Opinion

Terrance Gore learned to succeed as a base stealer with the Royals once Rusty Kuntz humbled him

Terrance Gore stole second base before Oakland Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie could make the tag during eighth inning of the Wild Card Game on Sept. 30.
Terrance Gore stole second base before Oakland Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie could make the tag during eighth inning of the Wild Card Game on Sept. 30. The Kansas City Star

When he first joined the Royals in early September, one of the first people to meet Terrance Gore in the clubhouse was first-base coach Rusty Kuntz.

It was a brief encounter.

“Come to the field,” Kuntz said.

Gore did, and a tough learning experience ensued for the kid who has tormented opposing catchers since high school.

Kuntz explained that Gore couldn’t rely strictly on his speed in the major league, and that there were lessons Kuntz could teach.

“You come over here and do that, you’re going to get picked off and thrown out,” Kuntz told Gore.

Gore, who later admitted that his ego was a bit too big, said, “I’m good.”

So Kuntz took the hill and picked Gore off first base.

Then he did it again. And then a third time.

“I was shocked,” Gore said.

There was a reason for Kuntz’s success.

“Nobody has a move like mine,” Kuntz said, “because I cheat.”

Kuntz, 59, laughed while recounting the memory.

But with 37 years in baseball, Kuntz certainly had a thing or two he could teach the 23-year-old Gore.

Kuntz said any minor-leaguer with a successful steal rate of 80 percent raises eyebrows. Gore’s was north of 90 percent.

“Gore, he’s at 91 percent,” Kuntz said. “You just go, huh? He’s just outrunning the baseball. So what you do is try and expose him to some of the things he will see here because of the experience. It was fail-fail-fail. At the beginning, he was asking, ‘am I ever going to get this?’

“At his experience level, he’s never been exposed to some of the things they do at this level. When you get a (Class) A ball guy here, the process of learning has to speed up tremendously.”

After about three days, Gore had it down.

Gore stole five bases in the regular season and three more in the playoffs. His speed is opening eyes everywhere.

Kuntz’s big lesson: “Let your eyes move your feet, that’s what he tells me,” Gore said. “Let your eyes move your feet.

“I didn’t know that little thing would make me a better base stealer. He will pick a pitcher’s brain. He will tell you anything. He finds some key on every pitcher. Every pitcher has a key. And that notebook he has, has got every key.”

Like a poker player, every pitcher has a “tell,” and Kuntz has cracked the code on most.

Gore said it can be the smallest of details: a pitcher’s foot or toe or head or glove.

“He made me fail right quick, then showed me what to do,” Gore said of Kuntz. “That was good that I failed right quick.

“Without him, I wouldn’t be 8-0 (on stealing bases) right now, I tell you that.”

To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/pgrathoff

  Comments