AUBURN | Butch Thompson struck quickly and decisively when a spot opened up on his coaching staff.
Auburn’s third-year head coach hired former Tiger All-American Gabe Gross as hitting coach to replace Doug Sisson, who accepted a position as the Chicago White Sox minor league coordinator.
“I’m so excited Gabe wants to come back,” Thompson said. “You think about putting yourself in my shoes. What boxes does Gabe Gross check? Has he coached at Auburn? Yes. Was he a good player here? Great. What does he mean to Auburn? A lot. He’s played in a World Series. He checks so many boxes.
“He cares about this program just as much as anybody in this organization. I think he and Karl Nonemaker will work tremendously together. If Gabe Gross had said no, I don’t know where I would’ve even began to try and fill the position.”
Wade Rackley/Auburn athletics
Following a seven-year major league career with Toronto, Milwaukee, Tampa Bay and Oakland, Gross served as a student assistant at Auburn in 2012 as he completed his undergraduate degree and a volunteer assistant in 2013.
He’s been an analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network for the last three years.
“I am extremely excited,” Gross said. “I think Coach Thompson has built this program and Coach Sisson has been a huge part of it. We're similar on a lot of things. Obviously, there will be differences because we're two different people. He's coming from a professional background and that's obviously where I'm coming from too. But to get in there and get in the cage, start working with the guys, start really teaching them my philosophy, my belief about baseball, and to do it at Auburn, yea, I'd say excited is a pretty good word. I'm beyond that.”
A three-year starter in the Auburn outfield from 1999-01, Gross was a first-team All-American in 2000 after he led the Southeastern Conference in hitting with a blistering .430 average. A two-time All-SEC performer, Gross was a freshman All-American in 1999 and a second-team Academic All-American in 2001. He will oversee the Auburn offense and work with the outfielders.
Sisson, who was one of Thompson’s coaches in his playing days at Birmingham Southern, plans to remain with his family in Auburn while overseeing the White Sox minor league system. Sisson came to Auburn in 2015 with 23 years of professional baseball coaching experience.
“Not only to coordinate an entire minor league organization but to be in the front office as a potential caveat of that, that’s tough for a guy that has been over two decades in professional baseball,” Thompson said. “Siss was my coach. I appreciate him coming with me to get this thing started and the work he’s done. To see our players look him in the eye, we’re losing a heck of a coach, there’s no doubt about it. What he’s meant to me and how much he’s done for us to get this started I don’t regret a second with him. He’s top shelf in my book.”
Auburn began fall practice on Thursday and it will last through Nov. 17.