Steverson, Sparks reunite on White Sox staff
Hitting coach welcomes new assistant to South Side
CHICAGO -- Todd Steverson credits Greg Sparks with taking him under his wing and showing him how the A's went about their business when the two were coaches together in the Oakland system.
Now, it will be the task of Steverson, who approaches his third season as the White Sox hitting coach, to guide Sparks as his new assistant. The two talked about the benefits of their working relationship, past and present, during a Thursday afternoon conference call.
"Familiarity actually is a plus on this level right here," Steverson said. "But really it was 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."
"As an assistant, you want to be able to talk the same talk. Give the same message. Not step on each other's toes and not confuse the players," Sparks said. "It's not the same exact message -- it might be worded differently. In the long run, we both have a pretty good idea of what we want to see out of hitters and what makes up a professional hitter. Not only a professional hitter, but a big league hitter."
Sparks replaced Harold Baines, the White Sox icon who has moved on to more of an ambassador's role within the organization. Steverson praised Baines for helping him adjust to the organization and mentoring him and the players.
But the fact remains that Steverson and Sparks have quite a challenge ahead of them to correct last season's issues. The White Sox finished last in the American League in OPS (.686), home runs (136) and runs scored (622) and second from the bottom in on-base percentage at .306.
Ultimately, the 2016 personnel figures to look different than the White Sox lineup from last season. Steverson's message to his hitters won't change: Be on time and be ready for a ball that's a strike.
"Really, we're not trying to confuse anybody around here -- it's all about continuity of the message," Steverson said. "With Greg comes the message that he knows I give, coming from the same place and it should be a good combination."
"It's more of an opportunity to work with Trick and get with a good organization," said Sparks, 51, who once was replaced by Steverson as Oakland's Minor League hitting coordinator and then served in that same role again in 2015. "Ultimately it's about putting an offense together that helps you win a World Series. That's the ultimate goal."
Even without significant changes, Sparks likes the White Sox offensive components he has viewed.
"I did look at the players we do have here," Sparks said. "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. 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."