01/15/10 12:09 AM ET
Greinke showcased at Awards Night
Royals past and present join fans to celebrate '09 season
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
The usual little grin played across his face.
"Maybe a little bit," Greinke replied. "At the gym, a lot more people talk to me now. That's about the only difference, I guess."
That came before Greinke was the showcase of the Royals Awards Night in the Overland Park (Kan.) Convention Center. Naturally, he was the team's Pitcher of the Year.
Ordinarily, the primary attention would center on revealing the winner of the Mr. Baseball Award, which turned out to be the Milgram Family for their support of the Ban Johnson League, or on the Royals Player of the Year, the popular young slugger, Billy Butler.
But this was Greinke's night.
Didn't playing second fiddle aggravate Butler just a bit?
"The guy won the Cy Young," Butler said with a smile. "You give a guy the Cy Young and it's 'Who's that other guy?' Naw, he deserves it. He was dominant and it was an unbelievable thing to watch. And if they stopped at Pitcher of the Year this year, nobody would've complained."
No, indeed. Certainly not the more than 400 folks who attended the flashy awards show, prelude to this weekend's Royals FanFest. They gave Greinke a prolonged, heartfelt standing ovation when he capped off the evening by accepting the Bruce Rice trophy.
Even some fireworks flared from the front of the stage.
"Um, thanks, guys," said Greinke, typically understated. "First, I've got to thank my wife, Emily Greinke, now. I forgot to thank her last year and I've been hearing about it ever since."
Greinke was married just last November to his long-time sweetheart. His lapse of a year ago came after he accepted the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award.
"She's been a tremendous help to me for the past eight years now so -- she's been with me through the ups and downs," he said.
The downs, of course, included an absence from the game in 2006 when he overcame a social anxiety disorder. His comeback from that drew notice from broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre, who presented the award. Lefebvre noted that from 1969 to the time of Greinke's disorder, only two other players in baseball had ever gone onto the disabled list because of anxiety.
"But in the three years since Zack shared his battle with social anxiety, there have been six cases of players who have gone on the disabled list because of social anxiety disorder or depression," Lefebvre said. "So no longer does a player have to hide behind something called personal reasons or some sort of made-up injury, thanks to Zack's courage in 2006."
THE WINNERS ARE ...
Pitcher of the Year
Player of the Year
Special Achievement Award
|Ewing M. Kauffman|
Mr. Baseball Award
|The Milgram Family|
Hitter of the Year
Pitcher of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Baserunner of the Year
|Mike Sweeney Award|
on and off field)
Player Development Person of Year
|Mark Davis||Surprise pitching coach|
Scout of the Year
|Louie Medina||Special assistant to|
|Matt Minker Award|
(outstanding Minor League employee)
|Martie Cordaro||Omaha GM|
Special Achievement Award
(outstanding member of community)
|LeRoy Zimmerman||Metro Lutheran Ministry|
The two other Royals Cy Young Award winners, Bret Saberhagen and David Cone, also helped introduce Greinke.
"He's a great person who's going to be in the Kansas City Hall of Fame forever," Saberhagen said.
Cone, who grew up in Kansas City and was "a huge Royals fan as a kid," remembered how the fabled Royals teams of the late 1970s caught his imagination and fired his passion.
"You're going to be great in the future," Cone declared. "You're going to lead the Royals back to where they need to be."
That revved up the crowd even more, and Cone brought Butler into the fray along with Greinke.
"You both are tremendous assets to the Royals' organization," Cone said. "You need to lead us back to the top."
It didn't hurt the ardor of the audience that members of the Royals' only World Series champions, the 1985 team, were attending the dinner in advance of their reunion at Friday's FanFest. George Brett, Steve Balboni, Willie Wilson and Jamie Quirk were among them.
It was a festive, light-hearted evening. Master of ceremonies Tim Scott even sang a medley of songs to taped highlights of the Royals. There were pretty dancers. There were jokes.
Before the dinner, former Royal Mike Sweeney, who came from California to present an award named in his honor, mischievously decided to show Butler how to create a bigger "2010 knot" on his tie.
"I've been taking care of him since he was young, I've got to take care of him now," Sweeney said, deftly weaving Butler's tie into suitable shape. "That's big league now," he said, satisfied.
There was no improving Greinke's tie, though. Ever his own man, he appeared on stage without one. No one seemed to mind a bit. Whatever Greinke does in Kansas City these days is the height of style.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.