New assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks was on hand for one of the most infamous nights in White Sox history.
Then a teenaged bat boy, Sparks, now 51, was at Comiskey Park for Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979. Sparks said during a conference call Thursday he remembers the experience well. Things got so out of hand during the Bill Veeck promotion in between games of a doubleheader that the White Sox were forced to forfeit the nightcap after thousands of fans took the field, which was partly damaged as a result of an explosion in which the team attempted to blow up a crate full of disco records.
"It was really scary," Sparks said. "When it happened, we were like, 'Oh, this is kind of fun.' And then Sox security, they were a bunch of big dudes at the time, they 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. 'This is getting out of hand. It’s a little scary.'"
Sparks' father Joe was a member of the White Sox coaching staff. He and several others joined the team's players and their family members out of harm's way.
"They kind of got us out of there, being young kids," Sparks said. "They ushered us up into the concourse. I can’t remember exactly where it was. We did have a view of the field. It was up where the press was. I believe there was kind of a restaurant at the time, and we were hanging out in there, the families of the team and all of the players in uniform were just kind of sitting there looking down on the field, watching this thing unfold. Because we didn’t know if they were going to bust through the doors into the clubhouse, so they kind of got everybody out of there."
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The new role is Sparks' first major league coaching assignment after spending his entire career as a coach in the Oakland A's' farm system. It was there Sparks met White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson. Steverson said Sparks took him under his wing and they've worked well together since.
"Familiarity actually is a plus," 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 and put forth our best foot."
Given his familiarity with Steverson and his dad's history with the White Sox, Sparks considers this to be a reunion of sorts.
"It's kind of a full circle deal," Sparks said. "The White Sox have been in the family for a long time and it’s kind of ironic how it worked out that my first major league gig is going to be with the White Sox, the same as my dad’s was in ’79. But it’s kind of a neat little back story."