Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season.
Looking back, the 2023 season was an interesting one for baseball. I regularly get asked how I handle losing streaks, and with the Royals suffering a franchise tying 106 losses, I heard those concerns even more than usual.
During my first season with the Royals, the late Paul Splittorff told me something that has stayed with me ever since. He said, “There are alot of important people paid to lose sleep over the losses, and you’re not one of them.” The lesson was that I have a responsibility to bring a certain energy to the pre- and post-game show, win or lose.
People like Royals General Manager JJ Picollo and Owner John Sherman, on the other hand, have responsibility for the team that takes the field. And this year, they gave Kansas City fans an off-season to remember.
Picollo talked about 2023 being an evaluation year. Due to an endless string of injuries, some might consider it incomplete. The Royals lost 3/5 of their rotation due to injuries and never had the depth to make up for it. This affected the bullpen’s usage, often forcing the team to play from behind. The young group of players was pressed often and never could recover.
It would be easy to hope for healthy returns from pitchers Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic. But in sports and in business, the “If” game is a dangerous one to play. Progress can’t depend on if this or if that happens. We need reliability and consistency, two things Picollo went straight to work on.
In November, he acquired experienced reliever Nick Anderson in a deal with Atlanta. A second trade with the Braves secured starter Kyle Wright. While he will spend all of next year recovering from an injury, he will immediately bolster the rotation when he is healthy in 2025. They were two major pickups, but Picollo was just getting started.
Less than two weeks later he signed speedy veteran infielder/outfielder Garrett Hampson to close out November. And he loosened the purse strings once again in December to sign former Royals reliever Will Smith, who has won a World Series with three different teams in the last three years, most recently the Texas Rangers.
He also picked up established San Diego starters Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha for big bucks. Next up was reliever Chris Stratton, who – like Smith – was fresh off of a championship season. The Royals’ acquisition of veteran right fielder Hunter Renfro rounded out the moves.
The words “spending frenzy” and “Royals” are rarely used in the same sentence, but there is no other way to describe this off-season.
The team moved on from many of its Ifs to make room for players with a record of dependability. After a season as broken as 2023 was for the Royals, big moves couldn’t wait. Picollo and Sherman went all in, leaving the baseball world buzzing about the last place team that has a real shot at contending next year.
Personally, I will always enjoy telling the stories of players. Looking back on 2023, it was a great season from that perspective. But 2024 has the potential to be exceptionally interesting. I’m excited for all of the lessons it is sure to teach, inside and Out of the Park.
It’s January 1, which means just 88 days until my favorite holiday of the year: Opening Day. It might not be an official holiday, but to baseball fans, it’s sacred. Looking back to last season, Kansas City opened at home on March 30th with a loss to Minnesota. In 2024, the Twins will return again for Opening Day, marking the start of another marathon season.
The new balanced schedule means teams alternate playing home and road series against the other league. In the upcoming season, the Royals will travel to the Mets, Dodgers, Rockies, Reds, Pirates, Nationals and Braves. These are of course in addition to their annual trip across I-70 to St. Louis.
If you plan to follow the Royals someplace other than the regular American League stops, Pittsburgh is a must. It’s one of the best stadiums in baseball with an amazing view. Plus, the Royals’ mid-September trip to Western Pennsylvania will fall on Roberto Clemente Day, the Pirates’ greatest legend of all-time.
For those who will make the trip, I recommend walking across his namesake bridge to enter the stadium. It’s an incredible start to any visit to the ballpark, and sure to be especially poignant on such an occasion. I can’t wait to experience PNC Park for myself that night, and hope you will be able to too.
My broadcast partners and I all go our own ways during the off-season, but my wife Susan and I always make a point of connecting with Rex and Jennifer Hudler and Jeff and Tina Montgomery. We all live near each other and have become close friends over the years. As a group that loves to laugh as much as it does to eat, we recently got together at Garozzo’s for an impeccable dinner and time with legendary restaurateur Michael Garozzo.
Most people in Kansas City know about Garozzo’s and its famous spiedini. I usually opt for chicken but at Michael’s recommendation I branched out and tried the shrimp variety, which did not disappoint.The meal was excellent as usual, but it got me looking back and thinking about an establishment local to Chicago that I grew up with.
It’s called Michael’s Chicago Style Red Hots, and is an institution in my home suburb of Highland Park, IL. I worked there during high school and when I was home during college. Recently I was back in Chicago seeing family, so of course had to pay it a visit. I talked to my old co-worker Sal, who trained me as a teenager in 1988.
Sal is the only person still around from my time working there. The ownership has changed. The counter service is totally different, and so is the flow of traffic. Michael’s even featured a robot delivering our meal to the table. The one thing that’s exactly the same is the food.
The char dog and cheddar fries were identical to when I worked there, just as they were when I attended my 20 year high school reunion at Michael’s a while back. The pandemic taught us that change matters, but so does quality. This month, I visited two restaurants that are proof of that…and have thrived for more than 30 years because of their ability to deliver it consistently.
Rounding the Bases Rewind
Our 2023 podcast schedule has come to a close and I want to give a shoutout to my team for doing the heavy lifting. Ashleigh Sterr runs every detail of the show, from guests and scheduling to research and experience management. Colleen Lotz masterfully edits every episode, and Kendall Jackson oversees all social media promotions. There are a lot of moving parts to making it a success and I love the systems we’ve created.
We wrapped up 2023 with a fascinating interview looking back at this year and ahead to next. Maki Moussavi, a mindset and executive coach, along with Grant Gooding, founder and CEO of Proof Positioning, are two of the most engaging people I know. Listen now for some insightful perspectives on business trends going into 2024.
No newsletter about looking back would be complete without another special thanks to all of the guests who joined us this month:
Our schedule is already being booked into summer, but we are always looking for interesting guests with standout stories. Would you or someone you know make a great guest on Rounding the Bases?
To discuss sponsorship opportunities, please email my Executive Producer Ashleigh Sterr: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking back on a down year for the Royals, it also meant endless opportunities for young players breaking into the league. I have said it over and over again, but I love MLB debuts. That’s even more true when the Royals win and the first-timer contributes, especially at home.
There is something special about getting to interview players in front of a live audience with their families in the crowd. It’s something that happened quite often in 2023, and none was better than Samad Taylor’s debut. Between his walkoff and the pure emotion that followed, it was my favorite interview of the entire season. Click below to watch.
Keeping the Score
Every week on my podcast Rounding the Bases I get the opportunity to interview business leaders, athletes and everyone in between. No two experiences are alike, but each conversation tells a significant story and provides an enlightening lesson.
My blog Keeping the Score rounds the bases with a single, double, triple and home run from one recent guest on the podcast. This month, my blog covered my recent interview with Maki Moussavi and Grant Gooding.
It covers some highlights from our discussion looking back on 2023 and ahead to 2024. Click here to see what they had to say.
December was a busy month of speaking. Looking back on all of the activity, it included keynotes to three completely unique audiences.
First was the Indian Hills Men’s Holiday Lunch, followed a few days later by an event in Wichita to the Kansas Cooperative Council. It was an honor to meet so many farmers working hard to feed America.
Finally, I was invited to share inspiration at the 36th Annual All Service Academies Military Ball. It was a highlight of my year to spend time with so many families and their sons or daughters home from winter break. I will keep the 2024 graduates from all of the military academies in my thoughts as they move on to defend our country.
January has even more on the agenda, beginning with a keynote for AG Partners Cooperative, followed by an event with ECS International in Lenexa. My final local event of the month is one for Community America Credit Union that will be held at Arrowhead Stadium, before I leave for Alexandria, MN for an event with American Federal Bank.
As busy as it sounds, limited availability still remains. Please contact my speaking manager Charlotte Raybourn for more information.
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