The Royals are wrapping up this year's Caravan by honoring members of the military. George Brett, Jeremy Guthrie, Jeff Montgomery and Rex Hudler stopped at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley. The Star's assistant sports editor, Nicole Poell, has been sharing highlights and photos from the road trip.
By NICOLE POELL
The Kansas City Star
Welcome home Brett knew what he was doing wearing sunglasses to Fort Riley this afternoon. There weren't many dry eyes as families welcomed back the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, from Afghanistan.
Usually the center of attention, Brett was just another guy in the crowd as he climbed on a chair to get a better view as soldiers streamed in. After hugs and kisses with their families, soldiers got to meet and chat with Brett and rest of the Royals in a private reception.
Emotional moment Montgomery, who is on his first military caravan, got caught up in the welcome home ceremony for troops at Fort Riley. "One word -- emotional. To see the reaction from the wives and kids, with their eyes on the door as guys were coming in, just looking for their guy," he said.
'Cool' to see Royals Corporal Michael Moret of Chino, Calif., was one of 223 returning home from Afghanistan on Tuesday. He had been in Fobshrana, Afghanistan since May. After catching up with his wife, mom and two sons -- "I think my 3-year-old hung around my neck for 10 minutes" -- he was shocked to see the Royals at Fort Riley. "It's pretty cool. I'm an Angels fan, but it's great to see them here."
Hudler doing the Wabash? After their stop at Fort Riley, the Royals will catch tonight's Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan. The Jayhawks outnumber Wildcats on the bus, with Brett, Hudler and Monty all picking KU to win tonight (although Monty thinks it will be close.) Guthrie, the newcomer, isn't sure but seemed to be leaning toward K-State. Hudler had never heard of K-State's Wabash Cannonball tradition but may be dancing it later tonight at Bramlage...we'll definitely get pics of that if it happens.
Guthrie on Shields Guthrie has had a chance to speak to new No. 1 starter James Shields and says Shields is "very excited" to be coming to Kansas City. "He believes in the team and knows how tough our lineup can be and is excited to have the guys we do on the pitching staff. He's a guy that leads with performance as well as emotion. Seeing the reaction of his former teammates to losing him is indicative to what we expect to get from him. I know he's excited to come over here and join this team and have a chance to make a run at our division if things go right."
Sluggerrr=Nightmare fuel After a few memorable run-ins with mascots over the years (near brawl with Lou Seal in San Francisco ... and Mr. Met has pictures), am relieved that there have been no incidents with Sluggerrr today. Of course, he's not so threatening without his hot dog missile.
Get ready to chat We're back on the bus, headed to Fort Riley. Going to try to get the whole crew together for a Royals chat around 2. Log in to the chat at KansasCity.com/sports and send us your questions...
Rex's offseason program Asked Hudler how he stays in shape. "Bikram yoga. Good for the mind and the body." He seems pretty zen, so it's obviously working for him. Hudler added that after a rather challenging first year doing broadcast work for the Royals, he thinks fans started to get to know him and his style better as the season progressed.
What's it worth? Jeremy Guthrie was asked if James Shields was giving him anything for giving Shields his number. "We're still negotiating."
Col. Fry and Capt. McCotter Met Col. Chris Fry Sr. and his buddy, Capt. Casey McCotter, as they waited in line for autographs. Capt. McCotter, who grew up a Royals fan in Mount Holly, N.C., couldn't believe he was getting to meet Brett. "During my childhood, he was in the prime of his career," he said. "I was a huge fan of George and Bo Jackson."
Col. Fry, the director for the Department of Distance Education, was born in Mexico, Mo., but grew up in Kansas City right by the old Municipal Stadium and Arthur Bryant's. He said he loved the old-school Royals like Brett, Frank White, Cookie Rojas and Paul Splittorff. Was he even a little star-struck about meeting Brett? "I'm cool," he said. "I'm older, like I keep telling my buddy (McCotter)."
Meeting military families, fans at Fort Leavenworth After arriving at Fort Leavenworth, the Royals met with Command Sgt. Major Chris Greca, who told them what it meant to have them there in support of the military. Brett told Greca that he wants the Royals to spend more time around the military and let the soldiers know how much they're appreciated. Guthrie, who flew into town just to participate in the Caravan, told the crowd it was "a chance to be surrounded by heroes. You are our heroes."
On Royals pitching staff Brett's pretty quick. Discussing the Royals acquiring Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and James Shields in the offseason: "I was excited until I heard they had signed Guthrie." Guthrie got a laugh out of that. Brett addded "But I just can't recall when Royals have had this much pitching. I have to go back to 85 when they had Saberhagen, Gubicza, Jackson, Liebrandt and Black. When you had 5 solid starters." Hudler: For a mid-market team, it signals win now. They're in the game now."
Brett on the military caravans Brett first started joining the Royals on caravans back in the '70s. "Back then, the caravans would last about five days and go to all these little towns in Kansas that I'd never heard of. We'd go to banks, radio affiliates....When the Royals started doing the caravans again a few years ago, they asked me to go to Whiteman Air Force Base. I told them anytime you're doing military trips, I'll go."
Ballplayers are into...Pinterest? So I head to the back of the bus to talk baseball with George Brett, Jeremy Guthrie, Jeff Montgomery and Rex Hudler and find them discussing Pinterest. Wow. Brett was attempting to look it up on his phone while Monty explained it. (Monty's son is working for Pinterest.)