MESA, Ariz. — Mountain Pointe High School baseball coach Matt Denny opened his email last fall and read a note from someone claiming to be a major leaguer, who was wondering if he needed a hand on his coaching staff.
Denny thought it was a hoax.
“You get a lot of guys who say things that aren’t true,” he said.
The curious individual happened to be A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell, and he was sincere about his offer. Before long, Maxwell was driving out to the Phoenix high school, attending Mountain Pointe’s fall workouts and putting the team’s catchers through the same drills that A’s catchers do.
Maxwell, who splits his offseason between Phoenix and Harvest, Alabama, fit seamlessly as a volunteer coach into what he calls “the Mountain Pointe family.” His players have his phone number and he encourages them to keep in touch.
Even after Oakland’s spring training workouts began, Maxwell would leave Hohokam Stadium after his work day ended, make a quick trip home to let his dog out, and then head over to Mountain Pointe’s practice. It’s getting tougher for him to make practices now that the A’s have started playing exhibitions, but Maxwell keeps tabs on how the team is doing.
“I try to do something along these lines every offseason, because I love to coach and I love to teach, whether it be lessons or at a high school,” said Maxwell, who’s helped coach Arizona-based travel ball teams in the past.
Maxwell said he reached out to coaches of three different schools last fall. Denny, who won two state titles at nearby Greenway High and is in his first season at Mountain Pointe, got back to him within an hour. Still, Denny had his reservations upon getting the e-mail.
The 25-year-old Maxwell played in 33 games for the A’s as a midseason call-up last year, and he’s viewed as a promising up-and-coming catcher. But he’s hardly a household name, and Denny admitted his initial reaction was part excitement, part skepticism.
So he did a Google search.
“I looked him up and saw that he had some at-bats in the big leagues and that he was a real person,” the coach said.
Now, Mountain Pointe’s catchers are the beneficiaries of some top-notch instruction. In turn, Maxwell gets something out of the exchange too.
“I run these kids through the routine that we do every day,” he said. “The more and more you teach, the more and more you learn. I get to see what they’re doing wrong, and then seeing what they’re doing wrong and explaining it to them, I can see it and understand if I’m doing it. Because I can’t see myself.”
That perspective comes in handy for a player who didn’t convert from corner infielder to catcher until after his freshman season at Birmingham Southern College. Marcus Jensen, the A’s catching instructor, concurred that Maxwell can pick up things while coaching and observing younger players.
“When you’re able to teach something, it helps you to fully understand your particular craft, whatever it is you’re teaching,” Jensen said.
As Denny points out, Maxwell’s big league status gives him instant credibility with players. He admires the fact that Maxwell cares enough to donate his time.
“He’s a volunteer. He’s not doing it for the money, and that shows awesome character,” Denny said. “Somewhere along the line, he had a coach that worked with him. It’s a pay-it-forward thing.”
The A’s view Maxwell as part of their future plans, and he’s fighting this spring for a spot on the Opening Day roster. Because of that, his time helping Mountain Pointe will be limited for the rest of this season. But the high school squad is never far from his thoughts, and he talks as if he’d like to continue working with the program beyond this season.
“I’ll still be checking in with my kids,” Maxwell said. “They all have my social media and stuff. … I love it, man.”