Johnny Narron to stick with Hamilton
Ex-skipper's brother and Reds coach important to rookie
CINCINNATI -- There didn't seem to be a player in the Reds clubhouse that didn't take Jerry Narron's dismissal as manager hard.But the professional change could have had personal consequences for rookie outfielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton's best friend in the clubhouse is video and administrative coach Johnny Narron, brother of the former manager. An obvious early question was whether Johnny's job would survive Jerry's removal and interim manager Pete Mackanin taking over. As of Tuesday, it did. "He's good to go, right now," Hamilton said. "It's difficult," Johnny Narron said. "My brother and I are very close. But I give Pete my total support and I told [owner/CEO Bob] Castellini that I was not going to quit on him or Josh. I handled myself and the situation with my brother professionally as I recognized his position as manager and me working for him. And I will handle this professionally." Hamilton has known Johnny Narron since he was 9 years old when he played on the same basketball team with his son. When Hamilton was a teenager, Narron was his coach on showcase travel baseball teams in North Carolina. Because of that background, the Reds brought Narron on board after Hamilton was acquired in December's Rule 5 Draft. Hamilton, a former overall No. 1 Draft pick in 1999, had a unique situation because he was trying to play big league baseball for the first time following a near four-year absence with substance abuse problems and suspensions. Besides coaching, Narron has served as his friend and confidant. "Before I came to play here," Hamilton explained Tuesday, "I wanted to make sure that I was OK as far as having a familiar face with me all the time to make sure that I stayed on the straight and narrow. Not a babysitter -- I don't need a babysitter -- but somebody who can hold me accountable and would actually follow through on holding me accountable." Both Narron brothers were critical to helping Hamilton succeed as a rookie. If both were gone, it could have created an even more delicate situation for the Reds and Hamilton. "If Johnny got fired today, would I stay? This is my job. I would stay," Hamilton said. "But at the same time, I'd have to find somebody else. So, they'd pretty much be replacing one for one. We talked about [Jerry being dismissed]. He's got to do what he's got to do. We're disappointed, but at the same time, that's the business of baseball." Hamilton's teammates had also digested Jerry Narron's abrupt departure and expressed disappointment. "You hate it for anybody -- you never want to see anybody lose their job," closer David Weathers said. "There's not one guy in here that can say they didn't contribute to it. I think we'd all be kidding ourselves if we didn't think we contributed to him getting fired. "You hate to cost someone else their job, but on the other side of that, we play a game that is very cutthroat. It can be a very cruel game. We all know that going in. Jerry's going to surface somewhere. He loves the game and puts a lot of time into the game, and a lot of people know that." Like Weathers, injured reliever Mike Stanton is well traveled and seen his share of managerial changes. The Reds bullpen, with the exception of Weathers, has underperformed all season and cost the team wins. "Obviously, this is an unfortunate situation that tends to happen to teams that aren't playing up to their potential," Stanton said. "What's happened this year to this ballclub is not Jerry's fault. Bottom line is if we as players were out there doing our job and doing what we're supposed to do, we wouldn't be going through this. So, this is a direct indication of how we played, not how he manages. He just happens to be the one out front that gets to take the brunt of the anger."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.