Today, the White Sox announced that Aaron Rowand is returning to the organization in a more formal role, signing on to be the minor-league outfield and baserunning instructor. The job was previously held by Doug Sisson, who left to join the staff at the University of Auburn, and Rowand had dipped his toes in the water by serving as a coach during spring training this past season.
While Rowand is a recognizable name, the role and its impact are harder to peg. In a conference call with reporters, Rowand cited Gary Pettis -- the White Sox' minor-league outfield instructor from 1997 to 2000, then the first-base coach the two seasons after -- as one of the biggest influences on his career, and so he'd like to pay it forward.
But it'll be hard to measure an impact. Historically, the role hasn't had much visibility. Sisson's name seldom came up outside of prospect interviews. Before Sisson, Daryl Boston occupied that role for 12 years, but he became a more familiar figure after shifting to the first-base coaching box.
Vince Coleman inadvertently provided a reason to keep expectations in check for immediate returns. He joined the Sox as a baserunning instructor in the spring as the Sox tried to get more out of their speed. The Sox then got off to a horrible start on the basepaths, opening the door for thousands of jokes at Coleman's expense. Down in the minors, though, guys like Tim Anderson, Jacob May and Adam Engel made big jumps with their running games. Perhaps five years from now, we'll hear Coleman's name the way Rowand referred to Pettis.
The more pressing impact: We can assume that Rowand won't be in the mix as the third wheel for White Sox broadcasts. At the end of the season, Bruce Levine reported that Hawk Harrelson and the Sox were working on reducing his schedule to 81 games (78 on the road), with Steve Stone returning for a full slate. That means Stone needs a partner for the other half of the schedule, and Rowand, who sat shotgun for three games in Oakland, received the most favorable reviews of the former-player guest analysts during the 2015 season, although most preferred Chuck Swirsky out of all the alternate pairings.