CHICAGO – New Chicago White Sox hitting coach Greg Sparks hopes there will be more joy and less fright than the last time he spent significant time around the team.
Sparks, who was hired this week to take over the job previously held by Harold Baines, was a White Sox bat boy in 1979, the year when Disco Demolition Night took place on July 12.
It might be among one of the most well-known moments in White Sox history. But at the time, the mayhem that followed an exploding box of disco records in center field was a little too much for the senses.
“When it happened, we were like, ‘Oh, this is kind of fun,’” said Sparks, whose father, Joe Sparks, was the White Sox’s first-base coach that season. “And then Sox security, they were a bunch of big dudes at the time, there came out and they were trying corral the people jumping on the field, and then it started getting a little hairy, and it started coming toward the dugout. That’s when panic time set in.”
Had Greg Sparks not acted fast that night, getting all the equipment out of the dugout and into the clubhouse, there was no telling what might have been lost.
Now comes a White Sox responsibility of a different sort. He was hired to work alongside hitting coach Todd Steverson with a goal of helping the White Sox out of their inconsistencies on offense. Steverson and Sparks worked together for several years in the Oakland Athletics organization and that knowledge of each other is expected to play dividends.
“Familiarity actually is a plus on this level right here,” Steverson said. “But really, [Sparks is] somebody that comes in with a solid work ethic and understands the program we’re trying to put in place with the White Sox and has the personality to mesh with our players and put forth our best foot.”
It won’t be simple. The White Sox were last in the American League in runs with 622, 12th in batting average (.250) and 14th in on-base percentage (.306).
It’s a job that might have scared away some, but Sparks is up for the challenge.
“I think it’s more of an opportunity to work with [Steverson] and get with a good organization,” Sparks said. “I did look at the players we do have here. It’s a younger bunch. Yeah, there are some free-swingers, but they’re athletic. They’re good-looking players. There’s a lot of ability there and talent. It’s an exciting time.”
That would be exciting as in a time to make a difference.
“I think what I can bring, along with (Steverson), is help get these guys headed in the right direction,” Sparks said. “Ultimately, it’s about putting an offense together that helps you win a World Series. That’s the ultimate goal, and it wasn’t a matter of an opportunity to show what I can do. It’s an opportunity to go out and work with a bunch of talented young players.”