There was a time, of course, when the Royals struggled to put players in the All-Star Game. Manager Ned Yost remembers it well.
There was the 2011 season in which Aaron Crow, a reliever, was the club’s only representative. There was the 2012 All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium, when Billy Butler was the only Royals player on the field.
There are many other examples that predate the tenures of Yost and general manager Dayton Moore. But that has all changed. On Tuesday night, the Royals will boast three more All-Stars as the 88th Midsummer Classic convenes at Marlins Park in Miami. For the fifth straight season, the club will have at least three representatives voted or selected to the game.
Catcher Salvador Perez will make his fifth straight appearance, while third baseman Mike Moustakas will make his second in three years. Starting pitcher Jason Vargas is a first-time All-Star at age 34.
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“It’s going to be awesome,” Moustakas said. “It speaks volumes to where we’ve come and what Dayton’s done with this organization.”
In the moments after a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday, Moustakas, Perez and Vargas joined their families on a charter flight bound for Miami. On Monday, Moustakas will become the first Royals player to compete in the Home Run Derby since Danny Tartabull in 1991. He is slated to compete against Minnesota’s Miguel Sano in the first round.
As he prepared for the trip, Moustakas said he was most excited to spend time in the batting cage with his fellow Derby participants.
“Honestly, I just enjoy being around all those guys,” he said. “Being in this league for six years now, I’ve got to know most of those guys, and just being in that clubhouse is special to me."
The Royals’ run of All-Stars began in 2013, when Perez, left fielder Alex Gordon and closer Greg Holland made the team. The same three players made it again the next year.
In 2015, the Royals put seven players in the All-Star Game while Yost managed the team after Kansas City won the American League pennant the season before. The collection included four players voted in as starters (center fielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, Gordon and Perez). Last season, first baseman Eric Hosmer appeared in his first All-Star Game, winning MVP honors, while Perez started again for the American League and reliever Kelvin Herrera appeared in his second consecutive game.
“When I went last time, it was with a bunch of guys,” Moustakas said. “To look around and get in that clubhouse and see six Royals players together in the clubhouse is a pretty special feeling.”
There are two differences this year. The first, of course, is that the All-Star Game no longer determines home-field advantage following the implementation of a new collective-bargaining agreement last winter. The second: After managing the American League squad the last two seasons, Yost and his staff have the week off.
Yost, of course, would prefer to be managing. But a week back on his farm in Georgia serves as a decent consolation prize.
“I’m going to go home and probably be on the tractor for about six hours a day,” Yost said, before adding: “You can kind of catch your breath. You take your mind off of baseball. And you rest your body. And then when you get back you’re completely refreshed. It’s a wonderful feeling.”