Wilhelm I use today. He had a big influence on my baseball philosophies,” Littlefield concluded.

Fortunately the second interview with Littlefield went almost without any interruptions. There was just one. Luckily this time it wasn’t the owner or general manager.