Wednesday is hump day and time to travel for Triple-A West teams such as the Sacramento River Cats. For Tacoma Rainiers manager Kris Negron, those 24 hours often provide enough time for the Vanden High School graduate to take a detour and go home to Napa before rejoining the team at its next destination.
When the Rainers head home Wednesday after six games in Sacramento, however, Negron will be on the flight with his players. The drive to Napa is a little more than an hour from Sacramento, so the 35-year-old Negron raced home Monday after the Rainiers scored twice in the ninth inning to beat the River Cats 6-4.
The game ended at 10:39 p.m., so it had to be well past midnight by the time Negron showered and hit the road. Negron joked before Friday’s game that he went home after the Rainiers’ 10-7 win Thursday and did not get to Napa until 2 a.m.
That was just in time for Negron to assist his wife Allison in feeding their sons, Johnny and Lorenzo. The twins were born in June and spent two weeks in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Negron was anxious to return to the Rainers once his sons could go home, but the Rainiers’ parent club – the Seattle Mariners – told him to take a third week off to help Allison adjust to being a mother.
“I couldn’t think of leaving (Johnny and Lorenzo) while they were in the hospital. That was something I was dead set on,” Negron recalled. “The Mariners organization is amazing. They’re really big on family. They were open with me and told me to let them know if I needed more time.”
Tony Arenich, the Mariners’ Minor League Field Coordinator, filled in for Negron. The Mariners acquired Negron from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash in August 2018. He appeared in 18 games with Seattle, hitting .207 with one home run and three RBI. Negron began the 2019 season with Tacoma and played in 82 games, hitting .310 and 12 homers and 61 RBI. His batting average was the highest at the end of a minor-league season in his career.
The Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Negron on July 29, 2019 because they were in need of a versatile fielder with Kiki Hernandez (sprained left hand) and Chris Taylor (fractured left forearm) on the injured list. Negron announced his presence with authority in Los Angeles by homering in each of his first two games.
Negron went from playing for a last-place team in the Northern Division of the Pacific Coast League to being doused with champagne after the Dodgers clinched their seventh consecutive National League West title Sept. 10. The Dodgers finished the regular season with a franchise-record 106 victories by winning their last seven games, including a 9-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the finale Sept. 29. Negron will never forget that game for one reason.
It was his last. Negron entered the game in the sixth inning, got an infield single in the seventh and then was replaced by Austin Barnes. That he managed to end his 14-year professional career with a hit was the perfect parting gift.
“We’re in San Francisco. My very last at-bat. It was just an infield single, but I had a feeling,” Negron said. “I was standing on first base. I could see all my friends and family in the stands. I just kind of knew right then and there. I could end my career on a single, so I thought that would be the way I ride off into the sunset.”
Retirement crossed Negron’s mind whenever he and Allison discussed starting a family. They have been together since meeting in 2005 at UC Davis. That would be Negron’s only year in Davis. He lost his baseball scholarship when he struck out with poor grades. Allison suggested he attend Cosumnes River College.
“We met only a couple of weeks before I had to leave Davis, so the timing wasn’t the greatest,” Negron said. “I tried to come up to Davis to see her as much as I could. With summer school and summer ball going on, she was by my side the entire time. She straightened me out. She was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Negron was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2006 and married Allison in 2010. He made his major-league debut with the Cincinnati Reds on June 6, 2012. He played in four games with the Reds before being sent to Triple-A Louisville. His season ended July 5 when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee.
His best season in the majors was 2014 when he played in 49 games with the Reds. He hit .271 with six homers and 17 RBI. Adversity struck again in 2015 when Negron tore the labrum in his left shoulder and fractured his scapula. There were plenty of times when he wondered whether he would make it back to the majors. a
“It was the vulnerability,” Negron said. “A lot of times you think you’re invincible, especially when you’re younger. The game can taken away from you at any second. You have to play like there’s no tomorrow.”
More tomorrows are in store for Negron now that he has traded his glove for a lineup card. He impressed Andy McKay, the Mariners’ director of player development, last year by running the team’s alternate training site at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.
“Andy McKay took me under his wing. I knew I could learn a lot. I had a blast at the alternate site,” Negron said. “About halfway through, he asked me I was interested in managing at Triple-A. It was intriguing, so I decided to go for it.”
Negron has no idea where he would be today without Allison.
“It definitely takes a special woman to deal with the lifestyle we go through. Baseball is tough, but it’s even harder on our significant others,” he said. “(Allison) means the world to me. Twin boys are no joke, but my wife is absolutely crushing it. I call her super mom. Without someone as strong as her, it would be impossible.”