Becoming Yordano

Rene Francisco is the Royals’ connection to Latin America

Carlos Peguero, left, and other players visit with Royals vice president/assistant general manager Rene Francisco in the clubhouse of Gigantes del Cibao, a winter league club for which he serves as GM during the Royals’ offseason.
Carlos Peguero, left, and other players visit with Royals vice president/assistant general manager Rene Francisco in the clubhouse of Gigantes del Cibao, a winter league club for which he serves as GM during the Royals’ offseason. The Kansas City Star

When Dayton Moore took over as Royals general manager in 2006, one of his first personnel moves was to hire Rene Francisco to energize the franchise’s lagging Latin American operation.

“Rene is one of the very best in the game in this area, so it brought us instant credibility,” Moore said, meaning among peers but also among agents and coaches in the Dominican.

The gentlemanly Francisco, after all, previously had been the director of international scouting for the Braves and Dodgers.

Moore had worked with him in Atlanta, where he knew Francisco’s steady disposition, keen evaluation and analytical skills, dedication to being a man of his word and conscientiousness.

Even so, after the appointment Francisco remembers Moore saying: “Rene, I’ve put a lot of pressure on you. You’ve got to do well.”

The words were redundant with the hire.

“I worry too much about things,” said Francisco, who only sort of wishes he wouldn’t. “I know that it will never be perfect, but … people pay me money to do this, so I want to do well.”

Or as Royals Academy field coordinator Victor Baez puts it: “He is, how do you say it, a workaholic.”

That’s apparent through a 17-hour day spent with Francisco, 47, the Royals’ vice president/assistant general manager of major-league and international operations.

In the never-ending quest to pursue, cultivate and replenish talent, Francisco is perpetually tethered to two phones as if they are extensions of his limbs.

Meanwhile, he’s an extension of Moore, with whom he seems to have a certain telepathy. They speak so often that Moore may or may not have even said hello when he called and asked Francisco for an evaluation of a prospective player.

Francisco offered an instant analysis … and on they went to their next calls.

Another likely reason Moore turned to Francisco for this job: Few know the pertinent elements of the terrain here like Francisco, a native who moved to Florida with his family at age 12 with only their suitcases after his father lost his business.

On a day that starts and finishes in Santo Domingo, Francisco drove some eight hours with stops in Las Terrenas, the hometown of Yordano Ventura, and San Francisco, where Francisco moonlights as the general manager of the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League.

“All this driving? I used to do it about every day,” Francisco said.

Sometimes more successfully than others.

Among the occupational hazards of scouring a country where red lights are a suggestion and lanes a guideline, Francisco recalled his car once being rear-ended and flipped over.

He was left hanging upside down by his seat belt next to a friend who had suffered a broken leg. The other driver fled.

“He must have thought we were dead,” Francisco said.

This became his life’s work soon after he realized he wasn’t going to make it as an outfielder after two years in the minor leagues with the Cubs.

“Sometimes I see a player, he’s just like me, and I think, ‘How is he going to make it to the big leagues?’” he said, laughing.

It’s an inexact science, of course, but that just means never relenting for Francisco.

“I’m still learning,” he said. “You never stop learning.”

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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