KC Royals Rewind: Yes, Ross Gload once played here

Many fans of the KC Royals may not remember Ross Gload. He gave the club two serviceable seasons at a time when it desperately needed decent players.

Welcome back to “KC Royals Rewind,” our Kings of Kauffman series highlighting interesting moments in team history, and players fans may not remember or realize played for the Royals. Today’s Rewind takes us back to Ross Gload.

A colleague of mine and his son recently played an older version of a well-known baseball game, a fairly good way to at least partially fill the current baseball void. The session involved the 2007 KC Royals, one of a painfully long string of bad KC teams featuring some forgettable players.

He mentioned a couple of the ’07 players, including Ross Gload. Although he probably knows more about the Royals than most people, Gload didn’t occupy a prominent place among his Royals memories, but he recognized the name which may place him in the minority of KC followers. You have to be a fairly longtime fan to immediately recall Gload–and one who didn’t completely erase that portion of their memory banks originally devoted to the talent and win-starved clubs of the early to mid-2000’s.

Those years were lean. The Royals had one winning season in the 11 from 2000 through 2010 (the sole winning season came in 2003 and was the first since 1993; they wouldn’t win again until 2013). Far removed from the glory years of the late 70’s through 1985, those seasons proved hope only goes so far when talent can’t keep up.

Among positions needing improvement was first base. Royal great Mike Sweeney started playing there in 1999 but later injuries began taking their toll and he gradually DH’d more and more. The club tried Ken Harvey at first for a couple of years, then Matt Stairs for one, and Doug Mientkiewicz and Ryan Shealy for another. After the end of the 2006 season, the Royals decided to bring in help.

And that’s how Ross Gload, then a 30-year old first baseman-outfielder who’d seen action with the Cubs, Rockies and White Sox, became a Royal. The Sox traded him to KC for Andy Sisco, a little-used, 6-foot-10-inch relief pitcher probably known more for being as tall as Randy Johnson than anything else.

At first blush, Gload may have seemed a curious choice for a corner infield spot–although he’d clubbed 30 homers once as a minor leaguer, and at least 15 four other times, he’d managed only 12 in five trips to the majors before the trade to KC. He simply wasn’t the prototypical power-hitting first sacker.

But his ability to handle the bat was unquestioned. He hit .308 in 215 games for the White Sox, including .327 in 77 2006 games and .321 in 110 games in ’04.

Gload found himself in left field on Opening Day 2007 and at first the next game. Shealy played first frequently early in the campaign but, as he became decreasingly ineffective at the plate (he was hitting .096 after going 0-for-3 April 27), Gload picked up more time at the position. He ended up playing first base 89 times in 2007 (Shealy played there 52 times). Gload finished his first Kansas City season hitting .288 with seven home runs and 51 RBIs.

He was at first base the next Opening Day, the first of 111 games he’d play there in 2008 (he also played eight games in left field and three in right). The power wasn’t there for Gload–he hit just three homers and drove in 37 runs–but he hit a serviceable .273.

Gload had 24 multi-hit games in 2007 and 25 in ’08, including a four-hit game in each season, and played decent defense. He added reliability to the lineup whenever and wherever he played.

In an obvious move to add power, the KC Royals traded for Florida first baseman/DH Mike Jacobs shortly after the 2008 season ended; then, less than a week before the ’09 season began, they traded Gload to the Marlins for a player to be named later, who turned out to be pitcher Eric Basurto. Gload played a year in Florida, then two seasons with the Phillies before retiring after the 2011 campaign. He left the game with a commendable 10-season .281 career average.

Earlier this year, Gload’s high school–East Hampton (New York) High–announced it intends to retire the number he wore there as a player and, because his son Greyson has had various therapies and surgeries since being found to have a brain tumor a few years ago, the number retirement is scheduled to coincide with a game at which the current East Hampton squad intends to raise money for the National Brain Tumor Society.

Younger fans of the KC Royals may never have heard of Ross Gload and others may not find him easy to remember. But he gave a floundering club a couple of good seasons.