On Tuesday night, the Kansas City Royals trotted out part of this year’s Fox Sports Kansas City’s television crew as Ryan Lefebvre and new color analyst Rex Hudler brought us the team’s spring training game against the San Diego Padres.
It was the first time for many Royals fans to hear Hudler on a microphone, and, for a variety of reasons, first impressions ranged from average to less-than-favorable. To fill the shoes that unceremoniously opened after the Royals fired Frank White is an unenviable task, and I think most fans understand that. He’s a stranger in Royals homes, so it’s going to take some time to dig past the “new” voice and hear what Hudler truly provides to the broadcast.
That said, some things already stood out that need addressed; little but crucial things that Hudler should know and accept if he wants to be accepted.
So, here it is, Rex Hudler, with a full season and the smallest of small sample sizes in front of us, here is a list of five requests to you from Royals fans in open-letter form after many saw their first game with you as part of the KC team…
1) Royals fans know the game – Fans here, they know their baseball. When your team hasn’t been competitive since the early 1990s, really, the months of June-September largely have been spent discussing the game; and, specifically, talking about how past teams have butchered the fundamentals. Fans here know what the game is supposed to look like, so, for you, you don’t have to explain every little detail. Instead, fans are looking for the subtle adjustments and tidbits guys like you will recognize. Why would a hitter expect a slider in a certain count? How did the center fielder know to play on the right side of second base in order to make a play when the situation seemed to call for him to be 10 steps to the left? How bad does it hurt when you actually lay out fully? How many teams actually do find ways to steal signs? Talk to fans like they are a teammate.
2) Royals fans know their team – This is one of those things I think will take care of itself, but how fast is up to you. Royals fans understand you’re new to the team, which means this is the first time you’ve spent a great deal of time getting to know the players aside from a quick scouting report or reading media notes. But, while everything you’re reading and learning about the Royals from the media guide is new right now, most of it isn’t new to the fans. Especially with this team, the fan base has been following a lot of these guys since they were drafted. While doing your homework is awesome and will help in the long run, it would almost be better to start from the “now” and move forward. Give fans updates on what adjustments Billy Butler is making to his swing; divulge what weight program Mike Moustakas put himself through this winter; find out if other Royals young guys decided to mirror Alex Gordon’s off-season approach. Find the ways that get Royals fans even closer to their team…past the biographical and statistical stuff.
3) Royals fans know bad baseball – Hud, dude, since you retired, the Royals are 874-1231. Or, try this one, you had only one more different jersey number (five) than the Royals have had 100-loss years since you hung ‘em up after the 1998 season. Point is (and we’ll talk a little bit more about this later) KC fans know when their team is playing like junk. They’re used to seeing it, and if your plan was to cheerlead the team back into the game or gloss over obvious mistakes, you may want to rethink that strategy. Think of it this way, if this team, which has some expectation to it this year, isn’t playing well, fans are going to be even a little more chapped than normal. At that point, they aren’t interested in “nothin’ but sunshine.”
4) Overall, Royals fans want you to KISS it – This isn’t calling you out personally, I’m just betting you know the old acronym: Keep it simple, stupid. To sum up the first three points, you don’t have to try so hard. Royals fans are a laid back bunch (aside from when blowing leads cause the blood pressure to rise). They also know you’re known for your intensity. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum is where you’ll want to be. No doubt, even though it was a spring training game, it was still a big night, so the excitement level was raised for you. That’s perfectly acceptable. But, there is a certain comfort that goes with Royals games, and baseball broadcasts in general, that fans have enjoyed, at least as far back as I can remember with Denny Trease and Paul Splittorff doing games back in the late 1980s. Don’t change the natural excitement you bring, just be willing to let it simmer during slow points before Eric Hosmer hits a game-winning bomb against the New York Yankees; then, by all means, go crazy, man. Go. Crazy. (I admit, with lines like these, I’m curious to see what you linguistically conjure with “Hosmer”.)
5) Royals fans like their coffee black – This may have been the most common complaint I received from Royals fans. Rex, if Tuesday was any indication, you aren’t going to be able to be so darn positive all the time. Fans don’t want sugary sweet; they want their analysts to be strong and bold, maybe even a tad bitter when the situation demands it. We know you’re just starting your first contract, and I’m sure you’ve heard that Frank was let go because he was too real or too negative (depending on who you’re talking to). But, don’t let that sway you. While it might make the suits above you smile (if they’re watching), it’ll make for a long season for both you and those who definitely view the team, and you, on a regular basis.
Keep these simple, humble, want-to-see-you-do-well requests in mind, Rex, and here’s to you, the Royals and the fans having a great season.
Me and all other Kansas City Royals fans