How a former MLB manager became a coach for the Israeli national baseball team
Jerry Narron 'honored' to help team qualify for 2017 World Baseball Classic.
When you take a look at Jerry Narron's Major League Baseball career, the word "lifer" doesn't seem to be big enough to describe it. Since arriving in the majors as a backup catcher for the New York Yankees in 1979, Narron's been one of those guys who has done and seen it all, from replacing Thurman Munson after the Yankee captain's sudden passing, to managing Alex Rodriguez with the Texas Rangers to coaching the likes of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun in his most recent job as the Milwaukee Brewers' bench coach.
Which is why, when you talk to him and hear his North Carolina drawl, it's a shock to hear him talk about Israeli baseball. "I love the game and I love what they’re trying to do over there with it," he told From The Grapevine.
Jerry Narron (#36), who will be coaching the Israeli national team at the World Baseball Classic, was most recently the Milwaukee Brewers' bench coach. (Photo: Christian Peterson/Getty Images)
Narron is a coach for the Israeli national team as they attempt to qualify for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The team will play a qualifying round Sept. 22-25 in Brooklyn's MCU Park against Brazil, Great Britain and Pakistan. The winner will go on to play in the main WBC tournament, scheduled for March 2017. The winner of the Brooklyn qualifier will join these 15 countries already in the WBC field: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.
How did Narron get involved with the Israeli team? Family, of course. His daughter moved to Israel with her husband, and Narron visits every winter. "I’ve gone over to Tel Aviv and also to Jerusalem with the younger kids, but taught with the baseball teams over there and that’s how I got connected with it," he said. "I have a grandson who’s 5 and started playing teeball about a year ago. So that’s how I met Peter Kurz and Nate Fish," Americans who have been at the forefront of promoting baseball in the country.
"He loves the game," Narron said about Fish. "He loves baseball and he played at the University of Cincinnati. He moved to Israel and wants to make it as popular as he can there." The pair convinced Narron to start advising the team, and to be one of its coaches in the 2017 tournament.
Israel's pitching staff includes MLB players Craig Breslow, a key member in the World Series champion Boston Red Sox bullpen in 2013 (above), and 2009 All-Star Jason Marquis. (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
What does he see when he watches young Israelis play the game that he's devoted his life to? "I was impressed with what Nate Fish is doing over there emphasizing the basic fundamentals. The great thing about that is, in baseball, the basic fundamentals of the game are the same from Little League to the major leagues, and at each level the best players consistently do those fundamentals the best. There is no secret to that."
When Israel participated in the last WBC in 2013, the roster consisted of mainly of minor leaguers. Former MLB star Shawn Green was the team's designated hitter. If it had made the main tournament, other major leaguers like Gabe Kapler and Kevin Youkilis would have joined. One of the more notable minor league players was Joc Pederson, now a starting outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Narron is impressed with the poise and passion of players like the Los Angeles Dodgers' prospect Dean Kremer. Narron met the pitcher, who was the first Israeli citizen drafted by an MLB team, during a visit to Israel in the winter of 2015.
Narron is not even sure what his role will be on the team. He was let go by the Brewers at the end of the 2015 MLB season. But he said he's enjoyed being able to spend time working out with the players. That part of the experience is what he enjoys the most.
"I think just meeting different people and being part of a different experience is always awesome. With my daughter and grandchildren living [in Israel], I feel a connection there that is important to me and real to me," he said. "I’m really surprised they asked me, but I am honored and pleased that they’ve asked me to help them."
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