Royals

Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu can turn a lineup card into art

The writing on the wall is something worth seeing when Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu fills out the lineup card. “I wouldn’t call it true calligraphy,” Wakamatsu said of the attention to detail in his work.
The writing on the wall is something worth seeing when Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu fills out the lineup card. “I wouldn’t call it true calligraphy,” Wakamatsu said of the attention to detail in his work. The Kansas City Star

Don’t tell him it’s just a lineup card.

For Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, the roster sheets he fills out before each game are precious history recorded with pen and ink, the colorful glory of baseball itself.

“I wouldn’t call it true calligraphy,” Wakamatsu said of his attention to detail in preparing the lineup card. “I never took a class. It’s just my own form.

“From my standpoint I don’t think it’s all that great.”

But look at that razor-straight, Gothic lettering. Lefties in red. Righties in royal blue. Switch-hitters in black.

Look how, when manager Ned Yost calls for a lineup change during a game, Wakamatsu inks a near-perfect horizontal line to a name on the card that hangs from a dugout clipboard. You could hold the edge of a credit card to those lines and check the precision.

“To me it’s kind of old school,” Wakamatsu said.

It’s also been his way all year to show these Royals how even the littlest things can be carried out with talent and care.

Er, strike “littlest things.”

Pitching in your first major-league game is not a little thing. A grand slam isn’t little. When players chalk up such milestones, Wakamatsu is proud to provide a keepsake they can frame and hang in their dens.

“Wak’s got lots of pride, respect for the game and respect for talent,” said general manager Dayton Moore. “He’s a talented man who wants to utilize his talent.”

When players don’t take them home, his lineup cards command $50 and higher at the Royals Authentics store behind Gate B at The K. And that’s for forgettable games during the season.

“Customers all the time look at them and think they were printed out on a computer,” said store employee Donald Nawalany.

Wakamatsu spends the better part of a half-hour in his office crafting each card, using calligraphy pens.

“I don’t claim to be an expert,” he says, “but my grandfather James, he had great penmanship.”

He smiles: “Some people think I have issues.”

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410 or send email to rmontgomery@kcstar.com.

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