Steve Balboni was the Royals’ starting first baseman in 1985, the last time the franchise won the World Series.
Unlike the rest of his former teammates, though, Balboni hopes the championship drought endures.
It’s not that Balboni’s ego is large. Nor does he have an ax to grind. In a twist of fate, Balboni is an advance scout for the San Francisco Giants. You know, the team the Royals play when the World Series starts Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.
“If I wasn’t working for anybody, I’d probably want to be be there and watch them win, too,” Balboni said in a phone interview. “But I have one team now and that’s the team I’m rooting for, the Giants. This is the team I’m part of now. It’s the only team that I’m concerned about.”
So don’t look for Balboni to be throwing out the first pitch at Kauffman Stadium during the World Series. However, he will be back in town for the games.
Balboni, 57, scouted the Royals in July at Kauffman Stadium ahead of the three-game series between the teams the following month.
“I got to see the field for the first time since they redid it,” Balboni said. “I was out there for three games in July. The stadium looks beautiful. They did a great job.”
Balboni particularly liked the natural grass. When he played with the Royals, the summers were brutal on the artificial turf.
“It was horrible,” Balboni told The Star last summer. “Oh, I hated Sundays and the day games. That turf just got so hot. Especially the first year. I was there in 1984 before they put in the new padding underneath the new turf. It was like carpet on asphalt. I just remember standing next to first base on the dirt area in between batters, just to get off the turf. I remember Willie Wilson coming into the dugout and they had a little bucket of ice and just standing in that.”
During his playing days, Balboni’s nickname was “Bye-Bye” because of his power stroke. He hit 119 home runs from 1984 before his trade to the Mariners in 1988. His 36 homers in 1985 remain a franchise record for a single season.
Of course, the 1985 season is still a happy memory for Balboni. Winning the World Series was a career highlight, particularly the celebration after game seven.
“I have a painting of it in my house,” Balboni said. “That’s always a good feeling. That’s like the best feeling, because you’ve won and it’s over. It was just all the guys together. It was a very close team. It was unusual how well everyone got along together.”
Balboni is still close with some of the players from the Royals’ last World Series winner. And none gave him grief for being on the opposing team for this year’s Fall Classic.
“I heard from a few guys (like) Jamie Quirk,” he said. “They were excited for me, because they know I work for the Giants and the Giants are in it. We’re all happy for Kansas City and the Royals and everything. I can see the excitement there and it brings back a lot of memories of ’85. It’s a good feeling to watch the fans and watch all that excitement going on there.”
Nevertheless, Balboni is literally working to make sure the excitement ends in the World Series.
To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff