Brady North was on the phone, sitting in a bus in the Dominican Republic.
He was speechless, so much so the person on the other line thought the call had been disconnected. The person was none other than Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash.
North had just been called up to the big leagues — as the Rays’ assistant hitting coaches.
“I was speechless,” the 2010 Gaither High grad said. “(Cash) kind of took a long way to tell me, but after he did, he was like, ‘Hey, are you there?’ … It all happened so fast, and I’m not saying it wasn’t expected, but when my playing days were done, my mind immediately switched to being a coach, to how can I get (to the Major Leagues) this way.
“And, I’m very grateful for this opportunity and this organization, because the Rays are all I’ve known and they’ve treated me so great.”
A majorly quick road
The Rays promoted North on Nov. 18, 2021 after he spent that season as the hitting coach with the team’s Class-A affiliate, Bowling Green. That team won the league championship and led the league in runs, homers, walks, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
North has risen the ranks in the Rays’ organization since joining the team in 2019, with the rookie-level team, and then the COVID-canceled 2020 season with the Charlotte Single-A team.
The Rays added North to the coaching staff after he spent two seasons as a graduate assistant for his alum, Cumberland University in Tennessee, from 2017-2018. He also spent time coaching in the Cape Cod League for the Cotuit Kettleers.
As a first baseman at Cumberland, North helped the team win the 2014 NAIA National Championship, then would go on to play independent ball for two years: in 2015 for the Washington Wild Things and in 2016 for the Lake Erie Crushers.
But his baseball career started in Lutz, playing Little League and then in high school at Gaither for the late, legendary coach, Frank Permuy.
In four varsity seasons, North batted .356 with 101 hits, 17 doubles and 13 homers, including batting over .400 as a freshman and a senior. These stats earned him the honor of getting his number (35) retired, right there next to his former coach, Permuy, and his current one, Cash.
“It’s a weird thing, you know,” North said. “You look at that wall at Gaither (that shows former players that made the majors) and (we) talked about that we’re going to get (to the majors) or be up there (on the wall) one day and the aspirations to be a (MLB) player. … I just took a different route to get here.”
Cash says North’s short time as an assistant has been nothing but remarkable.
“Brady has had a real fast track of getting into pro ball and being a part of player development and then working with big-league hitters as assistant hitting coach,” said Cash, who graduated from Gaither in 1996. “As someone who lacks reps and experience, he has shown the ability to learn and grow in a very challenging setting here at the major league level.”
Cash said North was probably a better player than he was.
Cash noted: “With his dad (Nelson) as (Gaither’s) coach, who followed (our) coach, Frank — the North Family, in general, is well respected in the baseball world here (in Tampa) so you know (Brady’s) going to bring a lot to the table.”
Cash also was quick to point out that, despite the lack of experience, North is bilingual, “a unique skill set” which has helped with the Latino players in the Rays’ organization, including the major leaguers, such as Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena.
Nelson North, who took over coaching Gaither in 2015 after stints as an assistant coach at the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida, knew his son would get to the major-league level — thanks to his work ethic.
“I still think he doesn’t believe it sometimes, but we put on the game and there he is on TV,” said Nelson, who helped out coaching Gaither during Brady’s senior season in 2010.
“I’ve coached a long time,” Nelson added. “In the NAIA, Division 2, Division 1 and high school — and in all those years of coaching players — and I’m not just saying this because Brady’s my son — he’s always worked the hardest. … He’d come home after practice, shower, eat, do homework and go back out to the garage and use the Swing Away until he’d need another shower. He was always a great self- motivator.”
All the right hits
Nelson says Brady loves to coach hitting, which has come in handy not just with the Rays, but also when Brady has helped coaching at Gaither.
He’ll come back to Gaither and talk to Nelson’s current players and also was involved when the Cowboys won a state championship in 2016.
“I’m very proud of his baseball career and the proudest I am of my son is if struck out or hit a home run, he always looked the same,” Nelson said. “He had the great ability to play the game one pitch at a time.
“Brady loves hitting — talk it, teach it, analyze it,” he added. “He’ll come back to Gaither and talk to the team about approach and he’ll jump in the cage and change my approach, but that’s okay, I’ll let him.
“Brady thought of something my team needed, and we changed it because of him — not the Rays or a MLB team, but because of Brady.”
As Brady’s coaching career continues as the youngest coach on the Rays staff, he says he loves his job as assistant hitting coach. Though he’s unsure whether he would want to be a future MLB manager.
For now, he’ll continue to learn, as he’s always done — one hit at a time.
“You can never get complacent with things,” Brady said. “You always have something to learn, no matter what environment it is. You never know everything and right now, I’m just trying to be the best assistant hitting coach I can be and learn everything I can.”
Published July 04, 2023