Tim Naehring (THE TOPPS COMPANY)

Tim Naehring

This article was written by Donna L. Halper

Tim Naehring (THE TOPPS COMPANY)Tim Naehring played for the Boston Red Sox during portions of eight seasons — from 1990-97. He hit .282 overall, with 49 home runs and 250 RBIs. Known for his versatility, he played various infield positions before becoming the team’s regular third baseman in 1995. Unfortunately, his time in the major leagues was frequently interrupted by injuries, and in June 1997, a torn ligament in his right elbow ended his playing career. Throughout his years in Boston, he was a fan favorite: he always gave 100%, with a hustling style of play reminiscent of his boyhood idol Pete Rose.

Timothy James Naehring was born on February 1, 1967, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His parents, Gerald James “Jerry” Naehring, a sales and marketing manager in the meat industry, and his wife Donna (née Uhlhorn), had two sons — Tim, and his younger brother Brian. Tim developed a love for baseball at a young age. “I played in a league called Knothole Baseball. [It was] similar to, but not, Little League.” And in his late teens, “I played for… the Storm Club in Cincinnati and we would compete in the PONY league post-season.”1 A love of baseball ran in the Naehring family: Tim’s uncle Mark Naehring was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1977; he never reached the majors, but he played in the minor leagues for six seasons. Tim still recalls taking a family road trip to the White Sox’ Southern League affiliate in Knoxville to watch Mark play and cheer him on.2

Like Mark, Tim attended Cincinnati’s LaSalle High School. He began playing shortstop for the LaSalle Lancers, and it was not long before he was attracting favorable attention from local sportswriters. By his senior year, the writers were calling him “one of the top college prospects in the city.”3 And when the Cincinnati Enquirer’s sports staff selected the best high school players for their All-City All-Stars of 1985, Tim Naehring was chosen as the shortstop for the First Team.4

After graduating from LaSalle in 1985, he received a baseball scholarship to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Some of the local sportswriters believed he would be a major-league prospect one day, but Naehring was not so sure. Like any young ballplayer, he dreamed about playing in the big leagues, but although he was a successful high-school athlete, “I was pretty realistic about the future. That’s why I wanted to get a college education. I loved baseball, but I didn’t know if I’d ever make the pros.”5 In college, he majored in Marketing, and, of course, he tried out for the Miami Redskins baseball team (today the Miami RedHawks), where he became their regular shortstop. Determined to improve his skills, he joined the North Eastern Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), a summer league in upstate New York, after his freshman year. He played for the 1986 Cohocton Red Wings, on a team that finished in first place. Playing in Cohocton helped him to realize that “I would need to pay my dues if I wanted to achieve anything in…baseball.”6

Spending time in the NECBL helped him to become a better collegiate player: he was named to the 1987 Mid-American Conference (MAC) all-conference second team.7 When the college season ended, he once again joined a summer league — this time, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Cape Cod League had been the home to numerous future major leaguers, and during his summer with the Cotuit Kettleers, he competed against several of his future Red Sox teammates, including first baseman Mo Vaughn and catcher John Flaherty.

In August 1986, San Diego Padres scout Don Labossiere saw Naehring in Cohocton and filed a report: “He has an excellent arm and [major league] power right now. A gamer who comes to play and will do anything to beat you. Is still learning to play his position (SS) but could also play 3B…” He called Naehring a “can’t miss player.”8 Labossiere returned in July 1987 and observed Naehring in four Cotuit games, noting that the young shortstop had improved. He was “bigger and stronger than when I saw him last year.” He praised Naehring as “the second-best shortstop in the league,” but once again, predicted “Will probably end up playing 3B in Pro Ball.”

When Naehring returned to college ball for the 1988 season, his coach, Jon Pavlisko, noticed the same improvements that Labossiere had. Although the Miami Redskins finished third in the Mid-American Conference, Naehring had a banner year. As a fielder, he was part of a team that led the conference with a .965 fielding average. As a hitter, he finished with a .391 batting average. He was named the MAC player of the year and named to the all-conference first team.9 With major league baseball’s amateur draft coming up, local sportswriters were certain Naehring would be chosen.

And he was, as the eighth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox, who drafted him based on the recommendation of Larry Thomas, the team’s scout for Ohio. On June 8, 1988, the Red Sox announced that four of their draft choices had been signed: catcher John Flaherty, outfielder John Mickey Rivers (son of former New York Yankees center fielder Mickey Rivers), Rodney Taylor (a pitcher also scouted by Thomas), and Naehring, all of whom were assigned to Elmira, New York.10

Naehring was about to begin his senior year in college, but he decided to forgo it and focus on the opportunity to play professional baseball. He reported to the Class-A Elmira Pioneers, where he was warmly greeted by manager Bill Limoncelli, who had positive recollections of when Naehring played for Cohocton in 1986.11 In his debut for Elmira, Naehring helped his team to defeat the Auburn Astros, 3-1. He drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and played well at shortstop: one sportswriter said he demonstrated “wide range and sure hands.”12 By mid-July, he was leading Elmira with a .305 batting average. The Red Sox then decided to send him to Winter Haven, in the Florida State League, but he did not do as well there: he only hit .227, and proved surprisingly error-prone, making 20 errors at shortstop.

Eager to improve, Naehring played in the Instructional League, where he was coached by Ed Nottle, manager of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.13 Naehring began the 1989 season in Class-A Lynchburg, and he got off to a much better start — getting timely hits, not making as many errors, and impressing members of the Red Sox organization, including Johnny Pesky.14 By early June, Naehring was hitting .301, with four homers and 37 RBIs, and the Red Sox promoted him to Triple-A Pawtucket, a surprising move given that the Sox were known for developing players slowly. But those who watched Naehring play agreed that he was “one of the most prized prospects in the farm system.”15

The PawSox had not been playing well, and Naehring immediately made an impact: in his first 24 at-bats in Triple-A, he hit .333.16 Nottle praised the young shortstop for providing some much-needed energy. “He’s not only started off like a house afire, he’s given a big boost to everybody with the way he plays.” Thinking about Naehring’s future, Nottle added, “I see him as a third baseman…he reminds me quite a bit of Cal Ripken. They’re both the same kind of players.”17

Nottle also appreciated how hard Naehring played: he would dive for ground balls, even on artificial turf, and he put more effort into helping the team than some of the veterans.18 Naehring’s toughness, even in the face of injuries, was also noteworthy. Before he left Lynchburg, he was involved in a freak accident: in early June, he was accidentally hit in the mouth by a foul ball, and it required stitches. Despite the painful injury, he still drove from Lynchburg to Pawtucket and arrived determined to play.19

Although Naehring played mostly at shortstop, Nottle did try him at third base; he played 20 games there and adjusted well. Of course, the Red Sox’ everyday third baseman was Wade Boggs, and at that time, nobody planned to replace him. But the front office believed Naehring’s ability to play several infield positions would be useful in the future. Meanwhile, after hitting over .300 for much of the season, Naehring’s batting average declined in the final weeks; he missed the last few games due to shoulder tendonitis, but he still ended up with a .275 average, including 16 doubles and 31 RBIs, in 79 games.20 He was voted the 1989 Minor League Player of the Year by the Boston baseball writers.21

In 1990, Naehring was invited to spring training, which was delayed by a 32-day lockout of the players by club owners.22 Sox manager Joe Morgan wanted to observe Naehring’s progress, and got him into a few games. In one game against the Cincinnati Reds, Naehring hit two home runs, which impressed Morgan, who had not thought of him as a long-ball hitter. The manager also liked Naehring’s hustle in the field. However, the Sox decided it was best for him to return to Pawtucket, where he could play every day.23 Morgan predicted Naehring would not remain in the minors for long.

Naehring played well in Pawtucket: by mid-July, he was hitting .269, with 15 homers and 47 RBIs. While Naehring was having a good year, the PawSox were not, continuing their losing record into a fourth straight season. In late June, Nottle was fired and replaced by Johnny Pesky on an interim basis. Meanwhile, Naehring’s solid play was rewarded when he was chosen for the International League All-Star game. He then went to Rochester for a series with the Red Wings, unaware that everything was about to change. On July 14, after the first game of a double-header, Pesky told him that he had just been called up.24

When he got there, the Red Sox were riddled with injuries, and to make room for Naehring, designated hitter Dwight Evans, hobbled by a sore hamstring and the back problems he had endured all season, was put on the disabled list. Center fielder Ellis Burks also had hamstring problems and had sat out several games. Left fielder Mike Greenwell, who had a sore ankle, was in pain but playing through it. Reliever Jeff Reardon had a sore finger on his pitching hand, and Roger Clemens was complaining of a tired arm. In addition, several hitters were in brutal slumps, including current shortstop Luis Rivera.25 Naehring’s arrival was seen as good news: fans had high hopes for him, and so did the Red Sox organization.

Joe Morgan had been pushing for weeks to bring him up; he wanted to replace Rivera, who by then was only batting .213.26 Naehring made his major-league debut on July 15, against the Kansas City Royals, playing one inning of defense, at second base. His first full game was the next night, and he was understandably nervous. It was not an auspicious debut. Batting in the ninth spot, he went 0-for-4, with three strikeouts; he also made an error at shortstop. But the next night, to his surprise, the fans were very supportive, cheering him on when he came up to bat. He made one more fielding error but then settled down and played with more confidence. He also got his first major-league hit — a single, and his first RBI. That run ended up as the game winner, as the Sox won 1-0, defeating the Minnesota Twins behind a strong pitching performance from Tom Bolton.27

The game was memorable in another way as well: the Red Sox hit into two triple-plays, in the fourth inning and again in the eighth. This embarrassing feat had never happened in the history of modern baseball.28 And the next night, the Red Sox tied an American League record by grounding into six double plays. The Sox still won the game though, 5-4, and Naehring contributed, hitting his first major-league home run. (He was also the player who hit into the record-tying sixth double-play.)29

Naehring ended up with a .271 average in 24 games; in one of his best outings, he got four hits against the California Angels and made two key defensive plays.30 But in what became a recurring problem, he began experiencing severe back pain in late July. He missed three games in early August, and then returned to the lineup, but his back never improved. By now, the pain was affecting his fielding and causing him to make more errors. He went back on the DL, but when he tried to return, the pain kept getting worse. He missed the remainder of the season, and after numerous tests, doctors determined he had been born with his right leg slightly shorter than his left. Wearing a lift in his right shoe helped alleviate the pain.31

After extensive offseason physical therapy, Naehring began 1991 hoping to prove himself, but midway through spring training, his back problems returned. Several days of rest helped, and he returned to the lineup in early April when Morgan named him the starting shortstop — the first rookie in 25 years to be in that role.32 But Naehring was soon mired in a batting slump that dragged on until it reached 0-for-39. Being unable to get a hit affected his confidence; he worried the Sox might give up on him.33 But Morgan said there were no plans to send him down, and Naehring’s teammates rallied around him. He even got some encouragement from Red Sox legend Ted Williams, who was visiting the locker room during “Ted Williams Day.”34 Meanwhile, Naehring’s back pain worsened. He returned to the DL in late May, and after a bone spur was found in his lower back, he underwent surgery to remove it, ending his season after only 20 games and a disappointing .109 batting average. In late September, Naehring reported to the Instructional League in Winter Haven. The surgery seemed to have helped, and he began hitting well once again.

In spring training, Naehring had a new manager: Morgan was fired just before the 1991 season ended, and Butch Hobson now managed the team. During the first few months of the 1992 season, Hobson used Naehring as a utility infielder, either at second, or short, or third. Meanwhile, Naehring got his first hit and RBI on April 9, officially ending the slump he had been in since the previous year.35 But in mid-June, he ended up on the DL again, this time with strained ligaments in his right wrist. He spent time in Pawtucket on a rehab assignment, but it was another disappointing year: the Sox finished in last place, and Naehring ended up batting only .231 in 72 games.

By 1993, sportswriters and fans wondered if Naehring would ever be healthy for an entire season. In spring training, he was again missing games, this time due to a sore shoulder.36 It turned out to be a torn shoulder muscle, and in late March, he had surgery, putting him out of the lineup for 8-12 weeks. During an extended rehab stint in Pawtucket, he hit .307 in 55 games, and when he rejoined the Sox in mid-August, Hobson used him as a utility player. By mid-September, he had become the team’s hottest hitter, with a 13-game hitting streak. He also hit .374 in the team’s final 28 games. In all, Naehring played 39 games in 1993, finishing the season with a .331 average.37

It looked like 1994 would be a breakout year for Naehring: he was healthy, and he got off to a great start, hitting .379 after the team’s first 18 games.38 Given all he had been through, the fans wanted to see him have a big year. He played in 80 games, mostly at second base, batting .276 and driving in 42 runs. But the 1994 season was shortened due to a player strike, which began in August. The progress he had made was put on hold until the following year.

Naehring was a restricted free agent in 1995 thanks to a new salary cap imposed by the owners after the strike. Naehring was one of 38 players eligible to sign with another team, but said he had no desire to leave Boston, and re-signed with the Red Sox in April. Playing under new manager Kevin Kennedy, he became the team’s full-time third baseman. “Third base was a great fit for me. It was a position I really loved playing. But I wanted to do whatever the organization asked of me. I played whatever position they needed.”39 Naehring was known for being a team player, one of many reasons he was popular in Boston. He was also known for signing autographs and appearing at local events, and few players were more charitable: the BoSox Club, the Red Sox’ official fan club, named him “Man of the Year” for his willingness to help worthy causes.40

In 1995, he finally had the kind of year the fans (and Naehring himself) had hoped for. He played in 126 games, all of them at third base. It was the most games he had played in his Red Sox career. He hit .307, with 27 doubles, 10 homers, and 57 RBIs, as the Sox finished first in the American League East. He also got four hits (including a home run) in the playoffs against Cleveland, but the Red Sox were swept in three games, ending their season.

Naehring returned to the Sox in 1996 ready to pick up where he left off. In May, he had an 18-game hitting streak.41 In June, he hit his first career grand slam, against Milwaukee, and in early September, he was hitting .288, with 17 home runs (his personal best), and 65 RBIs. But bad luck seemed to follow him: in late August, he strained a tendon in his left knee, and on September 6, he injured his shoulder diving for a ball in a game against the White Sox. Within two days, the shoulder pain was so bad that he could no longer throw. His last game was on September 8. It was a frustrating end to his season.42

Meanwhile, earlier that year, he had co-founded a non-profit charitable organization called “Athletes Reaching Out” (ARO), which utilized professional athletes in community projects. It also raised money for local charities by holding events like golf tournaments. ARO’s most notable project was “Little Fenway,” a scaled-down replica of Fenway Park that could be used by youth baseball and softball leagues, which Naehring helped to build in Cincinnati. (Naehring not only donated the 1,500-seat ballpark to the Taylor Creek Youth Organization, but he and a group of volunteers worked on all aspects of the park’s construction.)43 Explaining why he built it in Cincinnati, he said, “What I want to give the kids at home is a little piece of my major league career…Boston will always be part of my career.”44

In 1997, he returned to Boston, having turned down an offer to play in Cleveland.45 He was now playing for new manager Jimy Williams, and got off to a strong start, both as the Sox’ third baseman and as a hitter. He hit a game-winning grand slam against Seattle in mid-April, and at the end of the month, he was leading the team with 17 RBIs. In late May, he had a four-hit game against the Yankees and seemed well on his way to a great year. The Sox were in Toronto on June 23rd, and Naehring had three base hits and a home run, but then he injured ligaments in his elbow as he made a throw, and for the seventh time in seven years, he ended up on the DL. He had played 70 games, with a .286 batting average, and 40 RBIs. He also had a streak of 58 consecutive games without an error.46 Naehring was eager to play again, but his elbow did not improve; in late July he had Tommy John surgery.47 But even after the surgery, he still could not throw without pain. He had an additional surgery to remove scar tissue, but this too did not solve the problem. Although he was only 30, it seemed that he had played his last major-league game.

The Red Sox did not pick up his option in 1998, and he had to make a decision. “I knew in my heart that I was probably done, but I wanted to give it one more try.”48 The Cincinnati Reds were willing to give him a minor-league contract, and if he could eventually play, then-GM Jim Bowden said he was looking forward to seeing Naehring in a Reds uniform.49 Bowden also offered him a position in the Reds organization as his special assistant, tasked with player development and scouting. As it turned out, Naehring was unable to return as a player, and he was grateful that Bowden gave him some time to transition from playing to working in the front office.

After being hired in 1999, Naehring spent five years as director of player development, and was later promoted to minor league field coordinator. In September 2007, he was unexpectedly fired, along with assistant farm director Grant Griesser and several others, as the Reds decided to overhaul their minor league system. “I didn’t expect that the new GM [Wayne Krivsky] wouldn’t renew my contract. We had done a good job developing talent. I was proud of what we did.”50 Fortunately, he was not unemployed for very long. Within 24 hours, the Yankees organization called him, and he was hired as a major league scout, advising GM Brian Cashman about player acquisitions and evaluation of personnel.51 In 2016, he was promoted to Vice President of Baseball Operations, a position he still held in 2021.

Today, Tim Naehring and his wife Kris, a former speech pathologist, whom he married in 2003, live in Cincinnati with their two children. Athletes Reaching Out is no longer in operation, but Little Fenway is alive and well, and an extremely popular ballpark, something that he finds very gratifying. And while he enjoys his job with the Yankees front office, he has fond memories of his time as a Red Sox player: “I was very blessed to be a part of the Red Sox organization. They treated me great … they were very supportive during my time there. They were a unique organization to play for.”52

Last revised: January 4, 2022

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Bill Nowlin and Michael Tow and fact-checked by Evan Katz.

 

Sources

The author consulted baseball-reference.com and Ancestry.com. The author conducted a telephone interview with Tim Naehring on November 10, 2021, and exchanged emails with him on November 12, 2021 and November 21, 2021.

 

Notes

1 Email from Tim Naehring to the author, November 21, 2021.

2 Email from Tim Naehring to the author, November 12, 2021.

3 Hugh Malay, “Fairfield Voted No. 1 in Baseball,” Cincinnati Enquirer, March 24, 1985: C16.

4 “Enquirer Spring Sports All-Star Team, Cincinnati Enquirer, June 7, 1985: B3.

5 Telephone conversation between Tim Naehring and the author, November 10, 2021.

6 Tim Naehring, “A Player’s Diary: Roots of Success in Cotuit,” Boston Globe, August 27, 1994: 34.

7 Dave Long, “Gaffney Earns Big 10 Academic Honors,” Dayton Ohio Daily News, May 24, 1987: 9D.

8 Don Labossiere, Scouting Report on Tim Naehring, August 1, 1986. Baseball Hall of Fame. https://collection.baseballhall.org/PASTIME/tim-naehring-scouting-report-1986-august-01

9 “All-MAC Baseball Team Set,” Lancaster Ohio Eagle-Gazette, May 25, 1988: 12.

10 “Red Sox-Yankees Notebook,” Hartford Courant, June 8, 1988: B5.

11 Ed Weaver, “Pioneers Grab Opener, 3-1,” Elmira Star-Gazette, June 17, 1988: 5B.

12 Ed Weaver, “Pioneers Grab Opener, 3-1,” Elmira Star-Gazette, June 17, 1988: 5B.

13 Marvin Pave, “Sox Promoting Naehring as Top Infield Prospect,” Boston Globe, August 24, 1989: 45.

14 Steve Fainaru, “They’re Holding One Ace,” Boston Globe, April 16, 1989: 54.

15 Steve Fainaru, “Injuries Cause Domino Effect in System,” Boston Globe, June 25, 1989: 54.

16 Patti Singer, “Harris Injury Puts Career in Jeopardy,” Rochester New York Democrat and Chronicle, June 18, 1989: 17E.

17 Steve Fainaru, “Injuries Cause Domino Effect in System,” Boston Globe, June 25, 1989: 54.

18 Bill Savage, “Swingin’ Ed’s Bad Dream,” Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, July 4, 1989: 1C.

19 Marvin Pave, “Sox Promoting Naehring as Top Infield Prospect,” Boston Globe, August 24, 1989: 45.

20 Steve Fainaru, “Farm Report: Signs of the Annual Crop Failure,” Boston Globe, September 3, 1989: 53.

21 “Writers Vote Naehring Best,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 24, 1989: C5.

22 Paul D. Staudohar, “Baseball Labor Relations: The Lockout of 1990,” Monthly Labor Review, October 1990: 32, 35. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1990/10/rpt1full.pdf

23 “Sox Naehring Hits 2 HRs,” North Adams Massachusetts Transcript, April 3, 1990: 9.

24 Patti Singer, “Wings Sweep Double-Header from Pawsox,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 15, 1990: 8E.

25 Steve Fainaru, “Evans Placed on DL; Naehring Gets the Call,” Boston Globe, July 15, 1990: 54.

26 Bill Madden, “Can a Rainout in Windy City be a Windfall?” New York Daily News, July 11, 1990: 49.

27 Michael Vega, “It Was in the Stars,” Boston Globe, July 18, 1990: 37.

28 Michael Madden, “The Evidence Can’t Be Found,” Boston Globe, July 18, 1990: 33, 37.

29 Michael Vega, “A Different Kind of Play at Fenway,” Boston Globe, July 19, 1990: 69.

30 Sean Horgan, “Angels Defeat Red Sox,” Hartford Courant, August 9, 1990: C1.

31 Nick Cafardo, “Their Painful Realizations,” Boston Globe, January 10, 1991: 75, 79.

32 “Naehring Impresses,” The Sporting News, April 22, 1991: 24.

33 Bob Sudyk, “Slumps Know No Boundaries,” Hartford Courant, April 26, 1991: E1.

34 Nick Cafardo, “Williams Tips His Cap to Fans,” Boston Globe, May 13, 1991: 38

35 “Yankees Get Past Sox Again, 3-2,” North Adams Massachusetts Transcript, April 10, 1992: 11.

36 Sean Horgan, “Russell Decides Against Forkball,” Hartford Courant, March 11, 1993: B12.

37 Rob Gloster, “Naehring is Finally Healthy,” North Adams Transcript, February 23, 1994: 13.

38 Joe Giuliotti, “Boston Red Sox,” The Sporting News, May 2, 1994: 27.

39 Telephone conversation between Tim Naehring and the author, November 10, 2021.

40 Paul Doyle, “Smith Makes Quite a Pitch,” Hartford Courant, September 27, 1995: C2.

41 Paul Doyle, “Naehring’s Arrived, But Let’s Keep it Quiet,” Hartford Courant, May 29, 1996: C1.

42Larry Whiteside, “Naehring Done for Season?” Boston Globe, September 18, 1996: D3.

43 Steve Jacoby, “Giving Back,” Cincinnati Magazine, March 1997: 127-128.

44 Paul Doyle, “Basically Naehring Content,” Hartford Courant, August 8, 1996: C7.

45 Howard Ulman, “Money Not Only Thing Driving Naehring,” North Adams Transcript, February 25, 1997: B1.

46 Gordon Edes, “Naehring Authors Glove Story,” Boston Globe, June 25, 1997:

47 Gordon Edes and Larry Whiteside, “Naehring Has Tendon Transfer Procedure, Boston Globe, July 25, 1997: E6.

48 Telephone conversation between Tim Naehring and the author, November 10, 2021.

49 Hal McCoy, “Braves Take a Look at Veteran Morris,” Dayton Daily News, March 1, 1999: 9.

50 Telephone conversation between Tim Naehring and the author, November 10, 2021.

51 Bobby Nightengale, “Cincinnati’s Hill, Naehring Potential Candidates,” Cincinnati Enquirer, October 8, 2020: 2C.

52 Telephone conversation between Tim Naehring and the author, November 10, 2021.

Full Name

Timothy James Naehring

Born

February 1, 1967 at Cincinnati, OH (USA)

If you can help us improve this player’s biography, contact us.

Tags

None

© SABR. All Rights Reserved