Graham excited to be `part of the future'

November 08, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN REPORTER

Brian Graham found it amusing that Orioles fans and certain segments of the local media reacted with surprise that new pitching coach Rick Kranitz wanted to relocate to Baltimore despite having other employment opportunities, as if the idea of anyone choosing to work here was almost too outrageous to comprehend.

Graham also recognized the appeal, though his first experience was brief and unfulfilling. He saw the good where others might not. All he needed was an offer.

It came last week, with the Orioles approaching him about becoming their special assignment coach for the minor leagues. Graham had just lost his job as farm director with the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with his duties as interim general manager after Dave Littlefield was fired.

"I'm really excited," he said. "I had a year left on my contract with the Pirates, but the idea of coming to the Orioles and helping them build on what they already have in place is really exciting for me."

Team president Andy MacPhail and Dave Stockstill, director of minor league operations, walked him through his duties and the expectations that come with them. He expects to be eased into his new position in 2008 before taking a more assertive role the next year.

"I'll come to big league camp in spring training and get a feel for the organization," he said. "The first year, it won't be as intense or as full time, but I'm going to help in the minors with instruction - basically help to coordinate the instruction from the big leagues all the way through the system. It's completely a special assignment job. I want to be part of the Orioles going forward, part of the future, and make this a long-term situation. But for the first year, it's going to be a little bit limited."

The Orioles want their instruction and philosophies to be duplicated at every level, a responsibility that will fall on Graham, who spent six years with the Pirates and will continue to live in Pittsburgh so his three children can attend school there.

"He can make sure everything we do is being implemented from [Triple-A] Norfolk all the way down to the Gulf Coast League," manager Dave Trembley said. "He'll be a welcome addition. He's a sharp guy."

Graham was part of former Orioles manager Mike Hargrove's staff in 2000, but not as first base coach, the job he accepted. The Orioles were one coach over the limit, so Graham sat in the press box each game as "offensive and defensive coordinator." He left the next season to become field coordinator for the Florida Marlins.

"The first time around, it wasn't a good fit just because we had too many coaches," said Graham, who also has managed in the minors. "I had no hard feelings at all."

Now he has another chance. And Graham expects the length of his tenure here, and his impact on the organization, to be much different.

"I'm in agreement with Andy and [minor league director] David [Stockstill] that we need to get better at the minor league level," he said. "I think I have the experience and abilities that will help us to get better."

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