03/31/12 — Sam Narron moving on to coaching position

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Sam Narron moving on to coaching position

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 31, 2012 11:50 PM

The examples of baseball players who struggled with the decision of when to call it quits on their career is a long one.

Legends like Willy Mays, Mickey Mantle and Ryne Sandberg all stayed in the game of baseball longer than they probably should have because they could not come to the realization that it was time to do something else.

Mays spent his final two years with the Mets and hit a combined .238 during that span. Mantle finished his career with one last run in 1968 with the Yankees and carried a meager .237 batting average and hit just 18 home runs. Sandberg came back for a two-year stint with the Cubs in 1996-97 and never recaptured his gold glove abilities that made him a Hall-of-Famer.

Sam Narron did not have as illustrious numbers as the trio of examples, but he did know when it was time to make a change. After 10 seasons as a minor leaguer, Narron has been hired by the Washington Nationals to take over as the pitching coach in Auburn, New York, a Single-A affiliate of the franchise.

"I didn't really struggle with my decision at all," Narron said during a phone interview. "I had not gotten any calls from teams wanting to sign me, so when the Nationals called and offered me a position, I saw it as a unique opportunity."

After a successful career at East Carolina University, Narron was drafted in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Texas Rangers in 2002. He spent time in the Appalachian League, Texas League, Southern League and the Pacific Coast League as a member of the Rangers and Brewers organizations.

Narron's one career major league appearance came with the Rangers in July 2004. The outing lasted 2 2/3 innings as Narron allowed five hits and four runs in a no-decision. He was released following the season and signed by Milwaukee. A successful starter in the minor leagues, Narron was selected for the Texas League and Pacific Coast League All-Star games during his career.

"I was very fortunate to play professional baseball for 10 years," Narron said. "I played with and against some of the best players in the game, and I was able to contribute to each team that I was on."

In 2011, Narron played with the Nashville Sounds of the Pacific Coast League. He finished the season with a 6-7 record and an earned run average of 5.12. He was granted free agency in November and hoped that an offer would come in.

"I decided that if I was going to come back and pitch again in 2012 it would have to be a really good fit," Narron said. "At 30 years old I would have to be in a place where I felt I could move up and potentially get another shot at the majors."

A perfect offer never came as Narron spent the winter playing baseball across Latin America. As teams opened spring training, a member of the Nationals' player development staff saw Narron's name on the free agent list and decided to give him a call, but not to extend a spring training invite.

"I was a little surprised when the Nationals called and asked if I had any thoughts about being a coach," Narron said. "But the way I looked at it was there are two circles in the game of baseball, the players' circle and the coaches' circle. Once you get out of either of those circles it is tough to get back in."

Narron accepted an offer the become the pitching coach of the Auburn Doubledays. He will spend the spring helping with the Nationals' camp in Florida before heading to New York in May for the short-season Single-A schedule. Auburn competes in the New York-Penn League and has been in operation since 1958.

An impressive list of players have made their way through Auburn including starting pitchers Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt and Ricky Romero. Though he has never actually seen the town or the ballpark where he will be working, Narron showed excitement about the organization that will be signing his paychecks.

"The Nationals organization is one of the deepest in all of baseball," Narron said. "They have shown the ability to get the best out of young players and that makes coaching in the minor leagues a priority. They understand that how the minor league teams play will directly effect the major league team in the future."

Narron will be working with several players drafted last season by the Nationals as well as a few who have yet to be selected. Short-season leagues are often the first stop for players selected in the amateur draft in early June.

"It is exciting because I really don't even know who I will have to work with yet," Narron said. "Most of our team will come out of this year's draft, so I will be the first professional coach that a lot of the guys have."

The Nationals will break camp on April 2 and open the season April 5 at Chicago. Auburn opens its season June 18 at Batavia, New York.