It was smoking hot Monday afternoon and Royals coach Mike Jirschele and I were staying out of the heat, standing by the team’s indoor batting cage. Jarrod Dyson came by, poked his head out, looked in the dugout and then had this to say:
“No water in the dugout, no water in the batting cage; I know we lost some games, but damn!”
The idea that the Royals were withholding water from the players as punishment for losing, made Jirschele laugh. He looked at me and said, “He’s never going to change.”
Jarrod Dyson is one funny dude and that’s more important than you think.
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You need a spark plug
Dyson has pulled off something difficult; he doesn’t start on a regular basis, but he’s still a clubhouse ringleader and he’s done that by force of personality. Dyson always has something to say and most of the time it’s pretty funny.
Dyson complains about Eric Hosmer’s popularity. Dyson lockers next to Hosmer and every night the media gathers around to hear Hosmer dish out quotes. There are so many reporters that want to listen to Hosmer the overflow crowd often blocks access to Dyson’s locker. So Dyson will yell that he wants to locker next to a bench player.
When hoverboards were still showing up in the Royals clubhouse, Dyson rode his everywhere and announced he was through with walking.
When he and Lorenzo Cain had communication problems in the outfield Dyson complained that he couldn’t hear Cain’s “squeaky-ass” voice.
In my case he knows I wrote a book with Jason Kendall and reasoned that since I talk to the players all the time, they helped me write the book; he wanted to know where his money was. (I told him Kendall had it and he should go get it from him and I haven’t heard any more about it.)
Baseball is a grind and guys who are funny help their teammates get through it.
When Dyson was hurt, Rusty Kuntz said the Royals missed his energy, both on the field and in the clubhouse — and Dyson “brings it” every day.
So does Rusty Kuntz. That’s one of the reasons he’s so important to the team; Rusty is always upbeat and energized and that transfers to the people around him — same thing with Salvador Perez.
On Monday afternoon, Whit Merrifield accidentally threw a ball into the Royals dugout and it came close to Perez. Salvy doubled over in agony holding his leg, but once he had Merrifield sufficiently freaked out, straightened up and walked off laughing.
Mope around and you bring people down; laugh and the world laughs with you (or puts you in a straitjacket).
The mystery of team chemistry
Nobody is exactly sure how to create good team chemistry, but everybody thinks it’s important. Put the wrong guy in the clubhouse and things go south; take the wrong guy out of the clubhouse and the same thing can happen.
If you’ve got a co-worker who “brings it” — who shows up with energy every day and transfers that energy to other people — you know what I mean. If that co-worker calls in sick or takes a vacation, the energy level drops. If your workplace is lucky enough to have one of those spark plugs, they’re worth their weight in gold; they make everybody around them better.
And that brings us back to Jarrod Dyson.
That grand slam and what it did for the Royals
Every night, Ned Yost does a postgame press conference and the media gathers in a conference room to listen and ask questions. But when Ned leaves the clubhouse to do his postgame interview, the clubhouse is officially open.
On Monday night, I wanted to catch the players while they were still celebrating so I skipped Ned’s postgame and went directly into the clubhouse.
Jarrod Dyson saw me and said: “You didn’t think I had it in me, did you?” He was talking about his unlikely grand slam that put the game away. I pointed out his teammates didn’t seem to think he had it in him either and Dyson went into an impersonation of Eric Hosmer’s reaction; joy, laughter and disbelief.
Dyson said nobody was going to harsh his vibe that night and — with the music blaring — slowly danced away in a semi-minuet I can neither describe nor demonstrate. His teammates howled with laughter.
After the Royals came back in the bottom of the eighth inning and beat the Cleveland Indians with a home run from the least likely player to hit one, I asked Hosmer if it was the kind of win that can get a team on a roll.
Hosmer said he’d like to think so, but he also said it wasn’t going to get any easier on Tuesday. The Indians will send Danny Salazar (10-3 with an ERA of 2.75) to the mound. The Royals are going to counter with Brian Flynn.
And a human spark plug named Jarrod Dyson.