Deeds recalled sitting in the dugout on a chilly April afternoon in the first game of a doubleheader and realized he had not just been traded, but had changed leagues.
"I didn't even really think about it, that I was switching leagues, until I actually got here," Deeds said. "I'm watching pitchers and had to take a step back and realize the gravity of the whole situation. You've got to realize that you're still playing the same game and the only thing that's changing is the uniform and the group of guys you're with. I was fortunate. It's pretty easy to make that adjustment here."
The left-handed hitting Deeds entered an April 12 game in the bottom of the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter and deposited the ball onto the hill well beyond the right field fence for a two-run homer en route to an 8-1 Smokies win over Jacksonville.
Deeds smiled at the reminder, but noted that power is not really a big part of his game. Although he is tied with teammate Tyler Colvin for the club lead with five dingers, Deeds is more likely to hit doubles, and he leads the Smokies with 12.
"My track record is I've been more of a doubles guys and usually a pretty decent average (guy)," Deeds said. "Every once in awhile, I'll get one out there but that's not my game. I'm not going to go out there and hit 30 a year. I'm more of a guy that would try to focus on scoring runs and knocking guys in. If I can stay within myself, I am pretty capable of doing those two things."
Deeds started the second game that April 12 evening in right field and hit a two-out single to drive in two runs in a 6-4 win. The next day against Jacksonville on April 13, Deeds went 4-for-5, a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
His teammates and the Smokies' staff didn't know much about him before he arrived in town. But they liked what they saw early and still do.
"I think his first couple of games really helped him fit in well," Smokies manager Buddy Bailey said. "You always want to get off to a good start. It eases your mind, but at the same time guys look at you like, ‘OK, this guy can help. He's one of us.' So I think his start, his first 48 hours that he was here, he made an impression. I know the other players were instantly attracted to him, so it's been a good mix."
Deeds is batting .290 and has 26 RBI in 55 games with the Smokies. He can perform in the field, too. The right fielder preserved a 4-4 tie game on June 2 – also the date of his 26th birthday – against the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx by throwing out a runner at home in the eighth inning. The Smokies scored the go-ahead run in the ninth for the club's fifth consecutive win.
Deeds also can play first base and filled in at that spot while infielder Matt Craig was on the disabled list. In a May game, Deeds dropped to one knee well behind the bag to snare a missile of a line drive on one bounce, hesitated for a second and softly tossed the ball to the pitcher covering first for the third out of the inning. He also took a second to gather himself before standing up to return to the dugout.
"Every once in awhile, you'll get one that puts you back on your heels," Deeds said. "If you're off balance, you want to take a moment just to make sure you get a good throw off. You do all the hard work to catch the ball and you don't want to throw the whole play away by throwing it by the pitcher. I think I was just more excited that I completed both sides of that play."
Deeds is most comfortable in the outfield, but he welcomes the stints at first base to expand how a team could deploy him.
"I would definitely say outfield is my preferred position," Deeds said. "Emergency first base, I am still working at that. I would like to keep that in the back pocket for versatility."
Deeds showed his ability in the outfield in another May game in which he sprinted to a line drive in the gap between center and right, dove to his right and caught the ball inches off the ground. He got a standing ovation from the Smokies fans for that defensive play.
"That's timing and it's one of the things where you're running after the ball and you figure out you have a bead on it," Deeds said. "You dive and hope for the best. You make your best effort and hopefully you'll come out smelling likes roses."
Smokies Park, meanwhile, smelled like smoke the night of May 22 after a brutal stretch in which the team lost 12 of 13 games. Players burned two bats and some batting gloves behind home plate in the pea gravel in an attempt to exorcise whatever demons were plaguing their bats and preventing runs from scoring.
It appeared to work because the team then won nine of 10 games.
"Allegedly, I might have been involved with this," Deeds said with a smile. "I might have thrown a few items into the fire. It's goofy baseball players being goofy."
Deeds hasn't endured any significant stretches of struggles at the plate – though his numbers drop against left-handed pitching – and he has managed to hit at every level from high school to college, where he played for Ohio State and was the Big 10 Freshman of the Year in 2001, and the minor leagues.
An exception was last season for the Twins' Triple-A club in Rochester, in which he hit .243 in only 235 at-bats.
"I think the biggest key is just getting the opportunity to go out and put up numbers," Deeds said. "It's tough to do that when you're playing once every five or six days. I've just got to hope for the best and hope for a decent opportunity to be out there and contribute every day. I think if given that opportunity everything else will fall into place."
Deeds was drafted in 2002 by the Twins in the ninth round after three years at Ohio State in which he red-shirted the first year. He was assigned to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League – also in eastern Tennessee – and hit .325 with 41 walks. He was thought by the Minnesota organization to be on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues in 2007 but then came the lack of chances in Triple-A and later a trade.
Deeds knows the Cubs organization is deep at the outfield positions. He doesn't let that distract him in Tennessee and accepted the trade with the right attitude.
"I definitely see it as a good thing," Deeds said. "I'm playing the game I love. I'm getting a chance here. Whether you're going to the big leagues or not, I don't know. I don't if that's in the deck of cards. I can't really worry about that right now. All in all, I think it's a chance for a great opportunity."
His manager noted that any ballplayer has to realize that other teams are always watching. Scouts from both leagues are constantly at the stadium to watch batting practice and games.
"As a player, your goal is to take somebody's job that's ahead of you, but you can't get consumed with that because there're 29 other organizations," Bailey said. "As an individual player, of course you want to play with the team that you're a part of in the big leagues, but he's coming over from Minnesota so his heart is probably still partially with the Twins. But as a player you want to get to the big leagues.
"If that means that you're stacked behind somebody in the organization because of contracts or a premier player, you just still have to bust it every day and keep your eyes open," added Bailey. "Every night, there's anywhere from three to six to eight scouts. We had scouting reports on him from Minnesota so therefore you're never going unnoticed. There might only be 1,000 people in the stands one night and you think nobody's watching. Well, some of the most important people in baseball are watching – that other coaching staff, the one that you're playing for, and then you always have scouts that are putting in reports every night."
"As a player, you go do it hard every day and hope you open somebody's eyes. Then you have to get in the right situation at the right time, and if and when that opportunity comes you take advantage and you're in position to go to the big leagues."
Deeds, who wears No. 9 because his childhood idol was Ted Williams, has embraced that approach to the game.
"What a lot of us struggle with is just consistency," Deeds said when asked to evaluate his weaknesses in the game. "Try to stay within ourselves and do what we can do to bring the best out of our athletic abilities on the field day in and day out. I am trying to be a better student of the game."
He also wants to be a voice that is heard in the dugout, and he cited leadership as a strength.
"I think there's a certain level of leadership and experience, and I try to talk the game with some of my teammates," Deeds said. "I am just trying to be a positive influence in the clubhouse."
Deeds also is a ballplayer that gets it off the field. He was one of five Smokies to make a recent trip the morning of a game to visit children at a hospital in Knoxville, about 20 miles away from the stadium.
When little leaguers run out to warm up as part of a pre-game promotion, Deeds kneels down and high-fives the youngsters as they run onto the field.
"It sounds like his folks did a real good job of raising him," Bailey said. "Most of the lists that you have for guys to do public appearances, he's one of the first ones to sign up for that. It's something that's inside of him, whether his parents instilled it or it's him, it's a good quality to have."
Deeds grew up in Ohio and attended Bexley High School in Columbus. He still makes his off-season home in his hometown.
"You grow up rooting for the Ohio State Buckeye team," Deeds said, "(and) it's sort of like a religion there. I was dreaming of being a wide receiver. I played all sports growing up and baseball seemed to be the best chance for me to further my career."
He opted to leave Ohio State because of the dearth of scholarship money and enter the draft. He led the Buckeyes in 2002 with a .386 batting average, 81 hits and 12 homers.
"It was going to be the status quo," Deeds said of returning to college for a third playing year. "It seemed financially the right decision."
His pro contract includes tuition to finish his business major, but his real interest is meteorology after realizing his personality wasn't suited to business.
"Not a businessman personality, I can tell you that much," Deeds said. "There are not too many morals involved in that. I'm interested in earth sciences and atmospheric stuff. I took courses in college and it piqued my interest."
Deeds has more time to pursue some outside interests because of the trade. His wife, Rebecca, lived with him when he played in the Twins organization, but she only makes visits to Tennessee.
"This year has been the toughest because last year I had my wife with me and in the off days, we did things together," Deeds said. "Now it's trying to kill time and go hang out with teammates and catch a movie. I'm starting to read a little bit more."
Deeds also uses down time off the field to maintain his physical condition. He is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds with a lean, muscular build.
"With this big grind, you have to get after it in the off-season and once the season starts you can't do too much," Deeds said. "You just want to maintain and basically give yourself every chance to be successful out there. One of the big things is to stay healthy."
Ballplayers at this level spend a lot of time eating on the go and sleeping on buses between ballparks.
"In minor league baseball, it's pretty tough to do that so you have to do what you can when you can to give yourself the best chance of being able to go out there and have the manager put your name in the lineup," Deeds said.
And so far, Bailey has inserted Deeds in 55 of 58 games for which he was on the Smokies roster.
"He's played outfield extremely well," Bailey said. "He handles himself real well. He's an average to above-average defensive outfielder. He's made some nice plays. I think his biggest attribute is his heart. He plays hard and gives it all he has every night. That's what you ask out of any player."
Deeds' speed is adequate. He won't steal many bases, but he can get from first to third on a single hit behind the runner, and he can score from first to home on a double.
He also uses the entire field to hit and has a discerning eye at the plate with 23 walks. His 45 strikeouts have been mostly against left-handed pitchers, and that is an area for improvement.
"He definitely needs to find a way to improve on facing left-handed pitching," Bailey said. "Part of that is a catch-22. He hasn't hit them real well and since we do have the luxury of rotating guys in and out, some righties get to see the lefties. He's done a little bit better job of hitting them lately and hopefully he keeps progressing."
Deeds was a youngster when he first heard the rock song "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," and it has followed him to ballparks ever since.
"I was a little kid playing on the block," Deeds said. "One of my neighbors started singing this song. I had no idea what she was singing. She told me what it was and I still had no idea. I wasn't a big AC/DC fan when I was 8, 9 years old.
"It's followed me around everywhere. I'm not the biggest fan of the song, per se. I do respect the group and I like a lot of their music. It's cute and catchy and every so often they throw it out there and the fans seem to like it."
It's played at Smokies Park whenever Deeds makes a good play in the field or gets a clutch hit, and it's one more way to make Deeds feel welcome with his new club.
Bailey said the transition to a new club is harder off the field.
"I think the biggest thing is, as you grow up with other guys in an organization, you establish friendships and you've got buddies that you're used to living with, and you find out who's compatible," Bailey said. "Then when you go over it's a whole drastic change and different ballparks to get acclimated to."
Deeds is taking it in stride so far, especially his start with the Smokies.
"It was an exciting time," he said. "Overall it was definitely and still is a positive situation."