Narron named All-Star assistant coach
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on June 23, 2006 2:14 PM
If the season ended today, Jerry Narron and the Cincinnati Reds would claim the National League wild card just one season removed from finishing 16 games under .500.
That's better than simply improving or being respectable.
That's contending for the playoffs, and Narron has been rewarded.
On Thursday evening, it was announced that the Goldsboro native was named as an assistant National League coach for the All-Star game at Pittsburgh's PNC Park on July 11. Narron gladly accepted when he was asked earlier this week by Houston Astros and NL manager Phil Garner.
The All-Star invite is the first for Narron in his 20 years in professional baseball as a player or coach.
"I'm excited about it," said Narron in a phone interview on Thursday evening. "It's an individual honor for me to go, but it's because of our organization, coaching staff and players.
"We've had a good first half, much better than anybody's expected."
Pirates' manager Jim Tracy will also assist Garner, while former Pittsburgh manager Chuck Tanner will serve as an honorary coach. Tanner managed Garner during his playing days in Pittsburgh, where he was an All-Star in 1980 and '81. Garner will also be joined by six of his Houston assistants; Mark Bailey, Cecil Cooper, Jose Cruz, Gary Gaetti, Jim Hickey and Doug Mansolino. Ozzie Guillen of the Chicago White Sox will lead the AL squad.
The league that wins will get home-field advantage in the World Series again.
"I was very surprised. The manager usually brings the manager from the host town, so I thought he might be only picking one manager," Narron said. "I hadn't even thought about it to be honest with you.
"I only know Garner from competing against him, so I don't really have a close relationship with him. That makes it even more special to be selected."
Currently four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the Central, the Reds (39-34) suffered a 6-2 loss to Pedro Martinez and the N.Y. Mets on Thursday afternoon -- finishing with a split in the four-game series in the Big Apple.
Cincinnati, hindered recently by a struggling bullpen, is just 3-7 in its last 10 games with five of those losses coming against the Mets and Chicago White Sox -- two of the best teams in baseball.
In innings 1-6, the Reds own one of the best team ERA's in the league at 4.29. However, in the last three innings their team ERA slips to 5.08, which is second-to-last in the NL.
Narron knows the bullpen must find some consistency for his team to continue to have hopes for the postseason.
"Our pen has got to do a better job. They are very capable," he said. "The other night, Todd Coffey, got out Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright in New York with a one-run lead. I think they are capable, we just have to step up and get it done."
Before the break, the Reds travel to in-state rival Cleveland for three games, then finish interleague play with three games at home with both Kansas City and Cleveland. Cincinnati concludes the first half on the road with a pair of three-game sets at Milwaukee and Atlanta, respectively.
Narron's original plans of spending the All-Star break with his family may not have to change. He is hoping his daughters, Callie and Clare, and his son, Connor, can join him in Pittsburgh for the Mid-Summer Classic.
"I love the game at all levels. I enjoyed going to see Connor and his Junior Legion team the last time I was home," he said. "I'm a fan, and that's one reason that I'll love going to the All-Star Game. I've been very blessed."
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