Royals owner David Glass, Royals Vice President and Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel J.J. Picollo, new Naturals manager Darryl Kennedy, and General Manager of the Naturals Justin Cole were on hand to answer questions and interact with those in attendance.
Mr. Glass opened up thanking the people of Springdale for the support and the amazing state-of-the-art stadium that the Naturals play in. He went on to talk about remembering when Hosmer and Moustakas were coming through. Mr. Glass talked about how they were fun to watch and you knew they were going to be really good players. He said that we have a group of players coming soon to NWA that he feels can be just as good or better. Mr. Glass said that we want to win in KC and in NWA.
Justin Cole spoke about how excited he is that they are starting their 12th season of baseball in NWA. He mentioned a few of the promotions for the 2019 season and talked about how great Arvest Ballpark is and thanked the people of Springdale for that as well.
Over the next 30 minutes, Mr. Glass, Kennedy, and Picollo took questions and gave answers for those in attendance. Topics ranged from personal life as a coach and influences to MLB policing shifts to Kennedy’s best ejection story.
Kennedy said that the two biggest influences in his professional life have been Bobby Jones who taught him that the game is not life and death and to have fun using his Vietnam service stories and Ron Wotus who taught him about preparation in all circumstances. Kennedy said he always tries to do what he thinks is best for the players and not his personal career or his coaches careers. It is refreshing to see the servant leadership that Dayton Moore talks about showing up in the Royals coaches down the line. Picollo interjected at this point to tell us that Kennedy is very modest and that he is an awesome coach. He told a story about making his team work on defensive fundamentals during BP for a week straight until his team had it down and could do it right in games. Even though it was cut work, relays, and team defense, he tries to make things fun.
A question was asked about the rise in strikeouts across major league baseball. Kennedy mentioned that four of the last five World Series champions have had the fewest strikeouts in baseball and that the Royals will continue to put an emphasis on contact skills.
Mr. Glass talked about the first baseball game he ever went to in 1946. This was in reference to a question asked about MLB possibly banning the shift. Mr. Glass said that the players from that era would have laughed at the defense and just hit the ball through the large openings on the other side of the field. He talked about how this generations players try to hit it through the shift or over the shift. He also stated that it is not MLB’s job to tell players where they can play, but it is the hitters job to dictate where defenses should play. Mr. Glass did say that Commissioner Manfred’s job approach follows the question is this good for the game of baseball.
Kennedy said that his favorite ejection of all time was in a game that he got tossed from the dugout. He said he threw some things including his hat and went out to get his five minutes worth with the umpire. He said that when he came back to the dugout there was a sweet, little old lady at the top of the dugout waiting for him to give back his hat which had ended up 8 to 10 rows back. He also said that any ejection he will try to make fun. So we’ll have to wait and see what this season brings.
Kennedy also said that he played one season in the Dominican Republic and spent parts of ten seasons coaching in Venezuela. He said that he tried to do everything like a native to those countries so he could get a better feel for what it’s like to be a player from those countries. He feels this helps him deal with the culture barriers for his players who haven’t grown up in the United States.
As far as roster construction goes, Picollo said we expect to see some guys back as well as some new guys. Some of the returners could be Khalil Lee, Samir Duenez, Xavier Fernandez, Jon Perrin, Kelvin Gutierrez (depending on whether or not Cuthbert makes the big league club), Kort Peterson, Nick Heath, Anderson Miller, and Jace Vines. Of course, all those guys could have great training camps and be in Omaha to start the year. We should see Meibrys Viloria this season as well as DJ Burt, Gerson Garabito, and Ofriedy Gomez. There are still quite a few questions as to where guys will start the season and who gets promoted and who has to move up later in the season. Of course the Royals will not hold a guy back who is deserving of a promotion, but they do want to try make sure guys are ready for promotions.
The event was a good time and good baseball atmosphere. I enjoyed it and was able to meet some great people from the Springdale area. Hopefully the 12th season of baseball in Arvest Ballpark brings another championship to Springdale.