Grudzielanek reaches 2,000-hit plateau
Infielder is 251st player in baseball history to reach mark
KANSAS CITY -- The inscription on a white cake congratulated "Grudz." Five bottles of Dom Perignon Vintage 1999 sat empty on the table. A pine-tar encrusted Mark Grudzielanek bat rested alongside.
Grudzielanek himself was soaked in champagne and sweat after the clubhouse greeting given to him by his teammates, who toasted the 2,000th hit of his career.
The Royals' second baseman reached the milestone in Saturday night's 5-4 victory over the Mariners, with singles in his first two at-bats against Seattle left-hander Jarrod Washburn.
In the first inning, Grudzielanek lined an RBI single to left field. As he led off the third inning, No. 2,000 came on 1-0 pitch, a sharp line drive to straightaway center.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "It's hard to think that you've been playing all these years, a kid from the Midwest playing 13-plus [years] and having a career like I've had. And it's still going and I'm thankful for it."
Grudzielanek, born in Milwaukee 38 years ago, was given a long standing ovation by the Kansas City crowd of 23,793 fans. He answered them with one wave, then another, of his helmet. Clearly, he was moved.
"I tried to hold my emotions in, but it was tough," Grudzielanek said. "The fans were great -- they got up and I felt like I was out there holding my helmet up for 10 minutes. I was trying to keep it all in and keep it in perspective, but it was tough. I thank the fans and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I have."
He became the 251st player in history to record 2,000 hits and is the 18th active player at that plateau.
Grudzielanek has battled a sore back all season, but he's batting .313 in 73 games.
"He's played banged-up a little bit and we've given him some days off," manager Trey Hillman said. "But he's one of the toughest competitors I've ever managed -- he wants to play, he wants to win. It's pretty amazing at the level he's doing it at his age."
Grudzielanek is the sixth player to reach 2,000 hits in a Royals uniform. The others were George Brett, Hal McRae, Amos Otis, Lee May and Frank White.
"It was special," Grudzielanek said. "I felt good here since I signed here three years ago. The organization is moving up and getting better and the guys here are awesome. We'll be contending very soon, I think. It's a blessing to be here."
In 13 seasons, Grudzielanek played for the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals prior to his three years in Kansas City. The 2,000th hit was his 389th for the Royals.
White was the last to achieve the mark, on Sept. 11, 1990, also at Kauffman Stadium. He banged a double off Toronto's Frank Wills.
The hits came off of a tough opponent for Grudzielanek. Before Saturday's two hits, he was batting just 3-for-19, .158, against Washburn.
"He's owned me my whole career. He's tough and he's a competitor," Grudzielanek said, noting that Washburn extended congratulations.
"Class act right there. It's been fun competing against him through the years."
David DeJesus, who gave the Royals the victory with a walk-off home run, shrugged that off in deference to Grudzielanek.
"More important, Grudz got his 2,000th hit and he's been playing the game for a long time and he's one of the veterans on our team that we learn from," DeJesus said. "He's a good role model for a lot of us young guys in the clubhouse."
Royals starting pitcher Gil Meche wrapped it up nicely.
"It's a good day when you win for a guy like that who's done what he's done," Meche said. "That ended up perfect."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.