Auburn head baseball coach Sunny Golloway completed his staff with the announcement of Greg Norton as hitting coach.
Yes, Braves fans, THAT Greg Norton. Norton had a pretty solid MLB career, bouncing around six MLB clubs before finishing with Atlanta in 2008-09. Norton actually made his MLB debut with the Chicago White Sox and played behind Auburn legend Frank Thomas.
However, we're not talking about Norton the player, we're talking about Norton, the coach. Norton has been a hitting instructor in the Miami Marlins organization, manager of the New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA affiliate), and has helped mold some of Miami's hitters.
He's also familiar with Golloway:
He played college ball at Oklahoma. In his freshman year, 1991, the Sooners lost to eventual national champion LSU in the regional. The next year, Oklahoma reached the College World Series. He left Oklahoma after his junior season in 1993, signing with the Chicago White Sox as their second-round draft pick.
"What would have been my senior year, they (Oklahoma) won the national championship, so I was the weak link," he said with a smile. "I had a great time there. I was really glad I didn't sign out of high school."
There's not much known about Norton's coaching style, but with his years of MLB experience, he relies on tools he's picked up from managers like Bobby Cox, Joe Maddon and Terry Francona, and implements their best qualities into his everyday teaching:
Francona ... managed Norton at Double-A Birmingham in 1995. "Tito was a player's coach," Norton said. "Tito wanted you to run things out to first base, stay in front of hard-hit ground balls, just play hard, and he wouldn't have a problem with you. He took me out once for not running out a fly ball.
So what does Norton bring to this Auburn team? From what I've read, he can be a big help on the recruiting trail, playing off his experiences as a Major Leaguer and time as a development coach. He can be a solid at evaluating and by focusing primarily on hitting (and being highly respected in that area), he can leave Golloway and Scott Foxhall to run the pitching and defensive aspects of the game.
With the retention of Foxhall (pitching/recruiting) and Scott Duval (baseball operations), Golloway has made sure the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC isn't an unfamiliar one.
Foxhall will maintain established relationships in-state and on the team, and can continue his excellence on the recruiting trail. His role was somewhat of a mystery under John Pawlowski, a fact that he admits to AuburnTigers.com:
"J.P. didn't ask me to do that as much. The last couple of years, he wanted me to recruit all the time. At best, it was a dual system (the first three seasons). I am looking forward to the autonomy of having it by myself."
It was different, Foxhall said, when he was on Pawlowski's staff at the College of Charleston. He had more autonomy. At Auburn, Pawlowski wanted to do things differently.
"The programs we were around - South Carolina and Clemson - it seemed like they had one guy that all he did was recruit," Foxhall said. "I think Coach Golloway's model is he wants his coaches to coach. We are going to continue to recruit. That's the big thing.
Duval is an unheralded asset to the Auburn baseball program and by continuing his role in baseball operations, it means the Tigers won't skip a beat in the behind-the-scenes activities and day-to-day ballpark operations that have been a positive. He already likes what Golloway is bringing to Auburn.
"[Golloway] has a very clear vision and a plan in place," Duval said. "A huge part of that is the culture of the program and the belief and the mindset. To me, when that is there, this program can do anything you want it to.
"I don't think we've had one conversation yet when Omaha wasn't mentioned. It's not just the head coach when he's doing an interview or talking to the team. When the head coach, the assistant coaches, the players, the trainers, the managers to every day have the mindset of knowing and expecting that. We've had that before, and when you have it, you go out and play like it."
When were first speculating about his staff hires, I wondered if any of Golloway's former Oklahoma assistants would follow. Turns out, Golloway is making a completely fresh start on the Plains -- more positive moves and more reason to be excited for 2014.
Although this completes the major pieces of the coaching staff, Golloway may not be done. Normally, college baseball teams will have one or two volunteer assistant coaches -- former Tiger Justin Fradejas was in that role last year. However, these usually aren't known until closer to the season opener.