Sports

Happy homecoming for Hurst

Columbia Fireflies pitching coach Jonathan Hurst speaks with the umpries before a game against Charleston earlier this season. Hurst is happy to return to his home state this year as he continues his quest to coach in the major leagues.
Columbia Fireflies pitching coach Jonathan Hurst speaks with the umpries before a game against Charleston earlier this season. Hurst is happy to return to his home state this year as he continues his quest to coach in the major leagues. dmclemore@thestate.com

Baseball took Jonathan Hurst all over the world, and now it’s brought him back to the Palmetto State.

The Spartanburg native is in his first season as pitching coach for the Columbia Fireflies, a Class A affiliate of the New York Mets.

“I see more family now than I have in my 11 years of coaching,” Hurst said. “It has been great being close to home and being able to see my wife and son on a regular basis. Have families and friends come here. It has been a real homecoming for me to be able to relish the moment.”

Hurst did his share of “advertising” to the Mets’ organization when he found out the team was moving from Savannah, Ga., to Columbia this season, and his persistence paid off. He has been with the Mets the past 11 seasons, with the last five coming as pitching coach of Kingsport in the Appalachian League.

Hurst’s wife and 7-year-old son still live in Spartanburg, but he sees them often. He spent the recent all-star break doing a pitching clinic back in his hometown, something he does on a regular basis in the offseason.

The 49-year-old was a standout at Spartanburg High before going to Spartanburg Methodist, where he was teammates with future all-star Reggie Sanders. He earned All-America honors his sophomore season in 1987 and was a fourth-round pick of the Texas Rangers.

Hurst was traded to the Montreal Expos organization and made his Major League debut in 1992. He made three starts with Montreal and appeared in 10 games with the New York Mets in 1994 before the strike ended the season.

After his stint with the Mets, Hurst took his talents abroad for the next 11 seasons. Mexico and Taiwan were among his stops, and he was an all-star with the Brother Elephants of the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

During his time there, Hurst learned to rely on pitch location and his fastball.

Hurst loved his time in Taiwan. He met his wife there and still goes back each offseason to give pitching instructions.

“It is almost a blur, going from high school to college and then to the pros,” Hurst said. “Eighteen years went by so fast, just having to endure many things both positive and negative. At the end of the day, baseball is baseball wherever I went. I treated it just like I was in the big leagues.”

Making it back to the big leagues as a coach is something Hurst, like many of the coaches in the minors, hope to do. If that doesn’t work out, Hurst would like to be a pitching coordinator for a major league organization.

“My job is to develop these guys, and hopefully it catapults me to be a major league pitching coach or a bullpen coach or whatever comes first,” Hurst said. “We’d love to be in the major league dugout one day. Hopefully, one day that dream comes true for myself and many other coaches that grind on a daily basis in the minor leagues.”

HURST FILE

Name: Jonathan Hurst

Born: Oct. 20, 1966

High School: Spartanburg

College: Spartanburg Methodist

MLB Career: Drafted by the Texas Rangers in fourth round of 1987 draft. Played in the Rangers, Expos and Mets organizations.

MLB Debut: June 9, 1992

MLB stats: Appeared in 10 games with a 1-2 record and pitched 26 1/3 innings

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