No way Mike Moustakas would have drawn it up like this: to have his season snuffed out in May by a freak collision with Alex Gordon that relegated Gordon to the disabled list and left Moustakas with a torn ACL.
While there were plenty of other factors in the Royals’ inability to repeat as World Series champions, or even return to the playoffs, few loom larger than that instant.
Not wishing something to have happened, though, maybe isn’t necessarily the same as regret.
For one thing, Gordon’s and Moustakas’ rabid pursuit of that foul ball was the very essence of what got the Royals where they’ve been.
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“That’s just how we play the game,” Moustakas said. “We’ve got to play every out hard; we’ve got to play every pitch hard.”
So he doesn’t dwell on it much, he says, and reckons they’d both do the same thing again … though it might be assumed with enhanced communications.
But there’s another reason that the impassioned Moustakas has a sense of serenity and perspective.
Because on Aug. 30, he was left free to be with wife Stephanie and welcome into the world daughter Mila Constance — whose arrival, he says, made him too excited to cry.
She’s had him twirled around her finger ever since.
He’ll tell you that with a radiance more revealing than his words.
None of which should surprise anyone who understands the sincere sentimentality of a young man who is an emotional rudder on the Royals, reveres police, firefighters and the military and has honored his mother in ways that include leaving tickets for her at stadiums after her death last year.
“I love to play baseball; I love being on the field,” said Moustakas, 28, who says he “definitely” will be ready for spring training. “But on the flip side (the injury) … was a blessing in disguise.”
First of all, being able to count on being there for Mila’s birth was meaningful in itself for all.
Consider the adventures some teammates have had when it comes to the births of their children, first and otherwise.
After his wife, Lacey, gave birth, Holland traveled from North Carolina to California only to get clogged in traffic.
Before securing the save that night, he was left running to the security gate in the fifth inning against the Angels, yelling, “I’m a player, don’t tackle me to the ground!”
As it happened, the Royals were at home when Mila arrived.
But being able to be fully invested along the way and undistracted in the moment was far different than the scramble mode Stephanie and Moustakas would have been in if he were healthy and playing.
He hopes that meant less stress for Stephanie, whose nurturing spirit always has been evident to him but is all the more pronounced now.
That shows up in how natural a mother she is.
It showed, too, in her idea to give Mila the middle name Constance — after Moustakas’ mother, who died in August 2015.
“I think it’s a pretty cool way to kind of celebrate my mom,” Moustakas said.
As for Mila’s first name, it was one of a handful they had in mind before she arrived.
Then a couple who like most us might struggle making decisions on what to eat or watch on TV went over it something like this:
Stephanie: “Well, what do you want to call her?”
Mike: “What do you want to call her?”
Stephanie: “I don’t know. What do you think?”
Mike: “She doesn’t look anything to me except a Mila.”
Stephanie: “What do you mean?”
Mike: “She’s so small, and Mila kind of fits her perfectly.”
Stephanie: “I think so, too.”
Shazam, Mila it was.
And she fits so perfectly that she’s already been to a few games — and even met actor Bill Murray the other day at Kauffman Stadium.
She fits so well that their young Australian shepherd, Gus, is all-in, too.
“Gus-man loves her … He’s like her protector; anywhere she goes, he’s right there with her,” Moustakas said. “He hears her crying, he jumps on the bed and tries to lick her face and make her feel better. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.”
He added, “I think he really loves his new role as big brother right now.”
Not as much as Moustakas relishes his new role, naturally.
Maybe a little bit like anticipating where a pitch is going or knowing the tendency of a hitter, the second Mila starts to make a sound, Moustakas says he’s hurrying to her and trying to figure out what she wants.
So what if it’s usually … Stephanie?
No doubt what he calls “the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me” has been part of Moustakas’ therapy.
And then some.
“You become a parent, nothing’s about you any more,” he said. “It’s about Mila. It’s about whatever I can do to help her out. …
“I’m going to make sure that’s my main motivation for everything, whether it be going out and playing baseball as hard as I can (or) waking up early to take her to dance or to school or whatnot. Which I’m really excited to do. …
“Everything’s going to be about her.”
All that said, Moustakas is practically breathless over his return to the team and the teammates that lent such moral support … even as he felt he had to recede from his normally spirited role since he wasn’t playing or traveling as he rehabilitated.
But he’ll resume that place in a few months. Moustakas says he has been hitting, taking ground balls, doing numerous agility drills and “moving pretty good.”
With periodic checkups and check-ins here and in Arizona, he’ll continue to rehab and strengthen back in California in the offseason.
“Once I get all that strength back and have the confidence to go out there and do what I used to be able to do, we’ll be in good shape,” he said, adding, “I will definitely be ready to go.”
After a lost season in one sense … but with something profound gained, too.
“Maybe both,” he said, smiling and adding, “It didn’t really take the sting out of it. But to see her be born … it did.”