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Dusty Wathan is back in the place where he spent most of his childhood, so naturally, it’s story time.
It’s a few hours before Friday’s game — a mini-reunion of sorts in the Kauffman Stadium press room — and the Phillies third-base coach smiles when deciding to bring up one of the favorites.
Remember that time when George Brett babysat me?
To his left, Dusty’s father, John — the former Royals catcher and manager — breaks out into a smile.
Here we go ...
“We were in Oakland one time, and we were little — it was just my brother and I. George volunteered to babysit us. Mom and dad said, ‘Yeah sure, OK,’” Dusty said.
“We didn’t say, ‘Sure,’” John interjected with a grin. “We had reservations.”
Dusty continues. Brett, he’s told, was persuasive, so he was able to talk his way into watching the kids.
“They came back, and I think the door was open still, the latch was unlocked — we were in Oakland, so it was probably not the best neighborhood,” Dusty said. “And we were watching, ‘The Jerk’ on TV, which was not appropriate for a 7- and 4-year-old at the time. And George was sleeping.”
Dusty and John break out in laughter, and others follow suit.
These types of stories were part of life for Dusty growing up in the early ‘80s — hanging around the Royals clubhouse, messing around with Brett and running around the then-Royals Stadium upper deck during games trying to catch pop-ups.
“It was like (Royals Stadium) was my playground,” Dusty said.
John, who played for the Royals from 1976-85, said he could tell from those early days that Dusty would be involved with baseball. John had promised himself, as a father, that he wouldn’t force any hobbies upon his kids, yet he remembered often seeing Dusty — at age 7 or 8 — in seats behind home plate at Royals Stadium, talking to scouts non-stop about the game.
“I kind of knew where he was headed with his life from an early age,” John said.
Sure enough, Dusty had a future in baseball. In fact, after graduating from Blue Springs High in 1991, his greatest playing achievement also took place in Kansas City, as the catcher picked up his first major-league hit at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 24, 2002.
“To be able to get your first hit in a stadium that you grew up in and watched your dad play, so many good memories as a kid ... it was really special,” Dusty said.
This week promises to hold significance as well.
During Mother’s Day week, Dusty will get to be around much of his family. That includes mother Nancy, John and sister, Dina Blevins, who works as the Royals director of alumni relations.
It hasn’t been easy to get back during the summer lately. Dusty has spent the last 12 years coaching in the Phillies organization, serving as a manager at all three levels in Philadelphia’s minor-league system before taking on third-base coach duties last season.
Though happy with his current gig, the 45-year-old said he hopes some day to transition to become a big-league manager.
“Hopefully I’ll get a shot,” Dusty said. “It’s a lot like playing sometimes. You can be in the right place at the right time with the right opportunity.
“Hopefully that comes to fruition one day, and we’ll see. But right now, I’m in a pretty good place.”