Sports Zone, Springfield

Millers coach Embree brings series of successes to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – If there’s one thing Alan Embree knows how to do, it’s win.

Embree, in his first season at the helm of the Springfield Millers baseball team, has won at pretty much every level there is. The former left-handed pitcher won a state title at Prairie High School in Washington; a World Series championship with the 2004 Boston Red Sox; a West Coast League title as coach of the Bend Elks in ’15; and a state title as coach of Summit High School in ’16.

Now, the 54-year-old Oregon native takes over a Springfield program that’s desperate to win. The Millers are a combined 33-160 – a winning percentage of .17 – since Springfield’s last winning season in 2014. 

Embree knows it won’t be an overnight turnaround, but said it can happen at some point.

“It starts with the youth programs. You’re only as good as your feeders, and we have enough young guys and support in the community,” Embree said. “The parents, the alumni, the school, the athletic director, have all been great with us. With the support we’re getting the pieces are in place, it’s just about getting it done.”

Not only does Embree hope to bring more winning to Springfield, he also wants to bring stability. Embree is Springfield’s eighth coach in the past 12 seasons, and the program’s last coach to be at Springfield for more than two seasons was Erik Lansdon (2009-11).

“It was Ike Olsson who came to me and said that Springfield could use somebody over here. They haven’t had stability over here in coaching,” Embree said. “So it was a chance for me to give back. I’m new to the community, and that’s pretty much what I went with.”

Olsson is an industrialist, philanthropist – oh, and one of the owners of the Springfield Drifters, a collegiate wooden-bat team where Embree is an assistant coach.

While he has won at almost every level in his career, Embree’s story is more than just about winning – it’s about the mental strength it takes to play 16 seasons at the sport’s highest level. Embree was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 5th round of the 1989 MLB June Amateur Draft straight out of high school, and later played for Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Oakland, Colorado, the Chicago White Sox, and the New York Yankees.

In Embree’s 16 seasons, he appeared in 882 games, finishing 39-45 with a 4.59 ERA. In 2004 as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Embree recorded the final out against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. Embree then shut down the St. Louis Cardinals in the 8th inning of Game 4 of the World Series, and an inning later, the Red Sox won the World Series.

“I went back (to Boston) for our reunion last week for the ‘04 team. So the guys said they saw me on TV, and they were like, ‘Oh, that was cool. It’s our coach.’” Embree said. “I still don’t know that they know what it means, and I don’t expect them to. But it is kind of cool. Their dads know who I am, but the kids don’t. They’re still very respectful and they ask questions.”

Alan Embree spent four seasons with the Red Sox. His biggest moment was recording the final out in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to send Boston to the World Series.

Embree doesn’t just hope to answer his player’s questions about his pro career, though. In order to turn around a program that’s struggled for a decade, Embree will need to answer questions about how to help his athletes’ on-field performances.

“It’s the mental part of the game, and trusting in yourself. I was a player that always bet on myself. Then it’s about the fact that you’re only as good as your next play, and short term memory, that sort of stuff,” Embree said. “We’re teaching fundamentals and what any other coach around here is doing. But I think my strength is the mental side of the game, and if I can help the boys in any way, I will.”

It hasn’t been easy so far in year one – Springfield fell to 1-16 on the season after a series loss to North Eugene last week. There have been pockets of sun, though, like a 13-6 loss in Game Three to North Eugene in which the Millers totaled 8 hits, led by senior Troy Lopez’s 2 hits and 2 RBI.

Springfield junior Dylan Leas throws a pitch during the team’s loss at North Eugene last Tuesday. Leas struck out 3 batters in the defeat.

 The biggest issue has been consistency. That seems to be the word that’s defined Embree’s career, and may define his time at Springfield as well.

“Just consistency … consistency is key. The team has had a lapse in one inning in every game that has seemed to dictate how the game was going to go. Eliminating that, staying steady, and having that mentality that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Embree said. “The boys have shown improvement. It hasn’t necessarily translated on the field, but I am seeing it from everybody, so it’s good to see the program get better.”



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos