TEAHEN HITS THE OUTFIELD: Although the official decision has yet to be made, Mark Teahen is making sure he has all his bases (and outfield!) covered before the season opens on April 2. Last year’s regular third baseman has spent most of this year’s Spring Training camp in the outfield in preparation for his potential move there. Here’s a glimpse of Teahen taking fly balls during a workout this weekend.
FORCING THE HAND: Now, there is a reason why Teahen is spending more time in the grass as opposed to the infield dirt…and he goes by the name of Alex Gordon. So far, all “unofficial” reports from camp are coming back positive on Gordon, who is projected to become the Royals starting third baseman in 2007. Is there anything that could stop this move from happening?
CLOSING THE DEAL: One of the many, many, many new faces on the 2007 roster is pitcher Octavio Dotel. Participating in his first Royals camp, Dotel, who figures to be the Royals closer this year, is taking every possible opportunity to hit the mound. So far, so good…
A SLIMMER, MORE FIT BERROA: All off-season he’s pledged to return to tip-top form…and from the looks of it, he has. Angel Berroa showed up to camp a few pounds lighter and a little more beefed up. The starting shortstop credits the new and improved look to a strenuous workout schedule this off-season.
ZACK IS BACK: Zack Greinke is vying for a spot on the Royals pitching staff. Although reports have Greinke capturing the fifth spot in the starting rotation, nothing has been set and the competition is proving to be fierce (Hello, Brian Bannister!).
What role would you prefer to see Greinke step into this season?
Denny, who says he is “living above cloud nine” since hearing from the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday, stopped by Kauffman Stadium Friday afternoon for a press conference with the local media. Here’s a photo of the guest of honor, who takes off to Surprise, Ariz., next Wednesday.
Members of the media watch as the full squad hits the field.
Two players getting a lot of attention in this year’s camp are off-season pitching acquisition Gil Meche, who threw a short session of batting practice during the first workout, and top prospect Alex Gordon, who is competing for a spot on this year’s big league roster.
Keep checking this blog for more Spring Training updates and images!
Blog Note — The following posting comes from Toby Cook, Royals VP-Community Affairs & Publicity. Toby spent the last couple of days at the Royals Spring Training facility in Surprise, Ariz. He credits Denny Matthews with inspiring him to pursue a career in broadcasting, which ended 20 years later when Toby joined the Royals front office.
The Voice of the Royals, Denny Matthews, probably knew his phone would ring off the hook Thursday afternoon. That’s okay. At least he wouldn’t have a ton of voicemails to return.
You see, Denny — who’s been in the Royals broadcast booth since the beginning of the franchise — doesn’t have one of those fancy call-waiting/straight-to-voicemail set-ups at his home. If he’s on the line, you get a busy signal. You have to keep trying. And a whole lot of people from around the sports world tried to call him Thursday.
Word spread quickly that Denny, a simple, unpretentious man with little use for technology, had been awarded the Ford C. Frick Award and will be honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., this July. He’s one of only a handful of play-by-play guys to call games for an organization since its inception.
I finally got through on Denny’s line about 4:45 p.m. Arizona time Thursday to congratulate him. I’ve known Denny for only a few years and have worked with him for just six months. But like many folks my age, he’s the reason I’m a Royals lifer.
(Denny highlight, Oct. 1985: "No outs to go! And the Royals have won the 1985 World Series!")
I came to Surprise Wednesday night for my first Spring Training trip after joining the organization last August. It was exciting to see the facility, meet up with coaches and players I hadn’t seen since that beautiful sweep of the Detroit Tigers the last series of 2006, and watch Alex Gordon field grounders. But the highlight of the day was an e-mail from back home, alerting all Royals associates about Denny’s news.
It doesn’t come as a shock that Denny will be honored, and remembered, in Cooperstown. If Hall of Famer George Brett is the face of the Royals franchise, Denny’s the voice — the voice that created a few generations of fans with all those pitches, all those innings, all those games.
Seeing the first full-squad warm-up at the Royals’ Surprise complex is a thrilling way to gear up for a new season, this one with more hope than in recent years. It’s wonderful for me to realize the memory of my first trip to spring training will be dominated by the news that the guy who brought us so many memories of the Royals’ past will be remembered as one of the greats.
Many of us already considered him that. Maybe this team can give him another last-inning of the World Series to call as a tribute.
Denny has been named the recipient of the 2007 Ford C. Frick award and will be honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on July 29 in Cooperstown!
As the voice of the Royals since the organization’s start in 1969, Denny has been there for every step the franchise has taken and becomes the first Royals broadcaster to be a Ford C. Frick award recipient. Check out MLB’s coverage of the announcement and details of the induction ceremonies.
It’s another season of T-shirts, bobbleheads, Dodge Buck Nights and Fireworks Fridays at Kauffman Stadium!
We released the much anticipated 2007 Promotions Schedule Monday. Highlights of some returning favorites include:
- Six T-Shirt Tuesdays including a Mark Teahen replica jersey (April 24), Hot Dog Derby T-shirt (May 22), Royal Blue Royals T-shirt (June 12) and Powder Blue Royals T-shirt (July 24).
- Royals Hall of Fame Bobblehead Collection featuring Paul Splittorff (May 26), Dennis Leonard (June 9), Steve Busby (July 28), Cookie Rojas (Aug. 11) and Fred Patek (Sept. 8).
- Dodge Buck Nights (April 4, May 5, May 25, June 15, July 7, Aug. 24 and Sept. 28), where hot dogs, small Pepsis and peanuts are $1 each!
- Fireworks Friday for every Friday home game during the season.
And, some NEW promotions to look forward to:
- Build-A-Bear Workshop Days: Royals Build-A-Bear Bunny (April 8), Royals Koala Bear (May 6) and a plush Kauffman Stadium Hot Dog Derby Racer (July 8).
- Bob Evans Friends and Family Days for every Sunday home games, where fans can purchase four Outfield Plaza Tickets, four hot dogs, four Pepsis, a bag of peanuts or popcorn and a Royals Gameday Magazine for just $40!
Hall of Famer George Brett led a pack of Royals alumni and mascot Sluggerrr through the halls of the Kansas City VA Medical Center Wednesday. The group took part in the hospital’s annual Valentine’s Day National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans.
Each year during the month of February, the Department of Veterans Affairs takes time to pay tribute to the hospitalized veterans. The Royals, who have participated in the tribute for years, passed out "Valentine red" Kansas City Monarchs hats, baseballs and autographs cards. Brett and former Royals John Mayberry, Brian McRae and Jaime Bluma also delivered story after story from their playing days.
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Royals!
For many Royals Fantasy Camp campers, there are several things to soak in and enjoy: playing at a real Spring Training facility…suiting up in Major League-style uniforms with their names on the back…getting hitting advice from Major League legends…grabbing a beer with players who were childhood heroes.
Camper Shane Lightner admits that while he did enjoy all that, it was the green, green grass he enjoyed taking in the most.
“This is the first time I’ve seen green grass in over a year,” said Sgt. Lightner, who returned from Kuwait this past November after a year-long deployment.
A member of the Missouri National Guard, the 33-year-old Sgt. Lightner returned home this winter to his wife, Heather, and 11-month-old son, Sam, who had a special gift waiting for him: a week of baseball with former Major League ballplayers in Surprise, Ariz.
“It was my anniversary-Christmas-birthday-everything else present,” Sgt. Lightner added. “And the extra treat was that my wife and son came along too, which has been great. She made a lot of sacrifices and raised our son for eight months by herself. She deserved a vacation too.”
The Fantasy Camp wrapped up its week of activities Friday with another dose of warm-ups, batting practice and games. Sgt. Lightner’s team, coached by alumni Frank White, Dennis Leonard and John Mayberry, finished 4-2 to capture second place.
Like many of the campers this week, Sgt. Lightner easily labels himself an avid Royals fan, adding that his family has held season tickets for years and will continue to for years to come. In fact, even though Shane was overseas, Heather made a point of not only keeping their season tickets last season, but attending many of the games in honor of her husband. Sharing updates and stories about the Royals was something that kept the family connected while Shane was gone. Plus, it made Fantasy Camp that much better of a welcome-home gift.
“The whole week has been great. Just playing ball and hanging out and everything,” Sgt. Lightner said. “It was my first time, but a lot of these guys have been here for the last three, four years, so you know something is right about it. The camaraderie between the players and the campers was great and it was wonderful to just hang out with them and see these guys as regular people.”
And, so ends another Royals Fantasy Camp. Sgt. Lightner, Heather and Sam board a plane Saturday to head back to Missouri…back to reality. But, even though they loved and will always remember their week of “fantasy” in Arizona, they are also looking forward to bringing these new memories home to a reality they’d been missing.
The Spring Training truck is getting loaded, which means there is no denying that the season is just around the corner!
Even though a handful of our players have already started heading down to Surprise, Ariz., the home of Royals Spring Training, pitchers and catchers officially report Friday, Feb. 16 with the first workout taking place on Saturday, Feb. 17. A good majority of our baseball ops department will arrive early next week, while the full squad is scheduled to report on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Mark your calendars for the first full workout on Thursday, Feb. 22.
Will we see you at Spring Training this year?
Fantasy Camp coach and former Royals catcher John Wathan has decided that it doesn’t really matter if eight of the 12 players on your team are returning campers. Nor does it matter if the team is led by three former Major League Baseball players, including a Hall of Famer.
In the end, to win ball games – even at a Fantasy Camp – it’s simply a matter of you either have it or you don’t.
“For our team, it’s definitely a lack of talent we are dealing with,” laughed Wathan on day four of camp. “We’ve got one more game Friday morning, so I guess we’ll just cross our fingers and see how that turns out.”
Sharing coaching duties with George Brett and Bill Pecota, Wathan is helping lead a team that is very similar, but not exactly like the one he coached last year – the one that didn’t win a single game. Through the first four days, they have won just one game…barely.
“One night last year, George, Bill and I went to the Rio Mirage Café here in Surprise (Ariz.) for a Mexican dinner,” Wathan said. “They had a very entertaining Mariachi band that we decided to bring with us to the field the next day for some entertainment since our team wasn’t very ‘entertaining’ to watch. Well, I hate to admit it, but we might need a repeat performance from the band this year.”
Heading into the final stretch, this year’s Fantasy Camp has elements that are quickly making it stand out from years past. First, there were the changes in the Kangaroo Court hearings with the addition of a new “judge” (see Wednesday’s entry). Then, the Royals Fantasy Camp welcomed some outside competition, scheduling each of the Royals six teams to play against a team from the Texas Rangers Fantasy Camp. According to Wathan, that’s when the extra scoop of “ugly” play – not to mention a 21-1 whooping – was handed down.
“(The Rangers) team is a bunch of ringers,” Wathan said. “Texas has fantasy camps all over the place and here, against us, they are definitely fielding an all-star team.”
But, even a field of Texas “ringers” and a 20-run loss couldn’t keep the former big leaguer from still enjoying his role at camp. Joining the other 17 alumni, Wathan took the field Thursday to do some entertaining of his own, playing in a series of campers-vs.-alumni games – three teams playing three innings each. Although, Wathan admits the Alumni Games always leave him a little sorer each year, he wouldn’t trade suiting up with his old playing buddies again for anything.
“I really don’t know who has more fun at these camps,” Wathan added. “Sometimes, like today, I feel like it just might be us alumni.”
“I think we were set up.”
That’s how camper Nino Lipari began describing the “Kangaroo Court” session from the third day of the Royals 2007 Fantasy Camp. Nino’s story of the suspected “set up” went on to involve a plastic baseball, a pre-game throwing session, the opposing coaches finding out and “The Warden” handing down a team fine of $2 per camper.
“We still don’t know how that plastic ball ended up in our ball bag,” Nino said from Surprise, Ariz. “But, we had to pay for it regardless.”
The mock judicial hearing known as Kangaroo Court is one of the daily rituals of Fantasy Camp. Unlike years past, this year’s court hearings are conducted by a judge known simply as “The Warden” as opposed to a collection of Royals alumni, who serve as the camp coaches. Only three days into camp and the fines have already been generously dished out with the charges ranging from tripping and falling during a game to missing belt loops on the uniforms.
“One camper, who I won’t name, took some water out to the umps during the game yesterday,” Nino added. “Although, normally that would be considered nice, it doesn’t happen in real baseball. So, ‘The Warden’ slapped him with a $4 fine for ‘Kissing up to the Umpires’ – $2 per ump!”
As the Fantasy Camp enters the halfway mark for the week, the fines aren’t the only things getting steeper. Nino, who is a veteran Fantasy Camp camper attending his fifth straight camp and fourth in Surprise, has noticed that the competition between the teams is growing as well. But, that’s how the 47-year-old contractor, who is a co-owner of J & N Utilities in Blue Springs, Mo., prefers it.
“This is the only week of the year that I put on a uniform and play baseball,” said Nino, although he does coach both of his daughters’ softball teams. “I like the fact that when we are out there on that field, we are really playing the game. It’s still always fun and pretty exciting to think you are playing with your childhood heroes, but it’s also great that it is treated as a competitive baseball game.”
Unfortunately, the competitiveness of the games this year is leaving Nino’s team “The Brew Dogs” in a bit of a bind.
“Don’t ask about our record,” said Nino, laughing about his team coached by alumni Greg Pryor, Les Norman and Jaime Bluma. “We are the defending champs from last year and everyone is out to get us.”
Yikes – sounds like it’s a good thing “The Warden” isn’t handing out fines for losses.