Cookie Rojas leaned against the railing inside the Royals dugout on Friday, his first appearance at Kauffman Stadium in nearly a decade. As he took a gander at the field, a prominent memory came to mind — his jump into the outfield fountains.
It was 1976, and Rojas had guaranteed teammates that if they won their first American League West division title, he would celebrate with a swim in the fountains.
He stayed true to his word.
“There were 35,000 people here waiting for the game to be over to see if I would do it,” Rojas said, laughing as he recalled the incident. “That’s one of the first things I thought about today.”
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Rojas, a Royals Hall of Fame second baseman from Cuba, is in Kansas City as part of the annual “Viva Los Reales” celebration Saturday. He has scheduled radio and TV broadcast appearances.
Rojas admired Kauffman Stadium’s 2009 renovations.
Along with the team inside it.
Rojas was unable to attend the World Series last season while battling a health scare but said he is “100 percent better.”
“I wish like hell I would’ve been here,” Rojas said of the postseason games. “Those are the memories I would’ve wanted to have.”
Rojas, who was a four-time All-Star with the Royals, praised the team’s speed and defense — comparing the current model to the composition of his teams in the 1970s.
“They’re a lot like we were,” Rojas said. “We did the little things. We didn’t have that much power hitting. We moved guys over (a base). We used our bullpen. That’s what these guys do. That’s why they win games.”