James Rowson answered questions with a yes, sir or a no, sir out of habit. If it sounded like he just got drafted, well, this was his first day in the big leagues.
Rowson had just watched batting practice from behind the cage at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, his first few hours on the job as interim hitting coach after the Cubs fired Rudy Jaramillo.
Jaramillo liked to call everyone kid, and the 61-year-old always appeared to be in motion, with no shortage of energy, and players were drawn to that optimism.
But before Jaramillo became one of the highest-paid coaches in the game, he had to pay his dues at the lower levels of the Texas Rangers system.
Hes been a real class act and done a lot for the game, Rowson said. Hopefully, Id like to be able to maybe make half the imprint that hes made in the game, because hes been a great hitting coach for a long time.
The 35-year-old Rowson, who only joined the organization as the minor-league hitting coordinator a few months ago, is expected to spend the rest of this season in the majors.
Rowson had spent the previous six seasons in the New York Yankees organization. Scoutingplayer development chief Jason McLeod got his name and the Cubs asked for permission to interview. They met at the winter meetings in Dallas.
Rowson, who graduated from Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx, N.Y., decided to leave the Yankees for what looked to be a lateral move.
I was really sold on the direction of the organization, Rowson said. I was really excited. It was an atmosphere where we wanted to move forward. (We) had the right plan.
Rowson last visited Double-A Tennessee and arrived in Chicago on Monday night. The personnel will begin to change soon. Catchers Geovany Soto (knee) and Welington Castillo (knee) are on rehab assignments and will be reevaluated this weekend.
Big picture, the Cubs will be trying to incorporate more and more young players over the next several weeks, months and years, possibly beginning with promoting Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson from Triple-A Iowa. Rizzo whos hitting .367 with 22 homers bruised his right knee on Tuesday while sliding into a dugout fence chasing a foul pop (its not considered serious).
I dont think you ever make decisions because of one or two or three individual players, team president Theo Epstein said, as much as whats best for the team and whats best for the organization.
Its more coincidence than anything else, but certainly itll help. James has been working with young hitters for awhile now, given the jobs that hes had. Hes had a chance to connect with some youngsters in our farm system who may be up here at some point later this season. So that will be a benefit, but that wasnt the motivation.
The Seattle Mariners selected Rowson in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, and the outfielder played professionally until 1998. Jaramillo never rose above the Double-A level as a player, but became one of the premier coaches of his generation.
Be yourself, Rowson said. My plan is just to learn these guys a little bit, build relationships with these players and kind of take it from there.
By no means do you compare yourself to a guy like Rudy Jaramillo, because his track record obviously speaks for itself. So many, many, many years from now that will be a conversation, but not right now.