So here we are at the parking lot of San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium. Inside the gates, the Padres and Chicago Cubs are tied in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1984 National League Championship Series. The place is packed, and lots of fans without tickets are hanging around outside, just to share the experience. Like that 7-year-old boy over there, with his sister and aunt.
Suddenly, a roar from the ballpark. Steve Garvey has homered for a walk-off Padres’ victory (they’d win again the next day to clinch the pennant). The crowd thunder builds like a rolling storm, and the little boy outside is enchanted by it all.
“I remember to this day feeling the parking lot shake,” Eric Munson would say 38 years later. If he wasn’t in full-blown love with the game of baseball before then, he was after that afternoon.
And look where it’s led.
Eric Munson is the hitting coach for the 2022 Indianapolis Indians. That’s saying a mouthful when you consider where he was last year: In Dubuque, Iowa, teaching kids the game at the baseball training academy he started in 2013, just as he had been every other year. Fact is, until this season, Munson had never spent a day as a coach in a professional baseball dugout.
And now he’s helping tutor guys who are one call from the big leagues.
“This is a lot different. Obviously. It’s a lot more of a challenge, but I like being challenged,” he was saying one day in the Victory Field dugout, after spending a good part of the afternoon studying the Indians’ batting practice. “I like the competition.”
It’s not exactly your garden variety road to a Triple-A staff. Aside from all those years with Gold Standard Athletics back in Dubuque, his only coaching experience has been in college. But he was once a major league player. Plus, he knows hitting and he knows how to talk so others listen, and isn’t that the job description?
“The players have been great. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t, but they’ve been open to suggestions. As a coach, that’s really all you want,” he said. “I’ve felt at home. A lot of that is the organization and the staff and the people I’ve been around. They’ve made me feel welcome and they’ve given me a lot of help and a lot of advice. I feel pretty comfortable, but obviously I’m still learning. You’ve got to keep learning. If you think you know it all, you’re probably full of it.”
The unconventional road to…