The KC Royals coaching staff: Who are these guys?
Rusty Kuntz is set to return this season to his familiar spot in the first base coaching box. He’s a favorite of players and fans alike.
Whenever baseball returns to Kauffman Stadium, a Kansas City coaching icon will return to the field for the first time since retiring as the club’s first base coach after the 2017 season. Rusty Kuntz agreed to leave his role of mentoring minor league players to join new manager Mike Matheny’s staff.
Kuntz’s encore in the first base box, which could mark the beginning of his last major league go-round, will also revive his legendary relationship with fans (many of them his fans) who delight in his friendly in-game banter and the occasional balls he tosses their way.
More importantly, Kuntz’s return brings back to the players the man Matheny describes as maybe as good a coach as he’s been around, a beloved teacher known for his work ethic and invaluable, exhaustive study of pitchers’ pickoff moves. He’s also mentored the Royals’ outfielders and helped Alex Gordon make the difficult switch from third base to left field and is the club’s baserunning coach.
Kuntz has the third-longest tenure (seven seasons) as a big-league player of any KC coach (Cal Eldred spent 14 years in the majors and Vance Wilson played for eight). Although he hit just .236 combined with the White Sox, Twins and Tigers, his appearance in Game Five of the 1984 World Series was pivotal: he pinch hit for Detroit in the fifth inning and hit a first-pitch pop fly to score Kirk Gibson with what proved to be the game-winning RBI, the last run the Tigers needed in the Series clincher.
No one knows how long Kuntz will coach for Matheny; his love of mentoring minor leaguers is well-known and this third time in the first base box (2008-09, 2012-2017 were his previous stints) may be enough and leave him yearning to return to a roving instructional role. But the Royals and their fans will benefit from any time Kuntz spends with the club.