This is part two of the ‘Where are they Now’ piece on Chad Allen. To read the part one, click here.
Chad Allen is a three-time USA Baseball alumnus who had already experienced a lifetime of big moments by the time he was 21. He played with Team USA in 1995 and 1996 as a member of the Collegiate National Team and was a key member of the team that won bronze at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
Allen credits his experiences with Team USA as a major contributing factor to how he achieved many of his goals later in his career. The talent that was on display on the international and United States teams, Allen believes, is what really encouraged him to push his work ethic to the next level.
Allen’s USA Baseball experiences and work ethic paid off. In the summer of 1996, he was drafted in the 4th round of the MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins and just three years after his time with Team USA in the Olympics, Allen made his Major League debut playing left field for the Minnesota Twins.
“I’ll never forget it,” said Allen. “I remembering waking up that morning and I was as nervous as I had ever been in my entire life. We were playing at home against Toronto, and I was facing Pat Hentgen, a stud back in the day. I got up to the plate, and Hentgen got me down 0-2 the first couple pitches and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know if I’m good enough to do this.’ The first two pitches he threw me were filthy. But I ended up battling back and got it all the way to 3-2 and I got a base hit up the middle which really relaxed me.
“For me, it was an unbelievable experience to make it to the big leagues and play in my first game. After that and getting two hits in my first game, it gave me the confidence to understand I can actually do this.”
Allen finished his rookie season with a final slash line of .277/.330/.395 and 10 home runs. He would go on to play seven total years in the big leagues with the Indians, Marlins, and Rangers in addition to the Twins.
In 2006, Allen would get to put his Major League and USA Baseball experiences to use once again as he would be selected to Team USA for a third time. This time, however, it would be for the professional national team.
Team USA was looking to qualify for the upcoming Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, which at the time was the final Olympic Games baseball would be on the Olympic Programme for the foreseeable future. Qualifying was not a given, even for a team as prominent in baseball as the United States. They missed out on qualifying for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, so the pressure was on and Allen and his teammates were up to the task.
“I knew what we were up against and had the experience to know what to expect. I tried to be a leader on that team and let those guys know what to expect and kind of lead as far as confidence and helping to prepare everyone.” said Allen.
That sort of leadership was vital, as Team USA would be playing in Havana, Cuba. It was unfamiliar territory for most of the younger athletes on the team, and as anyone who follows international baseball could tell you, playing in front of a passionate Cuban crowd can be challenging.
Leading up to the final game against Cuba, Team USA had won eight of their nine of meetings, providing the confidence they needed headed into the finale.
“I knew that we were going to play Cuba in Cuba. They were a team that would try to intimidate you in all aspects of the game. So, for me, I knew what they were going to do to us so I wanted to do it to them. I wasn’t going to let them intimidate us. There must have been 50,000 people [at the final game against Cuba] and we went out and just put it on them,” said Allen.
Team USA came out on top, taking down the world powerhouse 8-5 in front of their home crowd.
“It was a great experience for us. After the final game, the fans were unbelievable and their players were respectful,” continued Allen. “We gave them our shoes, our gloves, and everything we could give away we gave away.”
In 14 total games, Team USA tallied a staggering 122 runs. They finished the summer with a 12-2 overall record and were successful on their mission to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games. Allen started seven games for Team USA. He batted .250 and was second on the team in RBI.
After qualifying, Team USA would later go on to capture a bronze medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It would mark the fifth Olympic medal Team USA captured in its history.
Allen’s professional playing career later came to an end in 2007. He took some time away from the game and returned as a hitting coach for the New Britain Rock Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, in the 2013 season.
“For me, it was about taking what I had learned from some of the greatest coaches I ever had, Ron Polk, Skip Bertman, Mark Johnson, and applying it,” said Allen. “Gaining the trust of players is the most important thing for me as a coach. If a player doesn’t trust you then he’s not going to play to the best of his abilities. It was huge for me to be able to play under so many great coaches in my career to understand what it took to be able to be a good coach.”
Allen most recently served as the hitting coach for the Rochester Red Wings during the 2018 season. His love of baseball and desire to remain close to the game is evident.
“I still want to coach in the big leagues one day. I love the game and have a passion for the it and a passion to give back to kids,” continued Allen. “I think every player aspires to play in the big leagues and as a coach, you want to coach in the big leagues. It’s about giving back to the players and trying to make them the best they can be.”For Allen, now it’s about giving back and spreading the knowledge that he was able to gain in both his tenure with USA Baseball and time in the big leagues. He was able to learn invaluable lessons and play in unimaginable environments. He experienced moments that he will never forget and games that he will always remember. These moments make up the foundation for a wealth of knowledge that our pastimes future could benefit from, and knowing Allen, he will pass it on.