For 35 years, Detroit Tigers outfield instructor Gene Roof dedicated himself to developing the young players that would wear the Olde English D.
“We’ve been fortunate to have had Gene Roof with our organization for over three decades, and personally, I’ve appreciated and enjoyed working with him for 19 years,” Al Avila, Detroit Tigers executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager, said. “Gene comes from a wonderful baseball family who have dedicated their lives to coaching and teaching players. Gene’s commitment at both the major and minor league level is a testament to his passion for the game, and he has positively impacted the development of countless Tigers players. I can tell you from ownership on down, we appreciated his devotion to making our players better. We wish he and his wife, Marianne, nothing but the best in retirement.”
Roof, one of five brothers who played professionally, has been involved in baseball since age 18. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976, where he played for three seasons and earned a ring from the 1982 World Series.
Roof’s playing career ended within the Tigers farm system in 1987. He was invited to coach the Double-A Nashville team – then affiliated with the Tigers. He would remain with the organization for the rest of his career.
“Gene-O was a joy to be around,” Dave Owen, Detroit Tigers director of player development, said. “He’s one of the truest baseball guys you’ll ever meet. No ego – just a genuine, nice man who cared so much for the players. You could tell the respect was mutual with the guys he worked with. You don’t have a 35-year career without understanding the players and adjusting the way you coach. The players always responded to him. He was one of them. They knew that he wasn’t just talk. He walked in their shoes. He not only connected with them on a baseball level, but on a personal level.”
The list of players whom Roof has coached is any baseball fan’s dream, and includes legends like Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson. He also helped spur the development of countless Tigers, and three years ago, helped Nick Castellanos transition from third base to outfield.
Careers that span decades can be hard to summarize, but Roof does so with ease: “I never had a bad day wearing the Olde English D,” he said.
The Tigers plan to honor Roof for his outstanding career before a home game during the 2021 season.