It is not only players that come up from the minor leagues in September. Teams add some coaches, as well, and today Ron Johnson, the manager at Triple-A Norfolk, and Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin joined the Orioles.
Manager Buck Showalter thought so much of their work this year that he had that duo join him at the podium for his pregame press conference today.
Showalter has said several times how much he appreciated the job Johnson and his staff did this year as Norfolk went 74-70, posting its best record since 2005 during a year where the Tides set an International League record by using 75 players.
The 75th player was actually an infielder that had spent most of the season at the Single-A level.
“We made a jersey with No. 75 for the kid, Sammie Starr, to wear as he played shortstop that night,” Johnson said. And he wasn’t kidding.
“I enjoyed it (the Triple-A season) and what made it even better is we are doing what we are doing up here (the majors) right now. You felt like we were contributing and Buck always made us a feel like we were part of it. That made it a lot more fun,” Johnson said.
Several players that went from Norfolk to Baltimore spoke of a good chemistry in the Triple-A clubhouse all year.
“It is the one thing we can control,” Johnson said. “With all the moves, you have to create some chemistry in the clubhouse. Everyone has a different agenda at that level, but if you are aware of each individual and spend some time with them, you know what? They know what it’s all about. That is the fun part, if you can pull it off and make it happen.”
This was Johnson’s first season with the Orioles after 12 years in the Red Sox organization, the last two as Boston’s first base coach.
He said his Norfolk players realized that if they played well there, they might get a chance here, especially with the constant roster moves.
“What other situation would you want to create in Triple-A or Double-A to let the players know, ‘Guys there is opportunity, if you play well, they will take you.’ It all stems from what is going on in the big leagues and if you are not playing well you could get sent down,” Johnson said.
“I had a feeling. I could sense it in spring training (that the Orioles would do well in 2012). One was the facility there and how it was laid out, it was all baseball and I thought ‘we’ve got it going on over here.’ You have to have depth to win so I knew some moves were coming.”
Griffin just completed his fourth year as Norfolk’s pitching coach. Once again, he had some young pitchers struggle in the majors and he helped get them on the right track so they could return to Baltimore.
“I think it was one of the most fun years I’ve had in 36 years in the game,” Griffin said. “We’re in it to help Buck and his staff and the club up here. But I want to thank all our players because they came down with such great attitudes, great attitudes and a willingness to work to get back up here because they knew they had something special going here.”