PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Diamondbacks hired Steve Sax as their first base coach on Wednesday, putting the former All-Star in a big league uniform for the first time in nearly two decades, and moved up Turner Ward to be their assistant hitting coach.
The 52-year-old Sax played 14 seasons in the majors, finishing in 1994 with 444 career stolen bases and a .281 batting average. A five-time All-Star second baseman, he played in the World Series when the Los Angeles Dodgers won in 1981 and was the NL Rookie of the Year the nest season.
Sax was on deck when current Arizona manager Kirk Gibson homered in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Sax effusively greeted Gibson at home plate after the homer that sent the Dodgers toward another championship.
Sax has been a professional speaker on motivation and leadership since his playing days and wrote a book about inspiration. He also focused on raising his two children, while hoping that an opportunity to return to the majors might come.
"I've been thinking about this for a number of years," Sax said on a conference call.
Sax said he'd recently sent resumes to teams and went to the recent baseball winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., to explore the possibilities. He met with the Diamondbacks during the gathering.
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said "it was certainly a long process" to get Sax. "Steve came into the picture later."
The Diamondbacks went 81-81 last season and fired first base coach Eric Young after it ended. Arizona also considered former major leaguer Brett Butler, its manager at Triple-A Reno, before hiring Sax.
Gibson said his friend "Saxie" would work to improve Arizona's baserunning and general awareness of game situations. Ward and Sax will also try to better Arizona's outfield play.
The 47-year-old Ward spent parts of 12 seasons in the majors. The outfielder homered for the Diamondbacks in the 1999 playoffs, the first year Arizona reached the postseason.
Ward managed Arizona's Double-A team in Mobile for the last two years, and won the Southern League title both seasons.
The Diamondbacks also hired Greg Gross as their hitting coach at Triple-A Reno. He was fired as Philadelphia's hitting coach right after last season ended.