His career in the majors lasted one start. He threw 61 pitches and faced 17 hitters, giving up three home runs, five hits and four walks.
It was July 30, 2004, and despite giving up four runs, the Texas Rangers rallied to win the game so he didn’t get saddled with the loss.
That pitcher was Sam Narron.
The left-hander spent the rest of his career trying to get back to the majors. This offseason, while considering a return with a major league team at spring training, Narron decided to retire and go full-time into coaching.
Nationals director of player development Doug Harris came calling. He recognized Narron’s name from a list of possible invites to Viera, Fla., for spring training.
This year, Narron takes over as pitching coach for the short-season Single-A Auburn Doubledays.
“I am extremely excited,” Narron recounts. “No one ever wants to quit playing. But I was fortunate enough to play professional baseball for 10 years. I had a great experience at every level I played at. This offseason, I was still considering playing. I felt like could contribute at the big league level with some team. But sometimes that is just not in the cards. I had a chance to go to spring training with a team and it just wasn’t going to be the right situation.
“I had contacted the Nationals about a possible invite to spring training as a player. Doug (Harris) saw my name and talked to me about an opportunity to coach. He had a lot of enthusiasm for me to come coach for them.”
Narron said the move into coaching was a part of a natural progression in his career.
“I wanted to stay in baseball one way or another for the rest of my life,” he said. “If you look at my family’s background, ... what we do is baseball. I thought this was a good time to take the next step. The Nationals are an up-and-coming franchise. I am really looking forward to getting in there and helping out a lot of young players.”
Sam’s cousin is Jerry Narron, the current bench coach for the Milwaukee Brewers and a former major league catcher and manager. His grandfather also played and coached in the majors. Jerry’s brother, John Narron, is the Brewers’ hitting coach.
“Jerry has made quite a career in baseball, (and) part of that is because he does it the right way, and that is a great example to follow,” Narron said. “One thing that I have always prided myself on is doing it the right way; whether that is the easy way is a different story. Usually, the right way isn’t the easy way.
“Having Jerry, and his brother Johnny who is (also) with the Brewers now, (coupled) with my experiences, I am hoping I can impart that knowledge on players and further their careers. Just listening to him on how they (run things), it is wonderful information.”
Will being a southpaw help as he coaches pitchers?
“There aren’t that many lefties, that is one of the coveted positions in baseball,” Narron said. “I am not going to run into all lefties. I am going to have to deal with lefties and righties. I think the level of knowledge that I have and have access to, not only through my family, but also with the Nationals (will be very important). It is not necessarily one thing. It is being able to reach every pitcher I deal with and not just left-handers.”
The former East Carolina Pirate said being in just one major league game and working for so long in the minors taught him how to pitch and not just throw, because he didn’t have overwhelming stuff.
“One thing I do bring, if you ever saw me pitch, is I had to do just that - I had to pitch,” Narron said. “I had a well below-average fast ball and I had a decent changeup. I could locate pretty well. (So) I had to learn to pitch in order to be successful,” Narron said.
“I am hoping to be able to take those guys that I am going to be coaching this year and following years (and saying), ‘This is what we have to do to be able to pitch, instead of just throw.’ I am sure I will have plenty of guys that will have better stuff than me, so if I can teach them a little bit of how to get guys out consistently by being able to locate and command their pitches, they will be that much better.”
Narron will begin his coaching career in extended spring training for two months and then move to Auburn to work with the Doubledays’ pitchers. With the lineage, knowledge and attitude Narron brings to his craft, the Nationals’ pitching prospects will learn quickly what it takes to get better.