Rusty Kuntz filled the air with fly balls and enthusiasm on Friday afternoon. With each flick of a fungo bat, another baseball soared toward another Royals outfielder. After each swing, Kuntz accepted a fresh ball from the man standing next to him, a man only a season removed from standing on the other side of drills like this.
Mitch Maier re-signed with the Royals on a minor-league contract in December. He is not bound for the batter’s box any time. Maier, the 32-year-old veteran of six seasons in Kansas City, will work as a coach this season. He is spending the spring studying at the feet of Kuntz, a renowned outfield instructor. Consider it a Cactus League apprenticeship.
“If you want to learn how to be a coach, there’s no one better to teach you than Rusty,” manager Ned Yost said.
Maier is expected to aid the big-league club during home games and spend time with the minor-league affiliates when the Royals are on the road, Yost said. Jason Kendall works in a similar role, assisting as an instructor in Surprise and Kansas City.
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Maier was not the only former Royal to return to the organization in a non-playing role. Chris Getz joined the front office as an assistant in the baseball operations department focusing on player development. General manager Dayton Moore also offered veteran Raul Ibañez a job with the organization over the winter.
A first-round pick in 2003, Maier hit .254 in 244 games between 2009 and 2010. His playing time dwindled as the team improved. He took spells with the Red Sox and the Cubs before Chicago released him last March. Maier reported to Class AA Northwest Arkansas, played in 25 games and began the transition into the next phase of his career. He has been paired with Kuntz during drills at camp, with the hope he can absorb information from Kuntz’s reservoir of knowledge.
FROM THE STAR
1. To reshape his physique, Danny Duffy refined his diet and reduced his running. His goal? 200 innings in 2015.
2. Like every person in the Royals clubhouse, Brandon Finnegan would like to begin 2015 in the major leagues. But the decision won’t be up to him.
3. Eric Hosmer called the two-year contract he signed earlier this week a “no-brainer.”
4. Here is a video dispatch filed on Friday afternoon. If you aren’t already following ace shooter John Sleezer on Twitter, please do. He is supplying some tremendous photographs and videos down here, as always.
HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC
“Shame” by Obliterations.