Hall of Fame icon George Brett promised the Royals on May 30 that he’d commit for one month as their interim hitting coach. On Thursday, after eight weeks in the role, he stepped away from that duty.
“I just felt it was time for me to move on,” Brett said while flanked by general manager Dayton Moore at a news conference prior to the series finale against Baltimore at Kauffman Stadium.
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“It’s been a tremendous experience for me after being gone for 20 years from the game, to have an opportunity again to put on a uniform. It was special.”
Brett choked up at that point but held himself in check.
“When we approached George it was a time when (the players) needed to be rescued a little bit mentally,” Moore said. “We were struggling a great deal.
“My conversations with George were, ‘Just come here for this short period of time and do everything we can to lay a foundation for our young hitters.’”
Brett is returning to his previous role as a vice president in baseball operations. He planned to spend Thursday’s game in Moore’s suite — a location he now expects to frequent on a regular basis.
Assistant hitting coach Pedro Grifol, 43, will become the club’s hitting coach. He was serving as the hitting coach at Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League prior to his concurrent promotion to serve as Brett’s assistant.
“The players have taken to Pedro in a great manner,” Brett said. “I have all the confidence that Pedro will do a tremendous job. The players all have confidence in Pedro, and I felt it was time for me to resign as hitting coach.
“It was a tough decision. I enjoyed it. It was just time for me to sit with Dayton in the suite again rather than travel around the country and do what I was doing.”
Brett said he made the decision earlier this week after discussions with Moore, Grifol, manager Ned Yost and owner David Glass. Brett also vowed to remain a regular participant in workouts prior to home games.
“When I took this job almost two months ago,” he said, “Dayton and I were driving (May 30) to St. Louis, and we talked about an ‘interim’ basis. Interim is what? I don’t know what interim means, and neither did he.”
Brett spent 48 games in the role and, while the club went 26-22 in that span, offensive production actually declined.
The Royals batted .261 in 50 games prior to the switch with a .314 on-base percentage and a .375 slugging percentage while averaging 3.98 runs a game. Their slash under Brett was .248/.309/.369 while averaging 3.81 runs.
Individual results were mixed. First baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas showed notable improvement, but left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvy Perez dipped significantly.
Even so, the Royals uniformly praised his impact.
“George is a straight-up person,” Hosmer said. “If something doesn’t look good, he’ll tell you it doesn’t look good. He and Pedro have been inseparable, and it’s good that (Brett) is still going to be around.”
Brett, 60, made it clear that he found the duties of hitting coach, even with Grifol’s assistance, to be an increasing grind but insisted he is eager to maintain a heightened on-field presence.
“It was fun,” he insisted. “I really had a good time. But being away from the game for 20 years (since his retirement in 1993), it was a big adjustment.
“I made that adjustment for almost two months, and it was getting tougher and tougher. I don’t want to say it’s too much travel. I don’t want to say it’s too much of a grind. It’s just a different lifestyle from what I’m used to.”
Brett plans to take a short vacation to Idaho when the Royals depart for a 10-day trip that begins Friday night in Chicago. But he plans to be in uniform again when the Royals return Aug. 5 for a 10-game homestand.
“I will be here,” he said. “I don’t know how many days. But I’ll be here, and I’ll be in uniform pregame. Get here at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Be in the cages, doing the same thing I was doing.
“Once the game starts, I’ll be sitting with Dayton again in the box. I’m looking forward to it.”