For all of the attention that was given to the Kansas City Royals about their plans to replace James Shields, Billy Butler and Nori Aoki, there was another void that needed to be filled. Following the World Series, Rusty Kuntz retired, leaving the Royals in need of a first base coach and a lack of a truly spectacular head of hair. However, Kuntz was more than just the hair – he was a baseball lifer who not only spent time as a first base coach, but as a minor league instructor, an assistant to the General Manager and filling in other coaching needs.
Naturally, replacing someone like Kuntz will be a tall order. However, the Royals seem to have someone in mind to take over his place in the organization. According to Andy McCullough, former Royals outfielder Mitch Maier may end up as Kuntz replacement.
Maier, a former first round pick for the Royals, spent six years patrolling the outfield in Kansas City, posting a .248/.327/.344 batting line with ten home runs and 15 stolen bases. He had two seasons with 350 or more plate appearances, but was typically a fourth outfielder and occasional blowout pitcher. Maier has spent the past two seasons in the minors, playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox for the entirety of the 2013 season before spending 2014 with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
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By playing in AA last season, Mitch Maier may have actually gotten his first taste of being a coach. At over seven years older than the average age of the Texas League, Maier was able to be that veteran presence to help mentor the Royals prospects, essentially serving the same role in the minors that Raul Ibanez served in the Royals clubhouse. He was able to be that coach on the field, helping to mold those younger players.
Now, with his playing career at a crossroads, Maier may be about to make that transition to coaching full time. He would certainly be a solid choice, having gone from first round pick to being someone who stuck around as a fourth outfielder. He has gone through the highs and lows of being a professional, with that experience being perfectly suited to the next step in his career.
Mitch Maier may not have announced his retirement as a player yet, but he and the Royals seem prepared for the next part of his career. Being mentored by Rusty Kuntz is a great way to kick off that coaching career.