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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Interview Paul Sorrento Part 2, Those Things

Inland Empire hitting coach Paul Sorrento, left, in the dugout at San Manuel Stadium. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Great Feeling | Part 2: Those Things | Interview: Bill Haselman | Thoughts on C.J. Cron

It was the kind of ball that hitters don't automatically get for their mantles. But Paul Sorrento got his.

It was his first major league grand slam, the ball, as those do, ended up in the hands of a fan. The fan, though, Sorrento recalled, returned the ball and Sorrento still has it.

That grand slam, hit for the Indians in 1993, ended up being the first of many for Sorrento, nine in all, in a career that spanned 11 seasons and 166 total home runs.

"It was good, a good accomplishment," Sorrento told The Greatest 21 Days after correctly recalling that first grand slam was hit off the Royals' Flash Gordon. "It was something you don't think about as a player, you know, 'when am I going to hit my first grand slam.'"

As for the number of grand slams he ended up with, Sorrento didn't have a good answer.

"I don't know, it's tough to explain," he said. "I don't think you go up there trying to hit a grand slam. It's just one of those things. I guess I had a lot of chances."

Sorrento spoke with The Greatest 21 Days in late July at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, Ca., where Sorrento serves for 2012 as hitting coach for the high-A Inland Empire 66ers.
Inland Empire 66er Kaleb Cowart swings in a late July game at San Manuel Stadium. (G21D Photo)

He touched on his origins in the game, growing up outside Boston and his route to the pros and major leagues. (Part 1) He also touched on his trip through the majors, his two trips to the World Series and his return to the game as a coach after time off to be with his family.

Sorrento first made the majors in 1989 with the Twins, part of a whirlwind year where he started not having played above single-A. With the Twins, Sorrento made AA Orlando and, that September, Minnesota.

Two seasons later, Sorrento was playing with the Twins in the World Series.

Sorrento recalled that year in 1991 as a frustrating year, though, at least during the regular season. Sorrento was doing well at AAA Portland. But, with the Twins having a good year, and a Sorrento's natural first base position already taken by Kent Hrbek, there weren't many spots for Sorrento.

Sorrento, though, got called up in time to make the playoff roster. And he got to play, getting to the plate three times, walking once.

San Manuel Stadium, home to the Inland Empire 66ers. Paul Sorrento is hitting coach for the 66ers in 2012. (G21D Photo)
"I was really excited just to go through that as a young player and experience that," Sorrento said. "It gave me a lot of confidence for the next year."

The next year, though, Sorrento was traded to the Indians. It was a trade Sorrento welcomed, mainly because it provided him a path to regular playing time in the majors.

He then started to get that playing time, and have success. He spent the next four seasons with the Indians, getting to another World Series in 1995.

"It was great," Sorrento said. "That was a real young team that kind of got put together, kind of matured together to '94, '95, we had a really super team."

Sorrento also got to see both sides of Cleveland. The Municipal Stadium side and the Jacobs Field side, from the small crows to the sellout crowds.

"It was really cool to see the city transform like that," Sorrento said. "That was a fun part of my time, my life. I got to play a lot. I was part of a real good team. It was fun."

From Cleveland, moved to the Mariners, signing there as a free agent. He stayed there two seasons, then played two final seasons with the Devil Rays. Along the way, Sorrento topped 20 home runs three times, topping 30 once.

Sorrento credited playing with good players on good teams with helping him.

The San Manuel Stadium scoreboard with the San Bernardino foothills. Paul Sorrento serves as hitting coach at San Manuel Stadium for the Inland Empire 66ers for 2012. (G21D Photo)
"I was fortunate to play with a lot of great players, a lot of hall of fame players, so it made the experience really good," Sorrento said. "Ten more years than I thought I'd play. It was just a dream come true, really."

The end came in spring 2000, with the Royals, Sorrento recalled. Released, he signed with the Athletics. He then started the year at AAA.

At AAA, though, the call of his family started. Sorrento had two young kids at home. Sorrento then retired.

"I thought it was time to go home and be dad," Sorrento said. "I look back and it's kind of sad, you know, like I said, I was very fortunate, played on one World Series champion, played in another World Series. I had long career, so I just thought, at that time, it was time to be dad."

As those kids grew up, Sorrento then finally decided it was time to get back in the game. He also missed the game.

He made some calls and said he was lucky enough that the Angels hired him to coach hitting at Inland Empire.

"I'm really enjoying myself," Sorrento said. "Its' been a fun year. To see some of our prospects get better throughout the year, it's been really good."

Helping him, Sorrento said, is his as a player, both in the majors and in the minors.

Inland Empire manager Bill Haselman, far left, and hitting coach Paul Sorrento, second from far left, address players before a July game at San Manuel Stadium. (G21D Photo)
"I think it helps a lot because you've kind of been through the same trials they're going through, the mental part of it, how hard it is, some of these kids away from home for the first time," Sorrento said. "For some of them it's hard to handle that stuff."

"For some of them it's hard to handle success, hard to handle failure," Sorrento said. "Baseball is a game of failure.

At Inland Empire, Sorrento is working with manager Bill Haselman, another former major leaguer with a lengthy career.

"With me and Billy, we've got a lot of experience. We try to be real positive with the kids, because it's a hard game to play," Sorrento said.

"I think our experience coming up through the minor leagues, we each played at each level, we know what it kind of takes to make it, espeically on the mental side, trying to be strong," Sorrento said. "So we're just tyring to pass that mesage along, trying to let them go out and play, be themselves, but teach them the right things and how to go about it."

Part 1: Great Feeling | Part 2: Those Things | Interview: Bill Haselman | Thoughts on C.J. Cron

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