Terrance Gore is back with Royals and bringing the speed with him
Terrance Gore’s time with the Chicago Cubs last season lasted 11 Triple-A games plus another 14 games in the majors. It was long enough for the diminutive outfielder known for working fast to make a fan out of Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
After being traded from the Royals to the Cubs for cash in August, Gore returned to the Royals this offseason as a free agent. He’s had limited offensive success at the big-league level thus far in his career — a .211 on-base percentage and one hit in 16 at-bats in 63 games.
His elite speed and base-running ability have made him a player teams like the Royals and Cubs want to find room for on their roster. Along with sprinter speed on par with Chiefs All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, another of Gore’s talents caught Maddon’s eye in their brief time together.
Only Maddon didn’t know it was almost as much accident as skill.
“He actually makes a study out of how to slide — run fast, slide hard and hold onto the bag,” Maddon said. “He actually has all that down. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
Maddon isn’t the only one to recognize Gore’s knack for sliding so late and fast that his 5-foot-7, 165-pound frame hits the base as if shot out of a cannon.
“We notice it,” Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield said. “We’re scared for the shortstop or second baseman, whoever is covering, because he’s coming in so hot.”
What Maddon and Merrifield didn’t know as they paid homage to Gore’s full-speed-ahead approach was that Gore is basically the baseball version of the character Luis from the movie “The Mighty Ducks.”
In the movie, Luis, played by the same actor (Mike Vitar) who plays Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in “The Sandlot,” is a hockey player gifted with incredible speed and an inability to stop once he gets going. It leads to some funny moments on the ice, such as when the boards end up being the only thing that can slow Luis down.
When asked about his sliding technique, Gore said, laughing, “I don’t know how to do it. I’m terrible at it.
“I wouldn’t — my cousin literally this offseason asked me to teach her how to do a pop-up slide and I kind of refused. I was like, ‘I’m not going to teach you my ways, because my ways will probably get you hurt.’ I’m not going to put that upon myself.”
Unburdening himself and finally coming clean about the myth of his unique knack for the slide, Gore explained that his style has been shaped by fear.
Somehow it got “embedded” in his mind that if he slides early he’s going to slow down so much that he’ll just stop before he reaches his destination. That fear of coming up short has always caused him to take those extra two steps before he hits the ground and crashes feet-first into the base.
“It doesn’t feel good, I’ll tell you that, and it’s literally wearing on me as my years are going in pro ball,” Gore said. “Early in my career, I was like, ‘Ah, I’ll be fine. It ain’t no big one.’ Now, I’m like, ‘Ouch. That hurt.’ It’s slowly catching up to me.”
So far this spring, Gore has shown signs of progress with his approach at the plate. He’s gone 3-for-13 with five walks in nine games entering this week.
Royals manager Ned Yost has mentioned multiple times this spring the progress Gore has made as a hitter, and Yost has also reiterated his comments from FanFest that Gore’s role will not simply be as a pinch runner.
But when it comes to sliding, Gore admits there’s no such progress made there. He doesn’t anticipate any, either.
“There’s no changing that,” Gore said. “I feel like you can’t teach that old dog that new trick anymore. That’s the way I look at it — it’s not going to happen.”
When informed of Gore’s admission that his sliding is more a failure of technique than boldness of style, Merrifield insisted Gore does it perfectly.
In fact, the two-time defending American League stolen base champion was a little envious. He said there’s no reason for Gore to change.
“He’s the latest I’ve seen, but if I could slide later, I would,” Merrifield said. “If I could instinctively do it (I would), because when you start your slide you slow down. So he’s going full speed for as long as he can, so it’s smart. It’s just hard to do.”