“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Change can be uncomfortable. Whether to technology, human capital or the rules of baseball themselves, it’s usually accompanied by some resistance. But just as the leaves turn and begin to fall away, change is also an inevitable – and necessary – part of ushering in what’s next.
Kansas City is building a beautiful new airport to replace a decrepit one that’s nearly half a century old. Yet still, some locals criticize instead of celebrate. “I sure hope I can park as close to the terminal at the new one,” is the most common complaint. It seems insignificant when compared to the benefits of a state-of-the-art facility, but status quo always has a certain comfort, no matter how badly change may be needed.
I hear it all of the time in baseball too. Ghost runners on second? No collisions allowed at the plate? Pitchers who can’t muster seven full innings? To some its blasphemous, and usually followed by something to the effect of, “Well back in my day…”. This is one topic where us older people (and yes, I put myself in that category even though I refuse to be a grumpy one), would be wise to take note from the younger generations. The world will continue to change. And in order to stay relevant, we need to embrace it.
When I was in my 20’s, I was covering athletes who were also in their 20’s. We were peers and finding ways to connect didn’t require too much extra effort. Now I’m in my 50’s, but on any given night during the 2022 season, the Royals lineup included 5-8 rookies. And guess what? Each of them was in their 20’s. I still have to find ways to connect in order to do my job well. How I do that has changed through the years too. When I broke into the business, social media didn’t exist. Shoot, cell phones were barely in existence. But now, there’s figuring out who is on which platform (spoiler: Insta and Snapchat are where it’s at) while also trying to remember where you last put your phone.
Some change is confusing. Every CEO I talk to is trying to figure out how best to sustain the culture they worked so hard to create in light of changing employee expectations. Hybrid? Remote? Working through the unknown is challenging, but necessary until a new comfort zone emerges.
In fact, new leadership within the Kansas City Royals is unfolding as you read this. Getting to this point was painful, excruciating even. Last month, longtime Royals General Manager and team President Dayton Moore was let go after leading the franchise since 2006. He made an impact on every person within the organization from the players to the employees to the broadcasters. But he also made tremendous strides within the community, not just in Kansas City but baseball in general.
For as great of a leader as he was – and I can truthfully call him one of the best I’ve ever met – he is an even better human being. The Royals and Our Town will feel his legacy for years. But no matter how great of a leader he was, new owner John Sherman felt it was time to make a change. The franchise was initially stunned by the announcement, but went back to work the way Dayton wanted them to. And now, the torch has been passed to his protege, JJ Picollo.
JJ’s first big move was to fire Manager Mike Matheny. The shelf life on managers is rarely long, but he was a genuinely good man. In my career, I’ve never had a manager as easy to work and communicate with as Matheny. It made it that much harder to see him let go, but I’m eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him. And in the spirit of embracing change, I look forward to building a new relationship with the next manager, and also to see what other changes are in store for the Royals under JJ’s leadership.
Change is powerful, but it’s also all around us…inside of and Out of the Park.
Cleveland’s Progressive Field doesn’t make my top ten list of favorites, but the downtown venue is still a great place to work and watch a game. After opening in 1994, it sold out 455 consecutive games from 1994-2001 during the then-Indians’ long run of talent. Now, the crowds can be hit-or-miss, but I enjoyed seeing Cleveland Rock (pun intended) when the Guardians opened its postseason at Progressive Field just two days after we left.
Speaking of the Guardians, 2022 was the first season played since the franchise changed its name. I’ve heard rumblings from fans in Cleveland and beyond who dislike the new one. Change is tough, and considering the old moniker had been around since 1915, I believe it had sentimental value for some. But I also believe it was time for something new.
The uniforms, as recently as 2018, featured a logo of Chief Wahoo, which had drawn protests from Native Americans for many years. So why not pick a name that brings all people together? The Guardians was chosen to represent people who watch and guard everything that makes baseball great. Tom Hanks provided the voice over for an impressive rollout video explaining the change.
Together, we are all… pic.twitter.com/R5FnT4kv1I
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) July 23, 2021
Next year, schedule changes will reduce the number of games within the division for all teams. For me, this means only two trips to places like Cleveland. Personally, three trips and 19 games felt like a bit much, so this is something I look forward to. And despite my excitement at playing all teams in the league, as well as visiting other cities more frequently, I will always enjoy spending time in Northern Ohio.
There’s nothing like six games in a row to wrap up the season. It’s unheard of, even by baseball’s standards. The Royals were supposed to begin the 2022 season in Cleveland, but labor disputes forced a late opening. Since the team was also scheduled to end the season at Progressive Field, the missed early-season games were tacked on to the end.
It was a grind, and if I’m being honest, being in one place that long had initially seemed daunting. When I used to travel for hockey or football, we never stayed anywhere long enough to unpack or get comfortable. Being able to regularly do so is one of the things I like most about baseball travel. And spending six whole days in one city allowed me to settle in even more than usual.
Cleveland tends to get a bad rep, but I think it’s a cool city to explore. The fans are passionate, even if disgruntled. An obvious place worth visiting is The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If you have any appreciation for music you can easily get lost in the museum for hours, or even days, schedule permitting. I did not go this year, but have many times in the past with co-workers, family and players.
It’s also home to some great people, including my friends Joe and Sanna. They own Addy’s, my favorite place to get breakfast. It used to be located next to our hotel, but when building changes forced the original to close, I felt like I lost a part of me. Imagine my surprise when I was wandering through the Cleveland Arcade a few years later and stumbled across Addy’s once again. The same old-school restaurant had changed to a new location.
Over the years, I’ve visited often and gotten to know Joe, Sanna and their kids. Joe sent a message to congratulate me after the Royals won the World Series. And if by chance I didn’t make it while the Royals were in town, they would text to see if I was alright. If you ever stop in, find the guy with the big mustache cooking up a storm behind the counter. That’s Joe…be sure and tell him I sent you.
Rounding the Bases Rewind
Season Eight of Rounding the Bases started off with a bang. It’s drawn more comments from people than any other single episode in the show’s five year history. Landing an interview with the legendary Bob Costas will do that.
He was one of my broadcast heroes growing up, always so eloquent and thought provoking, so it was a joy to take part in this. We talked quite a bit about baseball, as well as his thoughts on the changes to its rules. If you haven’t already, I hope you will give it a listen.
We have another particularly impactful episode on deck for November, featuring Jesse Cole, founder of the Savannah Bananas. If you aren’t familiar with the Bananas, do yourself a favor and check out any of their videos online. Trust me when I say they’re innovative unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, as was every profound word out of Jesse’s mouth.
Don’t miss new episodes released every Monday and Thursday, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Would you or someone you know make a great guest on Rounding the Bases?
Drew Waters’ baseball stats show 32 career Big League games and 5 home runs. The 23-year-old prospect found a new home in Kansas City after the Atlanta Braves traded him last July. The move garnered little attention. But despite being under the radar, the Royals front office insisted that Waters was a unique find based on his elite speed, power and defense. He changed jerseys and moved from Atlanta’s AAA team to Kansas City’s AAA squad in Omaha. He made his MLB debut in August, and after 22 games, had only hit two home runs.
Late in the season, something changed in him. The switch hitter began flashing power that had people dreaming of an outfield star in the making. When he homered for the third time in four games, it felt like an early glimpse at the possible stardom to come. This interview was on October 3 after a 10th inning 3-run homer. It secured a Royals win and Waters his first 4-RBI game. For Drew, the mid-summer trade provided a change of scenery, but it may have also been what unlocked his potential.
Drew Waters on hitting a three-run home run in the tenth inning to give the Royals the lead: "Honestly, right there, I was just trying to get the guy in from third (base) and happened to have some good luck."#Royals pic.twitter.com/apat407W7u
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) October 4, 2022
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 each guest on the podcast. This month, my guests and I covered the topics of culture, purpose and connecting to name just a few. Check out all recent releases here.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
It’s officially the off season, but with so many speaking events, it’s almost hard to call it that. Change of pace might be a more accurate description.
October brought a keynote at Endocon, the Endodontist Conference, in San Diego. It also brought the Illinois SHRM’s 23rd Annual Conference in Chicago. Both gave me opportunities to share messages about small ball.
I’m looking forward to a November 30 event speaking to executives from the Maverick Kansas City CEO Group.
For more information on my speaking services or to schedule me for your next event, please contact Charlotte Raybourn.
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