As a Florida teen, Larry Parrish revered Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and other Braves after the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. Now, he’ll work with the team’s next potential superstar, Jason Heyward, and the rest of the Braves after being hired as Atlanta’s new hitting coach.
Parrish, a former Texas and Montreal slugger, was hired Friday to round out new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’s coaching staff for the 2011 season.
Parrish, 56, replaces Terry Pendleton, who was reassigned to first-base coach and infield instructor after Gonzalez was named to succeed retired Braves manager Bobby Cox.
“Larry has a great reputation in the game,” said Gonzalez, who has known Parrish since managing against him in the International League, where Parrish managed the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate since 2003. “His background speaks for itself. This is good staff of hard-working baseball people.”
Parrish joins a staff that includes three other holdovers from manager Cox’s staff – pitching coach Roger McDowell, third-base coach Brian Snitker, bullpen coach Eddie Perez – and new bench coach Carlos Tosca, who served in that role for 3-1/2 seasons under Gonzalez with the Florida Marlins.
First-base coach Glenn Hubbard and bench coach Chino Cadahia were not retained from Cox’s staff.
Contract terms weren’t disclosed, but Braves coaches get one-year contracts. The only recent exception was pitching coach Roger McDowell, who got a multi-year deal when he came from the Dodgers organization.
The Braves also interviewed Jim Presley for the hitting-coach position before deciding to offer the job to Parrish, whose only hitting-coach experience came in 1995 as a Tigers minor-league roving instructor.
Presley, Gonzalez’s hitting coach with the Florida Marlins, was expected to become Baltimore’s hitting coach under manager Buck Showalter. General manager Frank Wren said the Braves considered “probably half a dozen” candidates and interviewed two.
“He hasn’t been a hitting coach in a while,” Gonzalez said of Parrish. “But he’s a good manager, and what he said was that, being a manager in Triple-A, you only have two or three coaches anyway, so he loves getting involved, getting his hands in there.”
A two-time All-Star in 1979 and 1987, Parrish was a .263 career hitter with 256 home runs and 992 RBIs in 15 major league seasons with Montreal, Texas and Boston, including four seasons with more than 25 homers.
He served as bench coach for Detroit in 1997 and part of the 1998 season before being promoted to major league manager when Buddy Bell was fired at midseason. Parrish managed the Tigers through the 1999 season.
After a decade as a scout and minor league manager, Parrish was ready to get back to coaching.
“I enjoy teaching, and hoping that I can give a guy something to get him to the major leagues and keep him there,” he said. “It’s the place to play, it’s the place where you make the money, so my idea is if I can do anything to help a guy, that was my motivation to coach.”
Parrish is a native of Winter Haven, Fla. He used to enjoy playing for the Expos in Atlanta because it gave his parents and other family members a chance to drive up and see him play. He moved to southwest Georgia — between Blakely and Fort Gaines — in 2005, after buying property primarily for the hunting.
Yes, he’s another Brave who spends a good part of the offseason hunting.
Parrish said convenience wasn’t the only factor in choosing the Braves for his move back to big-league coaching. He was also familiar with the coaches, having managed against Gonzalez and Snitker when they managed in Triple-A, and played against Pendleton. He’s seen most younger Braves play in the minors.
“It just seemed like a good situation,” Parrish said.
Despite no big-league experience as a hitting coach, Wren talked to people who convinced him Parrish was right for the position.
“The thing that stood out, over the course of the last month,” Wren said, “I’ve had a lot of people tell me if you look for a hitting coach you need to talk to Larry Parrish. They said he’s not doing that job [currently], but he’s really impressive from a standpoint of his knowledge of hitting, his passion for hitting.
“And in talking to him that came through clearly.”
Wren served as Florida Marlins assistant GM under Dave Dombrowski, Detroit’s president and GM since 2002.
“Dave spoke very highly of [Parrish], not only his character but also his work ethic, and his knowledge, and what a great baseball man he is,” Wren said. “He has a real good feel for hitting and the mechanics, and has a good plan.”
Parrish was named minor league Manager of the Year in 2005 by The Sporting News after the first of Toledo’s back-to-back International League titles. He told Braves officials he only wanted to take a major league coaching job if it was a situation where could make a difference.
“He said there were certain jobs in the big leagues he woudkn’t take because he didn’t think he could make an impact like he could in this one,” Wren said. “He likes to work, he likes to make an impact.”
Parrish played third base for Montreal in his first eight seasons and finished third for National League Rookie of the Year in 1975. His best year with the Expos was 1979, when he hit .307 with 30 homers and .909 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) and finished fourth in the league MVP voting.
In seven seasons with the Rangers, he spent time at third base, the outfield and designated hitter. Parrish totaled 50 homers and 194 RBIs over a two-season span in 1986-1987. Released by the Rangers in July 1988, he played a half-season with Boston to finish his major league career.
Parrish played two seasons (1989-1990) in Japan before ending his playing career.