By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
After 50 years in baseball, Brent Strom is putting himself first.
The pitcher-turned-coach was reportedly set to retire when Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo approached the 30-year Tucson resident about joining the team’s staff.
“At this stage of my career, I got a little selfish and wanted to spend a little time at home,” he says.
Strom began his career in 1972 as a player for the New York Mets, joining the Cleveland Indians the following year. He wrapped his pitching stint with the San Diego Padres from 1975 to 1977.
He rejoined the big leagues 19 years later, in 1996, to coach with the Houston Astros. Strom also lent a hand to the Kansas City Royals from 2000 to 2001, returned to the Astros from 2014 to 2021, and then the D-backs this year.
Strom says he brings a different voice to the D-backs, which has “talented pitchers.”
“I was hoping to bring my experience and things I’ve learned,” he adds.
“I can’t say enough about the front office. They’ve been very good about the information I need for my job. It’s been a seamless transition from the Astros, who are analytically driven.”
The D-backs have the same philosophy, Strom says. His eight years with the Astros were educational.
“I learned a great deal,” he says. “By and large it was similar to the D-backs and basically made the transition easy.”
D-backs starting pitcher and Scottsdale native Merrill Kelly agrees that the 73-year-old coach brings a different viewpoint and perspective to the team.
“He comes from a different organization, and he was there for a while,” Kelly says. “He’s probably used to doing things a certain way and expecting certain things from his guys. But I think he’s carried that into this organization.”
He calls it beneficial.
“He’s really good at communicating,” he says. “He doesn’t try to throw things down your throat. He just throws out suggestions. If you want to listen to him, that’s great. But he doesn’t try to take control of what you’re doing.”
Fellow starting pitcher Zac Gallen says Strom has the credentials to make the D-backs’ pitching staff great. After all, Strom has worked with a slate of players from Sandy Koufax to Justin Verlander.
“He has a lot of ideas, which is nice,” Gallen says.
“If ‘A’ doesn’t work, then we try ‘B,’ ‘C,’ ‘D,’ whatever. He’s been around for a while. He has a lot of information to support us. Being able to have him and reference other guys who he’s worked with is great. It’s been nice to think about pitching in a different way.”
Strom is excited to work with the guys in the clubhouse, Gallen adds.
“I got into this at a very young age,” Strom adds.
“I fell in love with the game. All these years I thought it was me holding the ball, when, in reality, it was the ball holding me. My wife calls baseball my mistress. I enjoy the competition, the teaching part of it and seeing people succeed.”
Back in Tucson
When they’re in Tucson, Strom and his wife, Carrie, enjoy playing golf, hanging with their dogs and traveling. He frequently hosts baseball clinics in Europe.
Recently, the Stroms purchased a home on the gulf in Mexico.
Growing up in San Diego, Strom spent quite a bit of his youth across the Mexican border in Tijuana. He played winter ball in Baja California, one year in Tijuana, and another in Mexicali.
“Our place wasn’t built yet when I was still in Houston,” he says. “We spent quite a bit of time there last winter. I had not taken the D-backs position yet. I look at this as a challenge. I needed a new challenge.”
Strom enjoys seeing the team continually improving.
“Obviously, I was blessed with Verlander and (Zack) Greinke and the guys like Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel, some Cy Young folks.”
Keuchel has since signed with the D-backs and recently made his first start with them.
“What I’ve come to appreciate is the open mic-ness of the pitching staff, and they like to embrace different ideas. It’s been fun time,” Strom says.
“Obviously the highs and lows of the season wear on you a little bit. The Dodgers did a number on us (in June). We were in every game. We just couldn’t get over the hump with them. We’ll get back on track and our team will have the chance to win games. We have some solid bullpen moments.”