Royals starter Danny Duffy stood at his locker Thursday morning and reminisced about the first time he found himself in this clubhouse located 45 minutes northwest of Phoenix.
He was near “the exact coordinates” of the locker he was given after being drafted in 2007, just a few feet from where he put on a blue Royals jersey for the first time.
He mentioned it reflexively, reinforcing his desire to remain in a Kansas City uniform for the duration of his career.
But the comment resonated with words he voiced moments earlier, about how when he did show up in this cavernous, blue-carpeted room, he had no one to give him reliable advice about his personal life.
“I need to be able to share my personal experiences,” said Duffy, who turned 29 in December and is entering his eighth major-league season. “I didn’t really have that when I was younger and I longed for that. I want these kids to be able to be comfortable, to come to me.”
Of course, the timing coincides with Duffy attempting to shake off a turbulent 2017, during which he mounted a solid on-field campaign but struggled so much personally that he called the year one of the worst of his life.
A month ago Duffy pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Overland Park in late August, when he was found asleep in his car in a Burger King drive-thru on a Sunday evening. He asked Royals fans not to give up on him in a news conference shortly after the incident became public.
Then Duffy spent the offseason taking a “look in the mirror,” he said at FanFest last month. He has returned to the Royals with a renewed conviction to make sure no one falls into the same traps he did.
“I’m excited to erase and re-record,” Duffy said. “I’m getting to that point that I definitely need to be somebody that the younger kids can look up to and ask questions.
“I don’t want to see any of these kids put anybody else’s life in danger like I did,” Duffy said. “I’m looking forward, I’m really setting out to be the last Royal to have that happen to. That’s my ultimate goal and I’m excited about that opportunity.”