Judging the Royals

Eric Hosmer had a tough night, but a great afternoon

Make-A-Wish Kansas City Royals player for a day, Rhylan Lopata, 6, (left) got to play on the field with first baseman Eric Hosmer as Rhylan’s brother Ricky joined them Thursday.
Make-A-Wish Kansas City Royals player for a day, Rhylan Lopata, 6, (left) got to play on the field with first baseman Eric Hosmer as Rhylan’s brother Ricky joined them Thursday. jsleezer@kcstar.com

When we started “Judging the Royals” in 2010 one of the best decisions we made was to make very few decisions. None of us — especially me — were quite sure what the blog would cover. All I knew is that I wanted to talk about baseball the way ballplayers talked about it to me. I’d see something interesting happen on the field and ask questions and the answers were usually enlightening.

For instance:

If you wondered why Jarrod Dyson didn’t tag up and try to score on Eric Hosmer’s eighth-inning fly ball to center field on Wednesday night, it was because the Twins’ Byron Buxton has a good arm and he was playing shallow when he made the catch.

Third-base coach Mike Jirschele told Dyson to force a throw with a fake break for home and then see how good the throw was. The throw was off-line to the first-base side of home plate, but from their angle, Dyson and Jirschele couldn’t read that and Dyson held at third.

Dyson was kicking himself for not running when he saw the throw missed home plate, but Jirschele said if the throw had been on-line Dyson would have been out and out by a long way. Fortunately, Kendrys Morales hit a ground-rule double and Dyson scored anyway.

Jirschele wanted to know where the heck Kendrys was in the 2014 World Series when Jirschele held Alex Gordon at third; the Royals could have used another one of those ground-rule doubles that night.

OK, that’s what I usually do on this blog: find an interesting play and then explore what went into it. Beat writers sometimes have to cram everything that happened into one story; I have the luxury of looking at a single play and picking it apart.

Where do you draw the line?

Fortunately for me it turned out Royals fans were interested in hearing the inside story and Royals players and coaches were interested in telling it: they want fans to know why they did what they did. But in the course of telling me what was actually going on, players and coaches might tell me something they don’t want made public.

If a guy got picked off because he was busy stealing signs when the pickoff throw came, that guy doesn’t want the other team to know he’s been stealing signs because he’d like to keep doing it.

If players and coaches were going to talk openly with me, I had to decide where to draw the line; what could I write about and what would I leave alone?

So for the most part I don’t write about their personal lives or contracts or anything that takes place off the field. Every once in a while I’ll drop in something funny someone said, just to give readers a hint of what these guys are like, but for the most part it’s baseball, baseball, baseball.

Today, I’m making an exception

Thursday afternoon 6-year-old Rhylan Lopata, a cancer survivor, was signed to a one-day contract by the Royals. The Make-A-Wish Foundation set things up and the Royals pulled out the stops: Dayton Moore showed up for the contract signing and they staged a traditional news conference. Then Rhylan got to go on the field and that’s when Eric Hosmer came out to play.

Royals sign 6-year-old cancer survivor to contract as part of Make-A-Wish 

I’ve seen dozens of these things and a player usually poses for photographs, signs some items, makes small talk and then gets back to work — but that’s not what happened on Thursday.

Hosmer kidded around with his new teammate and then wanted to see what kind of arm Rhylan had; Hosmer got down in a catcher’s stance and received a couple pitches, then Hosmer showed Rhylan how a pitcher signals a catcher that a fastball is on its way during warmups. The pitcher points his glove at the catcher with the palm down; if Rhylan was going to bring the heat, Hosmer wanted to know in advance.

Then, they went out on the field to play “pickle” with the help of Rhylan’s brother. Next, Rhylan got to go to the center of the diamond and pitch off the mound. After they left the field, Hosmer took Rhylan and some other kids to the Royals’ equipment room and picked out some bats for them to take home. Hosmer pointed out the wristband he was going to wear in Rhylan’s honor in that night’s game.

Thursday night Eric Hosmer went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, but Thursday afternoon everyone got to see him do something great:

Eric Hosmer made a kid’s wish come true.

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