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Friday, July 24, 2009

Connor Narron follows his dad's footsteps

Jim Ecker        
Connor Narron was walking around Times Square, seeing the sights in Manhattan, when his cell phone rang. Yes, he'd be happy to talk about baseball and making the Aflac All-American game. He wasn't doing anything special at the time. Glad to talk.

"I'm doing absolutely nothing," he said, nonchalantly. "We're having a good old time. We're just walking around, trying to get some bargains. Just having a good time."

That's one of the advantages to being the son of a former major league player and manager. You get to spend time in major league clubhouses, you get to go to spring training, and you get a trip to New York City when your father is invited to play in an Old-Timers Game with the New York Yankees.

Yes, being Jerry Narron's son has been a pretty good deal.

"When I was younger, before I started doing travel ball, I always stayed with my dad for the whole summer, going to clubhouses, taking ground balls at Yankee Stadium and taking B.P. in Boston and everything," he said. "It's been a good time."

Narron is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound shortstop and switch-hitter from Goldsboro, N.C. He's committed to play college baseball at North Carolina, pending what happens in the 2010 draft, and is looking forward to playing in the Aflac All-American High School Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego on Aug. 16.

"It's a big privilege," he said. "There's a lot of good guys that could have been in it, but I got picked and I'm excited about it."

Jerry Narron played in the major leagues from 1979 to 1989 with the Yankees, Seattle and California Angels. He later managed the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds, but is currently retired from the game.

"He's doing nothing," Connor claimed. "He's just watching me play."

Jerry Narron was a rookie catcher with the Yankees in 1979 when Thurman Munson, New York's all-star catcher, died in a plane crash during the season. "As a matter of fact," he said, "I caught the night before Thurman's accident, and I also caught that first game after."

Munson's death was his saddest moment as a Yankee, but there were lots of happy ones. He was teammates in New York with Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Bucky Dent, Reggie Jackson, Roy White, Graig Nettles, Mickey Rivers and many others. He was looking forward to the Old-Timers Game at the new Yankee Stadium this year, held earlier in July.

"It's great to see some of these gys that I played with," he said. "Major League Baseball is a fraternity. It's been a lot of fun for me."

Jerry Narron said watching Connor develop into a player has been a great thrill as well.

"It's an awful lot of fun watching him, growing up basically in clubhouses and on the field with major league players," Jerry said. "He's seen guys at that level preparing the right way, and sometimes the wrong way. I hate to say that, but he's seen it all."

Jerry Narron was a catcher in the big leagues. Connor said his father tried to steer him behind the plate, but without success. "It never really stuck with me," he said. "I didn't really like catching, I just like playing shortstop."

Was he too smart to be a catcher? "No," he replied, laughing and teasing his father, "I'm too athletic to be a catcher."

Connor said he loved hanging around with his father in the major leagues, and especially liked getting to know the players.

"In 2006, my dad was a coach in the All-Star game, so I got to go to Pittsburgh and hang out with all of those all-stars," he said. "The all-stars I really like were A-Rod and Manny. I always talked to them about baseball and got some advice from them. They're my two favorites, probably."

Not too many teenagers get to hang out with Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. "Hopefully he's learned a great deal," Jerry Narron said.

When Jerry was managing and coaching in the major leagues, Connor hung out with his dad. Now that Connor is making the circuit as one of the top high school players in the country, Jerry is hanging out with his son. Symmetry.

"People in professional sports are away from their families a great deal of time," Jerry said. "And any time you can have your children with you, it's a big plus to have them around."

Connor thinks his family's background in baseball has helped him as a player. "I feel like it gives me an extra advantage, just knowing how to play the game and being a step up on everybody," he said.
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