Judging the Royals

Mike Moustakas is no Pam Anderson, but as one of Royals’ biggest stars he’s in demand

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas made an appearance in the batting cage with 10-year-old Lincoln Thompson of Topeka during last weekend’s FanFest.
Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas made an appearance in the batting cage with 10-year-old Lincoln Thompson of Topeka during last weekend’s FanFest. jsleezer@kcstar.com

It’s Saturday at 10 a.m. and I show up at the Royals’ FanFest in hopes of grabbing a few minutes with Mike Moustakas. I’ve been working on a piece about how he changed his hitting approach in 2015 and have a few questions that only Moose can answer.

The Royals have a Green Room set upon the bottom floor of Bartle Hall — a place for the players, coaches and front-office people to relax and get some privacy until it’s time for them to make a public appearance.

The Green Room has couches and food and a rack of players’ jerseys; the one thing it doesn’t have is media. We’re not allowed in there, so I wait until Mike comes out. He spots me and comes over to say hi. Moose tells he’s on his way upstairs to the main floor for an autograph session and I tell him I’ll meet him up there.

Mike signs for about 45 minutes and then ducks through some curtains set up at the end of Bartle Hall. The curtains create a backstage area for the players and coaches and anyone else about to go on the main stage. I follow Moose through the curtains.

We run into Alex Gordon and Mike hugs him; it’s clear they haven’t seen each other since Alex signed his new contract, and Mike is just as happy as any Royals fan that Gordon is staying with the team.

Mike has someone from the Royals’ front office — Amanda — herding him along. She’s making sure Moose winds up where he’s supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there. Mike also has a police officer escorting him around, and if the cop decides I’m a threat and ought to be maced, I’m hoping Moose will say: “It’s OK, he’s with me.”

There’s also a decent chance Moose will say: “He’s with the media — spray him twice.”

Neither happens and we all get on the freight elevator the Royals players are using to go from the Green Room to the main floor of Bartle Hall. As we ride the elevator, I tell Moose I’m writing about how he’s changed as a hitter.

Moose: “Great, all the stuff I don’t want to talk about.”

Cop: “You want me to get rid of this guy?”

Fortunately, they’re both laughing. I tell Moose I’ve been writing some stuff about the team this winter and so far he’s coming off pretty well.

Moose: “But I can still blow it?”

After we get downstairs, Mike’s told he’s wanted back upstairs; this time they want him to visit the batting cages set up in the middle of the main floor.

We go back upstairs and back through the curtains onto the main floor of FanFest. I wonder how crazy it will get when people realize it’s really Mike Moustakas walking through Bartle Hall, not some guy wearing a Mike Moustakas jersey.

It starts to get crazy fast; people come running over and a crowd quickly forms. Amanda and the cop keep the human swarm moving forward and we reach the batting cages.

Moose gives a surprised young fan a quick hitting lesson and then tries to leave the cages. But the crowd’s been growing; a second cop shows up to help out. Mike’s taken to a miniature baseball field with a chest-high fence. Mike’s on one side of the fence and the crowd’s kept on the other side. That allows Moose to move along the fence and sign as many autographs as possible in a short time.

Amanda decides it’s time for us to move again, and as we do, Mike says he doesn’t like to disappoint people. But no matter how many autographs he signs, at some point Moose has to move on and someone won’t get his signature.

Most ballplayers’ signatures are pretty much illegible, which is why they usually include their uniform number — it’s a hint as to who just signed your baseball. I once asked Mike when he changed his signature; he said right after he signed his first baseball and it took about 15 minutes.

I ask Moose how it feels to be one of the Beatles. Right now, people in Kansas City are crazy for the Royals. Moose seems to be handling it well; he’s friendly and gracious and probably stops to take 25 selfies with a variety of fans as we move to his next appointment.

Moose says it’s not like this back home. Mike lives in Los Angeles and points out that compared to celebrities like Pamela Anderson, he’s a nobody.

But here in Kansas City, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez are stars. Now that they’ve won a World Series, the demands on their time will increase. So will public scrutiny.

Mike once told me he had to be careful about having even a sip of beer in public; if someone takes a picture and posts it on the Internet, he better get a couple hits the next day — otherwise someone will claim he’s hung over.

I get my 15 minutes with Mike. He answers my questions, but all too soon Amanda’s in the room saying it’s time for Moose to leave — he has a flight to catch.

When I ask Mike about dealing with fans, he says he doesn’t mind — it’s part of the job. But as my time behind the scenes at FanFest showed, it’s a part of the job that’s getting bigger.

So if you want a Mike Moustakas autograph, and there’s a big crowd around him, and you’re getting frustrated, remember — it could be worse:

Pamela Anderson doesn’t play third base for the Royals.