Ned Yost gathered his team inside the Royals’ clubhouse a couple of hours before they were scheduled to play Toronto on Friday. He came bearing good news about a player who had just rejoined the group.
“The Royals’ fans did it again,” Yost told the group, explaining how Mike Moustakas won the fan voting for the final spot on the American League All-Star team.
He will join six of his teammates, in addition to Yost and the coaching staff, on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Moustakas received 19.3 million votes.
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“The fans of Kansas City did an amazing job to get me to be an All-Star,” Moustakas said. “I just can’t thank them enough.”
Moustakas had spent the last four days away from the club, caring for his mother, Connie, at the family’s home near Los Angeles. His mother has been ill, he explained before the game, and the situation has gnawed at him for months. This was the second time he left the team to be with her.
The Royals activated Moustakas from the bereavement/family medical emergency list for Friday’sgame against the Blue Jays. The team optioned infielder Cheslor Cuthbert back to Class AAA Omaha.
The team welcomed back Moustakas with open armsFriday. He referred to his teammates as his brothers.
“He walked in with a big smile on his face, so that made me feel a lot better,” Yost said. “It’s life. It’s life. We’re baseball players, but we have lives, too. We all have families. We all have parents and grandparents. It’s hard juggling both. But the priority is your family. That’s the most important thing.”
Moustakas narrowly missed making the All-Star team as a starter. He was defeated in the fan voting by Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson. When the players voted in Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado, Moustakas appeared to be on the outside looking in.
But Yost chose him as one of the five finalists for the last spot. Moustakas is having the best season of his career. He carried a .301 batting average and a .793 on-base plus slugging percentage into Friday. He has revamped his hitting approach, emphasizing getting on base rather than trying to slug home runs.
“I still think I’ve got some pop,” Moustakas said. “I can pop one here or there. But I’d rather hit .300 with 10, 12 homers than .212 with 15 homers. So it really wasn’t that hard of a decision for me.”
Moustakas could recite, precisely, his statistics from 2014. The season was torture for him at the start. He slumped at the outset and earned a demotion to Omaha. He never found his hitting stroke during the playoffs.
Moustakas did swat five home runs in October. But the bitter loss to San Francisco only hardened his resolve to improve in 2015. The changes resulted in an All-Star appearance.
“It’s amazing to be an All-Star,” Moustakas said. “It’s my first time. Hopefully there’s more to come. But at the end of the day, I worked hard for the Kansas City Royals. I worked hard because we lost in the World Series last year, and I want to get back to that. That’s why we play the game, to win a World Series and bring a championship back to Kansas City.
“But this is awesome. This is an awesome feeling. I’m really, really humbled to go join all the guys that we have going.”