Narron returns to his ENC roots
Potomac Nationals pitching coach Sam Narron watches the game from his team’s dugout earlier this week at Historic Grainger Stadium. Narron is a Wayne County native and former ECU standout who played in the NCAA Tournament at Grainger Stadium in 2001. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News
Very rarely does a player on an opposing Carolina League team get cheers when they are introduced at Historic Grainger Stadium.
Even rarer is when an opposing coach gets more than just polite applause. However, that’s been the case all week when Potomac pitching coach Sam Narron has been introduced in pregame or when he makes a mound visit to check on one of his Nationals’ pitchers.
And it’s not just polite applause – when he’s been introduced or walks to the mound, Narron has been receiving loud cheers from Grainger Stadium fans that are usually reserved for Down East Wood Ducks stars.
Baseball fans in Lenoir County and ENC remember Narron as having one of the best southpaw pitching arms to come through the area, first for Eastern Wayne and later for ECU.
The 6-foot, 7-inch Narron, who will turn 37 on July 12 but looks like he could give you a solid three or four innings right now, said he was thankful for the support he’s received from fans this week. His Nationals play their final contest of a five-game set on Friday in Kinston. Everyone from his devoted parents – “Rooster” and Robin Narron – to former college and high school coaches and teammates and even members of the church his parents attend have attended Wood Ducks games this week to welcome Narron back to ENC.
“Anytime I get back to Eastern North Carolina in-season, it’s a good thing because it doesn’t happen very often,” Narron said. “It’s always special when you’re around people who care about you and that you care about. It just makes this experience that much more fun.”
Among those who have come to Kinston to see Narron coach this week have included his American Legion coach (Doyle Whitfield), his Eastern Wayne High School coach (Jabo Fulghum) and hall of fame legend George Whitfield.
Narron is the grandson of a former major league player and coach by the same name. He’s also the cousin of Jerry Narron, the manager of the Texas Rangers in 2001-02 and Cincinnati Reds (2005-07); Jerry is currently a coach on the Arizona Diamondbacks staff with manager Torey Lovullo, who managed the Kinston Indians for two years, including the 2004 championship season.
Coming from such great baseball stock, Narron has the intrinsic knowledge of the game a lot of other people may not possess. He says his success is due to the influences of people like his parents, Whitfield, Fulghum and legendary ECU coach Keith LeClair.
“All those people touched my life in a special way and helped me get to this point,” Narron said. “I’ve been very blessed and very fortunate to do some special things and to have the opportunity to be here. … My father and mother raised me in the right way to be a good person that respects people.”
He had a successful ECU career, which included a Conference USA championship and being named to the All-CUSA team. He said one of his favorite college memories was playing in the NCAA Super Regional in 2001 at Grainger Stadium.
“Playing against Tennessee here was something special that I will never forget,” he said. “The whole experience at ECU, the work ethic I learned from (LeClair) is something I try to instill in my players now.”
Narron was drafted in the 15th round of the MLB amateur draft in 2002 by the Rangers. He made his way up the ranks and eventually played one game for Texas in the 2004 season.
He played professional baseball for 10 seasons before retiring and becoming a pitching coach. Narron said he truly enjoys coaching.
“I knew I wanted to stay in the game in some way and to teach, so coaching was one avenue to do that,” he said. “I was very fortunate to join a great, up-and-coming organization in the Washington Nationals in 2012 and now we’ve established ourselves as one of the best in the major leagues.
“Where I’ll be in five years, I really don’t know. I just want to continue to do the best I can and enjoy what I’m doing.”
The five-game series is the only visit Narron and the Nationals will make to Grainger Stadium this season, unless the Woodies make it to the Carolina League championship. With a laugh, he said he was disappointed this was the Nats only stop in Kinston this season. His family – which includes his wife, an 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son – lives in Burlington but were able to come all week to the games.
“I want to be here all I can,” he said with a smile. “But we’ve got a couple of trips to Zebulon and Winston-Salem where I get to see them, so that’s good. It’s always really good to come to Kinston.”