As a few drops of rain began falling Wednesday afternoon, Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self stepped into the dugout at Kauffman Stadium.
“Ah,” Self said with a sly smile. “I was hoping to take some BP today.”
Self was at the K to join Royals pitcher James Shields and a half-dozen kids in recording a public-service announcement for KVC Health Systems, which counts foster care among its specialties.
“It’s definitely a tremendous honor to have coach Self out here and helping the foster kids out,” Shields said. “To have him come over and do a little PSA to help the foster kids and KVC, it’s a great cause.”
Shields has a community outreach program in which he invites 250 children and their families who are part of local foster care programs to five Royals home games this season. The kids sit in what is dubbed the Big Game James section.
Foster care is also a passion for Self, who is a KVC board member.
“I don’t know if you can really grasp it until you actually see how lives are impacted and kids are just getting the chance,” Self said. “In my profession, I get a chance to see that all the time. We take certain kids out of certain situations and everybody wonders, ‘Are they a good kids? Can they do the work? Are they responsible? Are they smart enough?’ All that stuff.
“Just to have kids being around a loving home, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish. They just need support and love.”
Self said he was glad to join Shields in shooting the commercial.
“I know James is real involved and has a sincere interest in providing opportunities for kids and helping spearhead those opportunities through foster parenting,” Self said. “I’m happy to be able to help.”
While the celebrities were Shields and Self, the commercial had a lot of cute kids.
“We had a lot of fun,” Shields said. “The kids are great. The main thing is hopefully we can find some good families for these kids and really create some good memories for these kids. A lot of memories they have aren’t that good. If we can create good ones, that’s all that really matters to us.”
As for that batting practice, Self didn’t get a chance. He wasn’t planning on it anyway. But he was in demand, as he met with Royals players and Indians manager Terry Francona.
Still, Self has happy memories of playing at Kauffman Stadium, even if it was just a celebrity softball match.
“I still get chills,” Self said. “I had a chance to do it last year at All-Star weekend to be out there. To think that 42,000 pairs of eyes are on a pitcher and batter and what happens right after that is a pretty cool feeling.”
KU and Duke?
Shields didn’t attend college. He opted to join the Tampa Bay Rays after they drafted him out of high school in 2000.
Although he loves March Madness, Shields doesn’t follow college basketball that closely.
“I don’t really have a favorite team, to be honest with you,” Shields said. “I root for KU quite a bit, and they’re in it almost every single year. I like Duke as well, because I played in Durham (N.C.), but other than that, to be honest, I didn’t go to college, so I’m not really a big college fan.”
Collins stays confident
A rough outing Tuesday night continued a tough stretch for relief pitcher Tim Collins. He walked the only two Cleveland batters he faced and both scored in the one-run loss.
In his last five outings, Collins has a 27.00 ERA over 21/3 innings. He has allowed seven runs on five hits and five walks with just two strikeouts. Collins also has given up two home runs.
“It’s just a rough patch,” Collins said. “I’ve got to go out there and do a better job of throwing strikes. I’m just not getting ahead of guys. You fall behind, and you can’t do much. That’s really all it is — not commanding the baseball.”
Collins, a left-hander, said he’s trying not to overthink things. He’s just trying to get back to being the pitcher who didn’t allow a run from May 12 to June 22, a span of 20 games (152/3 innings).
“I don’t think it’s something mechanical,” Collins said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and being aggressive.
“I can’t say it’s (all my pitches) because I’m falling behind, and I can’t throw my off-speed (pitches). When you’re not throwing strikes with your fastball, they’re not even going to swing at your off-speed (pitches). You can’t even throw it.
“Right now, it’s just fastball command and getting ahead of hitters.”
Part of being a successful reliever is having the ability to forget the bad times. Collins is staying positive.
“You’ve got to win every day,” Collins said. “You’ve got to come in and think you’re going to win every day. If I’m down on myself, I’m not going out there and helping the team. I’ve got to forget about today and worry about tomorrow. Just go out there and get the job done.”
Collins wasn’t the only one to have problems Tuesday. He was relieved by Aaron Crow, who allowed a hit and walked a batter as the bullpen struggled.
“I’m not as concerned with Crow,” manager Ned Yost said. “I’m a little more concerned with Collins. But it is a bump in the road. You just keep working to get through it.”
Minor league report
Center fielder Bubba Starling’s two-run homer broke a sixth-inning tie Wednesday and propelled Class A Lexington to a 4-2 victory against Greenville.
The Legends were tied 1-1 when Terrance Gore drew a one-out walk and Starling followed with his home run. An inning later, Terrance Gore walked with one out and Raul Mondesi followed with an RBI double.
In his last seven games, Starling is batting .381 (8 for 21) with seven RBIs.
On Tuesday night, Legends pitcher Daniel Stumpf pitched a seven-inning no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader sweep against Greenville.
Lexington won 1-0 in the opener and took the nightcap 7-1.
Of his no-no, Stumpf told the Lexington-Herald Leader: "The last batter, I knew (the no-hitter) was there still. I was like, 'I've got to make my pitched and hit my spots. I owe a huge credit to my defense last night and my catcher, Cameron Gallagher. And Raul Mondesi for hitting the home run."
Mondesi's solo shot in the first inning was the only run of the game.
Stat of the day
A 6-5 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday continued a baffling trend for the Royals. They are now 0-10 in games after a scheduled day off.
“I don’t make anything of it,” Yost said. “I don’t know. It surprised me, too, when I heard it today. It is what it is.”
Forty-four years ago Thursday — July 4, 1969 — Bob Oliver became the first player in Royals history to hit a grand slam. His home run against Seattle’s Jim Bouton at Municipal Stadium helped the Royals to a 13-2 victory.
• Designated hitter Billy Butler entered Wednesday’s game with an eight-game hitting streak. He has walked 45 times this season, the fifth-most in the American League.
• Eric Hosmer’s seven stolen bases are one fewer than Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt for the most among major-league first basemen.
• The Indians activated outfielder Michael Bourn from the paternity list and optioned left-hander Nick Hagadone to Triple-A Columbus before Wednesday night’s game.