Jerry Narron has been around baseball for more than four decades.
His experience as a coach extends as far back as 1993. He’s managed twice, too, for the Texas Rangers (2001-02) and Cincinnati Reds (2005-07).
He’s seen a lot. As a player who came up with the Yankees in 1979, and as a bench coach for the Red Sox in 2003 when they lost Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to the Yankees in heartbreaking fashion.
There’s rarely a scenario he isn’t prepared for, which is why when the job of Red Sox bench coach became available before the start of spring training, manager Ron Roenicke wanted his longtime friend working next to him.
Narron is known for, among other things, the lineup cards he writes out in calligraphy. But writing up a 2020 season that involves playing in the midst of a pandemic, with protocols that sometimes separate players from coaches and/or the manager, not even Narron could prepare for that.
“That’s the worst part,” said Narron of not having that time together with the Red Sox players and staff members. “In baseball, we meet together as a club in spring training every day, meet with the staff every day, meet with the front office every day to go over what we’re doing. Just not being able to get together with the staff as a group, that’s one of the biggest challenges, not meeting with the players every day.”
A bench coach’s responsibilities include scheduling. That’s a complex job this season, considering the circumstances. Players are spread out. For summer camp, some are at Boston College and others at Fenway Park. Even if players are at the same location, they are split into smaller groups so they can maintain some level of social distancing.
Yet complexity doesn’t mean Narron is incapable of making something like this work. Narron was traded once and released three times during his playing career, yet he still ended up squeezing out eight seasons in the big leagues. That points to his resolve and mettle.
“He’s so good at his job that he’s been on top of the most difficult training camp to try to schedule,” Roenicke said. “We still talk about it daily, what we want to do. He gets along with people well. The coaches right away in spring training connected with him. He is familiar with a few of the people here when he coached here before. So, he’s fitting in great. I like the experience he has. Any questions I run by him, he usually has a pretty smart answer about it.”
Narron noted that everyone wanted to get back to baseball, so no one is complaining about having to adjust on the fly.
Yet Narron’s longevity in baseball brings with it some concern. He’s 64 years old, and, like the 63-year-old Roenicke, COVID-19 is a bigger threat to his age group. The Minnesota Twins, for instance, sidelined two of their coaches who were of a similar age and considered of higher risk. Despite that, Narron wanted to be a part of this Red Sox club, in person.
“If I had some preexisting condition I would have been a little apprehensive,” Narron said. “We’re taking plenty of precautions. We’re probably safer here than anywhere else.”