When you think of Eric Hosmer’s engagement with Kansas City, maybe you remember him using Twitter to summon fans to McFadden’s after the Royals swept the Angels in the 2014 American League Division Series …
And then plunking down his credit card for the open bar bill of about $17,000 that teammates later helped pay.
Or perhaps you think of Hosmer, the son of a firefighter, speaking eloquently to the death of two Kansas City firefighters before Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series.
Or it could be that you flash to the Royals star first baseman helping up a young girl who fell near him as fans stampeded during a Justin Bieber show at the Sprint Center in April.
Sure it is.
But that’s all prologue to something more going on here with Hosmer as he moves into the prime of his career at 26.
Hosmer has come into his own as the model Royal, justifying in almost every way that general manager Dayton Moore keeps mounted and framed in his home Hosmer’s jersey from his Royals debut in May 2011. To Moore, it is as a symbol of the night the organization “flipped the switch.”
That goes well beyond the obvious results on the field, where entering the weekend Hosmer was hitting .330 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs — 14 of which were delivered in a six-game spree through Tuesday.
It’s in his pivotal role in the clubhouse, too, but also in his understanding that his role as a leader should extend well beyond.
In his case, that’s most visibly and notably in his dedication to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City:
The organization says Hosmer has been responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in donations and a factor in hundreds of matches made the last five years.
“Part of being the complete player is understanding their role in the community and their professional opportunity and obligation to influence young people in a positive way,” said Moore. And if you think that’s just wishful thinking or lip service, then you don’t know the pure convictions of Moore.
So in part because it’s innate in him, in part because the mindset is cultivated by the Royals, Hosmer embraced the cause almost from the minute he was called up and it was dangled before him.
“Having Eric Hosmer in our corner has been invaluable to BBBSKC,” chief marketing officer Kristi Hutchison said in an email. “He is able to share his passion for children and mentoring and leverage it to his fans to encourage them to become involved as well. …
“He is a caring, passionate and fun-loving guy with a huge heart, and we are so grateful that he has chosen BBBSKC as his charity of choice.”
There are any number of reasons Hosmer made it his choice.
But there also is a natural parallel to be seen between that and who he has become in the clubhouse.
He’s the guy, manager Ned Yost says, from whom the energy flows, a guy who leads by word and deed.
Even in the most recent spring training, Moore considers, Hosmer ran out ground balls “like it was Game 7 of the World Series.”
For all of Hosmer’s gifts, that’s what Moore points to as he explains his influence.
He is constantly conscious of how to be a great teammate.
“That’s what he is, first and foremost,” Moore said.
This has made Hosmer vital behind the scenes, where he has emerged as a guy who about always is “just doing what a guy should do.”
With a natural charisma fortified by the credibility he’s earned as he’s come of age, he’s the de facto team spokesman who in good times and bad talks at length with the media … and thus speaks to the fans.
At a time of flux because of a rash of injuries creating openings for youngsters, he consistently looks around the clubhouse and wonders who needs a friend or a word.
Or, as with last year’s temperamental Yordano Ventura, who might need a nudge to chill.
“Big brother is watching you,” it turns out, isn’t just an Orwellian nightmare.
“When guys get called up to this level, I want them to feel like they belong and want them to feel as comfortable as they can as quick as possible,” Hosmer said in a recent interview. “I try to reach out and let them know I’m there for them.
“Sometimes certain people don’t have the guidance in their families or in their friends or in their group back home. So if there’s another outlet where you can get it from …”
There are many sorts of leaders on this team, and reasonable minds can debate who the most popular player is (probably Sal Perez or Lorenzo Cain), who the “face of the team” is (likely the injured Alex Gordon), who represents the heart and soul (perhaps the injured Mike Moustakas) and who stirs it all up (Jarrod Dyson).
Hosmer is a fusion of all that.
“It’s all led in there by Hoz,” Yost said.
As the Royals projected when they drafted him.
With good reason.
Take it from someone who’s known Hosmer all his life: his older brother, Mike, 30.
“He’s not just going to go out to the field and worry about himself and make sure he gets his hits and go home,” Mike Hosmer said. “He wants to help everybody …
“With all these young guys, I can tell you just by knowing him: He wants to be a big brother to them.”
Which brings us back to Hosmer and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City, a natural match.
Hosmer both appreciates the stability he had in his upbringing and understands it wasn’t that way for everyone.
It wasn’t just that he grew up in South Florida as the son of a firefighter father and nurse mother who emphasized being tightknit.
It was that he had a big brother who not only looked out for him but actually wanted him around, a big brother he still can count on for anything — including helping him find his “little kid swing” again when he was in a funk in 2012.
“I think I just learned from how he treated me and how he accepted me as a friend: not like I was the annoying little younger guy,” Hosmer said, smiling.
Or as Mike put it with a smile of his own on a recent visit to Kauffman Stadium: “It’s kind of strange. We actually always got along.”
All of which underpins Hosmer’s affiliation with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
What Big Brothers Big Sisters calls a “partnership” with him began in 2011 and continues to evolve. Like its brethren across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City’s goal is to match “children facing adversity in one-to-one, life-changing friendships with adult volunteers.”
Akin to Hosmer’s sincere way with his teammates, his role with them is no token measure. Having a “charity of choice” is a notion fostered by Moore, a mindset encouraged early on when players join the organization.
The suggestion has been taken up by a number of Royals players and their families who are deeply invested in local causes or have charities or foundations of their own.
Having learned of Hosmer’s close family bond soon after he was drafted in 2008, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City was cognizant of his appealing potential for the cause by the time he made his major-league debut in 2011.
The relationship was expedited by Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who was involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters when he threw out the first pitch at a Royals game that May 22.
At the urging of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City CEO Micheal Lawrence, Berry sat down with Hosmer in the dugout that day.
He asked him to get involved with the group and be a guest speaker at Berry’s Man-2-Man benefit that raised $30,000 for BBBS.
By 2012, Hosmer was working to help recruit more Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Big Couples through “Step Up to the Plate with Eric Hosmer,” an event at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in which Hosmer spoke about baseball and his passion for the program.
BBBSKC says the events from 2012-14 led to hundreds of new Bigs joining the program.
Now he’s in the second season of a campaign called “Step Up Big with Eric Hosmer,” a marketing outreach that has led to dozens more volunteering and solicited pledges for each double he hits.
In two years, that’s reaped about $25,000 in donations — most of which Hosmer matches.
But maybe nothing is more gratifying for Hosmer than the several times a season he plays host to participants in the program, as he did in a meet-and-greet on May 26 before the Royals were rained out.
Certainly, you could see him revel in a moment that seemed unforgettable for the 20 or so adults and children on hand.
As Hosmer insisted on photos and chatter with all, some of the children were almost too overcome to speak.
Others laughed and cried all at once.
“It’s a little overwhelming to meet one of your heroes,” said Murphy O’Dell, 13, who made Hosmer throw his head back with laughter when she showed him an earring in his image.
Said Hannah Kerr, 32, O’Dell’s Big Sister of about three years: “You have no idea how much this means.”
Joe Davis Sr., 67, was there with 16-year-old Jarron Hill, his Little Brother of seven years who calls Davis “family” now.
“All kids need something they can look up to and relate to,” Davis said.
Davis was talking about the program in general.
But he just as easily could have been referring to Hosmer — whose ascent to stardom only is enhanced by his sense of still being a vital part of things bigger than himself.