July 15, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Even before he was named Auburn's head baseball coach last month, Sunny Golloway knew who he wanted to be his hitting coach. And Monday, he got his man.
Greg Norton, the hitting coordinator for the Florida Marlins minor league system, has joined Golloway's staff.
Norton, a former Oklahoma All-American, played all or part of 13 seasons in the big leagues. He was drafted in the second round by the Chicago White Sox in 1993. He played for the White Sox, the Colorado Rockies, the Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves. In Chicago, former Auburn hitting great Frank Thomas was among his teammates. In Atlanta, former Auburn pitching great Tim Hudson was among his teammates.
Golloway was an assistant coach at Oklahoma when Norton led the team in hitting and helped the Sooners advance to the College World Series in 1993. They have maintained a close relationship since. As Golloway prepared to interview with Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs, he put in a called to Norton, who made his home in Denver.
Norton told him that he was considering moving his family to Atlanta.
"I started laughing and said `Don't buy a house yet,'" Golloway said. "He said `Why?' I said `I can't tell you, but just don't do it.'"
Norton said Monday he has long been interested in getting into the college game.
"I had a pretty significant position with the Marlins, being the hitting coordinator," Norton said, "but I felt that what has been appealing to me about college is the family atmosphere. Coming from OU and that tradition, I've always thought it would be good for my family, good to coach young men. That was something that was appealing. It was a tough decision, but I felt it was right for what I was looking for with my family.
"Playing with Frank, playing with Huddy, knowing Bo (Jackson) and knowing those guys want to help get this baseball program going, it just seemed to turn into a nice feel and a great situation."
Norton said he believes his experience working with young hitters in the minor leagues prepared him well for coaching college hitters.
"Pro ball is about development," Norton said. "They want big prospects to do well. If a prospect was struggling, I'd fly into that city and try to work with him and see if we could turn some things around. I'm in charge of spring training. What I know or what I've learned doesn't mean it's the only way. You can learn from everybody. I really want to put it all together to create the best hitting plan we can have."
In 1,107 big-league games, Norton, a switch-hitter, batted .249 with 89 home runs and 338 RBI. He made his major league debut on Aug. 18, 1996, for the White Sox. Playing for the Braves in 2008, he led the major leagues with three pinch-hit home runs.
Norton said he is coming to Auburn to be part of a drive to take the program back to the top of the Southeastern Conference and on to Omaha for the College World Series.
"This is something that we are coming down to try to get this back on track, start winning, build a good atmosphere for the student-athlete, having these old guys come around and just enjoy it," Norton said. "Auburn talks about family, and that's what we want. That is one of the things that drove me in making this decision."
Playing for the Rockies from 2001-03, he hit .252 in 344 games. His final year in Colorado, Norton led the major leagues in successful pinch hits and pinch-hit RBI. After spending time with the Tigers, Rays and Mariners over the next five years, he was traded to the Braves in 2008. That season, he led the majors with three pinch-hit home runs.
Norton, 41, and his wife, Jaena, have two children - 8-year-old son Jace and 7-year-old daughter Ciana.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: