MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have found a hitting coach to replace the departed Dale Sveum, and it's a familiar name. Johnny Narron, a former Brewers Minor League coach and manager and the older brother of bench coach Jerry Narron, will fill the post vacated when Sveum was hired to manage the Chicago Cubs. Johnny Narron spent the past five seasons with the Reds and Rangers as an around-the-clock mentor to 2010 American League MVP Josh Hamilton, helping the troubled but talented outfielder overcome years lost to drug addiction. Narron, 60, interviewed with Brewers manager Ron Roenicke in Los Angeles before Thanksgiving, and he agreed to a one-year contract on Sunday afternoon.
"We spent several hours together and exchanged ideas, and we hit it off from the very beginning," Narron said. But it was "bittersweet" to part ways with Hamilton, whom Narron met as a 9-year-old when his son and Hamilton played on the same basketball team. When the Reds acquired Hamilton via the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, then-Reds manager Jerry Narron brought his brother on staff as a video and administrative coach. Essentially, Johnny Narron helped Hamilton stay on his path to becoming one of the best hitters in baseball. In 2011, Narron was officially the Rangers' assistant hitting coach. In a statement, Hamilton said he was happy for Narron. "Johnny is very talented and has helped me tremendously, both personally and professionally," Hamilton said. "He is fulfilling a dream to be a Major League batting coach, and I have told him previously I would never stand in his way from doing that. We will stay in touch, and I wish him great success with the Brewers." Rangers general manager Jon Daniels reached out to Hamilton last week when the Brewers asked permission to interview Narron, and the two will continue to talk about the best way to move forward. Narron said he had spoken several times with Hamilton in the past few days, from the point Texas granted permission for Narron to interview with Milwaukee to the point Narron accepted the job. "I've been with him every step of the way over the last five years, and I love Josh and he loves me," Narron said. "We both have benefited personally and professionally from our relationship together ... and Josh is very excited for me. Josh respects me as a person and a hitting coach, and I think Josh was very much in favor of taking this opportunity if it ever came along." Narron figured they would remain in touch. "I have nothing but love for Josh and I wish him all the success in the world," Narron said. "It's bittersweet in a way, as much as we've been together and as much as we've gone through. I think he realized that this point could probably come, and I think Josh is at the point now, with his resources and the support system that will remain in place, that he'll be fine. He knows that any time he needs to talk to me, I'm always here for him." Before his association with Hamilton, Narron spent four seasons as a coach in Milwaukee's farm system from 2003-06. He managed rookie-level Helena in 2004, and served as hitting coach at Class A West Virgina and advanced Class A Brevard County in '05. He will inherit a Brewers offense that posted the National League's second-best OPS (.750) last season, and includes NL MVP Ryan Braun, but may be without first baseman Prince Fielder, who is a free agent for the first time. With Braun and Fielder batting back-to-back for the past five seasons, the Brewers ranked in the league's top five in runs scored four times. Narron plans to contact each of the Brewers' hitters over the coming weeks to build a relationship before the start of Spring Training. It is very important, Narron said, to hear from the players themselves about their take on the Brewers' 2011 season. As for his own offensive philosophy? "Having had nine members of our family associated with professional baseball in different capacities over the years, I've studied the game for an awful long time," Narron said. "All of that brings me to a point where I want our offense to play the game the way it's supposed to be played. We're going to be aggressive in the strike zone, we're going to move runners when necessary, we're going to be able to get runners in. We want to be mentally tough when we have two strikes. We want to put pressure on the pitcher. "We're also going to stress quality, team plate appearances. That's something that we're really going to focus on, and that encompasses baseball instincts and baseball awareness. Beyond that, I try to keep things as simple as possible." The Brewers announced earlier this month that the rest of Roenicke's staff had agreed to return in 2012: Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, third-base coach Ed Sedar, first-base coach Garth Iorg, bullpen coach Stan Kyles and outfield instructor and "eye in the sky" John Shelby. The Narron brothers live less than 30 minutes apart in North Carolina and spent Thanksgiving together. At that time, Johnny had yet to finalize his new job. "He and I are very close," Johnny Narron said. "He's a mentor, he's a friend and he's someone I respect as a baseball man, as well. Jerry, I always pick his brain about what managers and bench coaches look for offensively." He can do that in person beginning in Spring Training.