PITTSBURG, Kan. — Kansas City Royals broadcaster Frank White likes the tact the team is taking as it slowly moves back towards respectability.
“They went out and upped the payroll about 20 percent,” he said during Monday’s Royals Caravan stop here. “The biggest focus in the front office is they want to compete and they want to win. They don’t want to refer to the word ‘rebuilding.’”
Joining White on the Caravan’s southern swing were fellow Royals Hall of Famer John Mayberry, first baseman Billy Butler, the team’s player of the year; outfielder Mitch Maier and Royals broadcaster Steve Stewart.
In an about-face, general manager Dayton Moore didn’t make any major personnel moves like he had the two previous years.
They landed former Oklahoma State standout Josh Fields and Scott Podsednik via trade and free agency, respectively.
“They want to start developing the minor league system, get a strong base so when we have players move, we can develop our own players and feed our own system,” White said. “What happens now is from there, you go to being real selective in the free agent market and real selective in your trades. If you can draft well and develop well, a small-market team can survive in this environment.”
Even though the team won only 65 games in 2009, there’s a renewed interest.
“Fan support is based on how you play as a team, and I think right now, fan support for the Royals is pretty high,” said White, who shares game analyst duties with former Royal pitcher Paul Splittorff for Fox Sports Kansas City.
The big, spirited crowd that attended Monday’s stop at Meadowbrook Mall affirmed that.
The team’s FanFest at the Overland Park (Kan.) Convention Center drew thousands. The team’s three Cy Young Award winners — Zach Greinke, David Cone and Bret Saberhagen — were on hand, but the highlight was a reunion of members of the Royals’ 1985 World Series championship team.
“Eighteen guys showed up and we had a great time,” White said. “We shared some of our stories with fans. Eighteen different guys with 18 different responses to how they felt about winning the World Series was pretty neat.”
White spent his entire 18-year career with the Royals.
White, a five-time American League All-Star and the MVP of the 1980 American League Championship Series, was inducted into the Royals’ Hall of Fame in 1995.
His No. 20 jersey was retired on May 2, 1995.