This month’s newsletter focuses on roles and resilience. Every player in the Big Leagues worked hard to make it to “The Show,” that almost goes without saying. Each one also took their own unique journey to get there.
Some make it to the Majors quickly, like Bobby Witt Jr. who arrived at 21. He’s a superstar in the making and I have no doubt will soon be a household name around the country.
Others, like relief pitcher Jose Cuas, didn’t make his debut until he was 27, and to say it involved a “special delivery” along the way would be accurate. He’s a role player whose story is one of the greatest I’ve ever told.
The same can be said about Daniel Mengden, the pitcher whose transcontinental journey took him from Oakland to Korea to Kansas City, before he ultimately took the mound to stare down – and strike out – Mike Trout in the 11th inning of a wild game.
I hope the lessons learned this month provide insights and inspiration from my perspective, behind the scenes and Out of the Park.
Our last trip in June was unique because we stayed in the same hotel for seven consecutive nights. Typically we’re in one place for three – maybe four – nights, depending on the length of the series. It’s just enough time to actually unpack a bag before having to repack it again. It can feel quick but I prefer it to the travel pace of football or hockey, when teams only stay for one or two nights, respectively.
With baseball, you have the opportunity to settle in, even if only a little bit. But this road trip was unique because the Royals faced the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s in back-to-back series. In my 15 seasons with the Royals, this has never happened before. The Royals typically face them once every three years, and visit them at home once every six years.
In 2023 the rules will change. Each team will face every opponent in the opposite league annually, though they will take turns visiting each other’s stadiums.What’s interesting about the Giants and the A’s is that even though geographically they are close, they couldn’t be more different.
San Francisco’s stadium is considered among the best in baseball, and Oakland among the worst. We stayed on the Bay side the entire week, and I don’t know if there is any other city in MLB that I enjoy exploring more.
I can come up with a dozen spots after a week in the Bay Area.
Of course the usual touristy spots are always fun. I took the time to walk the Golden Gate Bridge, and my son was able to join me for a tour of Alcatraz. We saw a number of Royal’s players there as well, who were enjoying an off day between the Giant’s and A’s series.
By the way, one of my favorite moments during the trip was in Oakland, when a fan led the crowd in a chant. “Give me an A,” he yelled, and the crowd replied “A!” He continued, “What’s that spell?” And the die-hards shouted, “A’s!”.
Amusement aside, my restaurant of the month was actually a spot I visited in Southern California. During I time there, I went three days in a row. We stayed in Huntington Beach when the Royals faced the Angels, and I stopped into a spot favored by locals called the Sugar Shack. It had great breakfast, was blocks from the beach, had indoor/outdoor seating and a cool surfer vibe.
Rounding the Bases Rewind
A recent episode of my podcast Rounding the Bases featured in interview with my friends and fellow sports broadcaster, Jason Benetti. The discussion was far reaching, but included topics such as trust, our roles and resilience of baseball during a pandemic. You can listen to the full interview here.
Don’t miss new episodes released every Monday and Thursday wherever you get your podcasts.
I can’t pick one favorite interview for this edition of the newsletter so I’m choosing three.
Jose Cuas’s story is like a made for TV movie and one I was proud to tell. When you only have a minute and a half, its tough to do justice to a story that covers years, but a long pitching change enabled me to squeeze it in. ESPN turned it into an even shorter version on TikTok (hey, its credibility with my kids).
This is one I will share with speaking audiences for years to come, with the message about not giving up on your dreams.
From FedEx to the big leagues: Jose Cuas is on for his major league debut. @goldbergkc: "This might be the best story we have heard in years."
TV: Bally Sports Kansas City
Stream: https://t.co/dwoIUrk1gr#Royals pic.twitter.com/KFu1nndBaz
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) May 31, 2022
Ryan O’Hearn is a first baseman/DH who is one of the players I like the most. He’s a great guy, and even though he’s not playing much yet, still holds his head high.
In Oakland, a lack of facilities kept him from taking any batting cage swings prior to a day game. Night games allow enough time for everyone to workout. But they only have a single cage on the other side of the outfield and pitchers who needed their work, so Ryan went into the game that day cold.
His manager Mike Matheny called on him, and his pinch hit was the one that won the Royals the game. The lesson is always be ready and embrace any role asked of you. This was one of my favorite interviews this year, even if it flies under the radar.
O'Hearn on leading MLB in pinch-hits: "At this point, this is my job right now…doing whatever I can to help the team. … That was honestly, my first swing of the day."#Royals pic.twitter.com/NzxtZiGaUN
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) June 18, 2022
Finally, the most thrilling and wild game of the year took place in Anaheim.
Bobby Witt Jr. is a 22-year old star in the making who has been compared to Angels mega-star Mike Trout. He also notched the first 2-home run game of his career this night. Daniel Mengden was the only pitcher left in the bullpen in the 11th inning.
In his second game as a Royal and less than a year removed from pitching in Korea, he was called upon to face Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Nevermind the fact that Ohtani hit two home runs, 8 RBIs and would go on to dominate as a pitcher the next night. He’s the most exciting player in the game of baseball, but on this night, Witt and Mengden were the stars.
They helped the Royals win, and it was so exciting to see Mengden fired up and on center stage. Again, the lesson is to always be ready!
Witt Jr. after the #Royals' 12-11 win over the Angels: "That was a fun one for sure. I just had a blast."
Mengden on securing the win in the 11th inning: "I want to be put in the game when it's the heart of the order, Trout and Ohtani. Those are the moments you live for." pic.twitter.com/wfCFfuE5Fs
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) June 22, 2022
Keeping the Score
Every week on 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 base with a single, double, triple and home run from each guest on the podcast. This month, my guests and I covered topics such as trust, reading the room and culture. Check out all recent releases here.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
- Monday, July 25: Blue Valley School District
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