Hey everyone, it’s Steven. I’m hijacking the Naturals official blog and making it my personal forum for whatever is going on with the team or running through my head.
I’ll keep this updated with new posts a couple times a week during the off-season and at least that much if not more once the season begins.
Hopefully, being around the team everyday as the radio announcer, I can provide a unique perspective on all things Naturals.
So what’s going on right now you’re probably asking yourself, well the last couple weeks and some very big things…
1) Royals FanFest in KC. What a fun event with about 10,000 people coming to the Overland Park Convention Center in suburban Kansas City. The Naturals booth was the most popular as Royals fans lined up 75 deep to spin the Prize wheel and get a Naturals souvenir.
2) The Royals Caravan Stop. 200 people came to the Holiday Inn in Springdale for lunch and autographs. 2008 Texas League Player of the Year Kila Ka’aihue and Royals pitcher Zack Greinke as well as new Naturals catcher Vance Wilson and Royals alums Dennis Leonard and Brian McRae were all there.
Kila was the most popular but everyone was awesome answering questions from the fans and sharing baseball knowledge. Vance was a riot was some of his answers and we can’t wait to have him as part of the team for this summer.
3) The same Zack Grienke who was just here in NW Arkansas signed a 4-year contract with the Royals yesterday, meaing he will be in KC through the 2012 season. This is HUGE news for the Royals.
So huge in face that I was doing a Grienke dance around the office yesterday. Zack was not only one of the top starters in baseball last year, but looks like he can still get better. The Royals were able to sign one of their own who has developed into a star pitcher and wanted to stay in KC.
It’s as big a deal as the Royals will have this off-season and provides a great boost of momentum heading into Spring Training.
Once upon a time, the Braves were in Boston. Now, a player who has spent his entire career with the Braves is moving to Boston. John Smoltz signed with the Red Sox ending his run of 20 seasons with Atlanta. This is probably the best baseball move for Smoltz, the only pitcher in ML history with 200 wins and 150 saves, who has said repeatedly that he wants to be a starting pitcher.
It is still sad to me though to see a player spend almost his entire career with one team and then change uniforms for a final year or two. Michael Jordan never looked right as a Washington Wizard. It is getting rarer and rarer for a player to spend his whole (major league) career with one professional franchise.
This is one reason I love players who stay with one team for their athletic career. Call me old fashioned or whatever you want but it is very easy to root for players like George Brett or Tony Gwynn who stay with one team.
Word came in last week that former big-league catcher Vance Wilson signed a minor league contract with the Royals. While this is not probably significant for Kansas City, it could be huge for Northwest Arkansas.
The signing came with the caveat that Wilson will play at the Double-A level to start the season and in the same city where he currently resides. He will be rehabbing his right elbow at the start of the year, but the 35 year-old with 6 season of big league experience will be a welcome addition to the Naturals clubhouse. Wilson can basically serve as a player/coach type both during his rehab and once he is healthy imparting the knowledge he has gained on the Naturals players and helping to mold what promises to be another young but talented NWA pitching staff.
Some may see it as a negative to have a 35 year-old taking up a roster spot on a Double-A club, but this scenario is a win-win situation for both sides. Vance Wilson gets an opportunity to suit up for his hometown team and get healthy while playing baseball and the Royals get a first class individual with big-league experience and a proven track record to help their Double-A franchise.