Otherwise no regrets for leaving retirement
Baseball rules allow one “free” trip from the dugout to the mound without having to make a pitching change. This season for the Minnesota Twins, Garvin Alston makes these trips whenever necessary in his first year as pitching coach.
“What I look for the majority of the time is how long that pitcher has been out there,” Alston explained from the Twins dugout before a recent game. Veterans sometimes get “a little bit more leeway. But with the young guys, it comes down to body language, the dropping of the head [between pitches], walking along the mound, shaking off a lot of pitches…a lot of indecisiveness in what they are thinking,” he pointed out.
Overall, “I want to go out there [to the mound] and be a comfort [for the pitcher], and let them know they are out there for a reason,” Alston stressed.
Alston was hired last fall and became the team’s first Black pitching coach. He’s now in his 13th year as a pro baseball coach after a stint with Arizona (bullpen coach, 2016); several roles in the Oakland organization, including minor league pitching coordinator (2015) and rehab pitching coordinator (2005-14); and minor league pitching coach (Stockton, 2007-08 and Kane County, 2005-06).
He finished the 2017 season as the Oakland A’s bullpen coach after beginning the season as San Diego’s pitching rehab coordinator. On his historic feat with the Twins, Alston said simply, “We don’t see a lot of African Americans” as pitching coaches in the majors.
Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said in an MLB.com article, “We set out to find the best pitching coach for our ball club. We wanted one who had experiences with pitching development, relationships, fit our culture and would really grow with us moving forward. We thought Garvin checked all those boxes and then some.”
Alston credited his wife Natasha for his return to baseball after retiring as a player. He was a 10th round draft pick by Colorado in 1992, spent nine years in the minors, and had a 1-0 record in six major league appearances in Colorado, 1996.
“I was extremely contented and happy with that,” he recalled of his post-retirement work in an after-school program. But he ran into a friend, then a baseball front-office person, who told him that he should come back to baseball. Alston’s wife advised him to think about it as well. “I thought about it for three days,” he remembered.
“No regrets,” Alston continued. “The only regret honestly is not being around my family as much. My son [Garvin Jr.] is in college right now, and my daughter [Jayla] is about to go to college. And not around my wife as much, that’s the only regret.”
This season’s Twins hurlers are a young bunch: Five have two or fewer years of MLB experience. Effectively communicating to this generation of players is as important as Alston’s pitching know-how.
“My wife is my teacher,” he said of his professional educator spouse. “She would explain to me how these young kids are coming out of high school, how these young kids think, and how to adapt to the way they think.”
This is the first time the Twins batting coach (James Rowson in his second year) and its pitching coach both are Black, another franchise historic footnote. Also, both played baseball in the same hometown, Mount Vernon, NY.
“I had the privilege of hearing a lot of great things about James,” Alston said of Rowson. “He was very good in his own right. We’re both really good.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org