Narron plays it safe and takes the boos

INSIDE PITCH

June 19, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

He could have done without it, but Jerry Narron got a reminder Friday night that the third base coaching box is the loneliest spot on a baseball field.

"From about 47,000 people," Narron said with a sheepish grin. The message came when the Orioles third base coach held Harold Baines at third after a double by Leo Gomez in the fourth inning.

The audience at Camden Yards was not bashful about telling Narron something he already knew. "I made a mistake," he freely admitted. "He [Baines] would've scored, and I should have sent him."

That was how the crowd viewed the scene -- without taking into account all of the circumstances, some extenuating, connected with the play. Even though it appeared that Baines, who was running on the pitch, could have scored easily, there were other considerations.

There were no outs, and Baines, who broke stride halfway to second base to make sure the ball cleared the infield, is a notoriously slow runner with creaky knees. Those were the primary factors involved in Narron's decision, one he later said was made too hastily.

"If there had been one or two outs, there wouldn't have been any question [about sending Baines]," he said. "As it was, I stopped him too soon."

When left fielder Shane Mack kept the ball from going into the left-center-field gap, Narron immediately signaled to Baines, who was approaching third base, to stop. "I made up my mind as soon as the ball was cut off, and that was too quick," said Narron, who said he knew he'd made a mistake even before he got his reminder.

"As soon as he [Mack] came up throwing, I knew I should've sent him. It was a mistake."

Playing conservatively with nobody out is not uncommon for third base coaches. The prevalent feeling is if a team can't score a runner from third with nobody out, it probably isn't going to matter.

Narron doesn't usually take risks in such situations, but that wasn't his thinking on the play in question. "We've been having trouble scoring runs," he said, "so you can't just assume you're going to get the guy home. I just made a bad decision because I made it too soon.

"You'd like to think you're going to be perfect and get every play right, but that's just not going to happen," he said. "It's my first year, and I plan on being here awhile -- and I'm still learning."

A third base coach, much like an umpire, has a thankless -- and lonely -- job. And if the worst thing Narron does is hold a runner at third base with nobody out, he may have that job as long as he wants it.

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