View Full Version : The Brothers Narron

04-24-2007, 01:56 AM

By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- They are brothers forever, but were teammates for only one season.

In 1974, Jerry and Johnny Narron had the great fortune of beginning their professional baseball careers with the same team within the same organization.

The Narrons were assigned to the Yankees' short-season rookie-level team in Johnson City, Tenn. Johnny, four years older, was a first baseman drafted out of college. Jerry, who would become the Reds' manager later in life, was an 18-year-old catcher fresh out of high school. Jerry batted third for Johnson City while Johnny hit fourth.

"One our teammates nicknamed us 'Little Poison' and 'Big Poison,'" Johnny Narron recalled. "We had a great time together. Growing up when you're four years apart, when you're 12 and he's 8 and when he's 12 and you're 16, it's a little more difficult to be friends. We got closer when we played together that first professional season. It was a very special time for both of us."

Not surprisingly, the Goldsboro, N.C., natives were inseparable.

"We stayed in a single white trailer and got up every day and cooked pancakes and watched "The Young and the Restless," Johnny said. "And then we went to the ballpark. We had one car and rode everywhere together."

These young Narrons had no reason to think their careers wouldn't remain joined at the hip. The business of baseball proved otherwise.

During the following Spring Training, on April 1, 1975, Johnny and two other Minor Leaguers were traded by the Yankees to the White Sox for All-Star catcher Ed Herrmann.

"I can still see Jerry walking me out to the sidewalk the next morning and me getting into a cab and driving off," Johnny said. "I was looking out the back window and he was just standing there. He was 18 years old and had never been away from home before. He kidded with me at one time that if I hadn't been with him that rookie season, he might not have stayed. [The trade] was kind of a surprise to both of us."

By the end of the 1970s, Jerry Narron had reached the Major Leagues and spent eight seasons with the Yankees, Mariners and Angels from 1979-87. A coaching and managerial career began in 1989, which eventually led his to his becoming Cincinnati's skipper in 2005.

Johnny Narron's pro playing career ended after 1975 when the White Sox released him. He worked in business outside of baseball for several years.

It took 32 years for the Narron brothers to wear the same team's uniform again.

During the winter, the Reds hired Johnny Narron as their video and administrative coach. Following six years with the Braves as an associate scout, the 55-year-old spent the previous four seasons in the Brewers Minor League system as an instructor or manager. He also started an instructional company called the Baseball Advancement Service, which works with young hitters in the offseason.

This year, Johnny Narron was preparing to be manager at the Brewers' rookie-level club in Helena, Mont., when a Major League offer came from Cincinnati.

"I know he's an outstanding person, a man of character," 51-year-old Jerry Narron said. "Right there, that benefits the organization. He knows the game. He fits in really well with [hitting coach] Brook Jacoby and Ronnie Ortegon, our Minor League coordinator."

The hitting philosophy stems from the teachings of respected Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. As a former manager and coach for Texas, Jerry Narron worked with Jaramillo and introduced him to his brother.

"[Johnny] spent some time with Rudy and talked with him," Jerry Narron said. "The video part of [the job] is something we didn't have in the past. He'll be with us on the road. He's a very, very supportive-type person for a lot of guys here, and that's big."

Stationed in the clubhouse with his laptop computer connected to a video machine, Johnny Narron helps players review their swings and also catalogs at-bats against opposing pitchers. But that's just part of the job. He also assists Jacoby in working with hitters. Before games, Johnny Narron grabs a fungo bat and hits ground balls at infielders. During games, he'll often be stationed in the indoor hitting cage to throw to potential pinch-hitters getting prepared for the later innings.

There's also an unofficial role to the position. Johnny Narron is the most significant part of the support system behind rookie Josh Hamilton and was hired after the Reds acquired Hamilton via a trade with the Cubs in December's Rule 5 Draft. Hamilton, the 1999 overall No. 1 draft pick of Tampa Bay, made his return to baseball this spring after four years away because of drug-use suspensions.

The pairing was no accident. Hamilton has known Johnny Narron since he was nine years old when he played on the same basketball team with Johnny's son. The two boys played Little League together and later, high school baseball against one another.

When Hamilton was ages 15-17, Johnny Narron was his coach on showcase travel baseball teams in North Carolina.

"I've known Josh a long time," Johnny Narron said. "I was right there when he was being scouted, drafted and signed and left Raleigh, North Carolina. He and I have a tremendous relationship right now. We've been apart, obviously, during his problem times. I didn't know where he was, quite frankly. To have been put back in his life, I think it's God's plan for me. I'm his mentor both on and off the field."

Besides sharing baseball, Hamilton and Johnny Narron also share a religious bond and use those ties to maintain a strong friendship.

"I have respect for him as a friend and a coach," Hamilton said. "When it's baseball time, he is one of my coaches. He can not only help me with off-field things, but on-field things, too, with his wisdom. It was an awesome thing for the Reds to even consider. Pulling the trigger on it speaks volumes for the kind of organization they're running."

A personal and professional relationship co-exists similarly between Johnny and Jerry Narron, only not like it was in 1974. While the two still share a remarkable resemblance, they don't live together in Cincinnati. Nor is there much time to eat pancakes and watch soap operas before heading to the ballpark.

"Honestly, I don't get to see him that much, believe it or not," Jerry Narron said.

It doesn't make this any less special for Johnny Narron. After all these years, he is finally working a big-league job. Working alongside Jerry Narron in the same uniform for a long-awaited second time has made the opportunity more to savor.

"My relationship with my brother is still as strong as it's ever been," Johnny Narron said. "I have to draw certain lines when it comes to the brother relationship here because I have to respect his position and respect my position to where I fall in the food chain. I try to keep that in perspective. I try not to get in his way. I try to do my job and let him do his job. We both recognize it and understand it.

"At the same time, I'm here if he needs me. And he knows that. Obviously if I need something, he'd be there for me."

04-24-2007, 08:27 AM
I think someone should poke Mark Sheldon from time to time to make sure he's awake? Hasn't this story been written a dozen times since Spring Training started?

04-24-2007, 08:33 AM
Actually, while I joked about Sheldon just waking up to this story, it was interesting. This tidbit jumped out at me particularly in light of some of the conversation yesterday about what would happen if Jerry were ever fired

"My relationship with my brother is still as strong as it's ever been," Johnny Narron said. "I have to draw certain lines when it comes to the brother relationship here because I have to respect his position and respect my position to where I fall in the food chain. I try to keep that in perspective. I try not to get in his way. I try to do my job and let him do his job. We both recognize it and understand it.