04/18/12 8:58 PM ET
Royals take relaxed approach to adversity
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
That's what led to an old-fashioned, postgame bull session among players and coaches in a corner of the clubhouse, something that pleased manager Ned Yost.
"We came in after the game last night and Ned had a little quick meeting and just said, 'Relax,'" right fielder Jeff Francoeur said before Wednesday's series finale against the Tigers. "We're beating our heads on the wall, we're trying so darn hard to win.
"We had such great expectations coming into that first series with Cleveland, and fans the same thing. Last night, I just invited anybody who wanted to come over to have a beer and relax. We didn't even talk about baseball, we just told stories and had a good time."
The Royals, subject of high expectations this year, have been pressing too much, in Francoeur's view.
"We're trying so hard, everybody's trying to hit a grand slam with nobody on," Francoeur said. "We're all swinging at stuff you don't see us swinging at normally, trying to get it all back in one swing. Trying to get five wins in one night where we just need to take it one game at a time."
After a 3-3 trip to open the season, the Royals arrived home in Kansas City and stalled.
"They wanted to come home and show our fans, 'Hey, we are a team to be excited about,'" Yost said. "Because there was a lot of excitement in Spring Training and they really wanted to show 'em how good they were, instead of just relaxing and playing the game."
Yost saw the postgame bull session as therapeutic.
"It's music to my ears to hear those guys sitting in a corner laughing and talking after the game," he said.
Yost recalled that, during his playing days, such clubhouse sessions were routine and sometimes could last until 4 o'clock in the morning. How long did the Royals stay on Tuesday night?
"It wasn't till 4 in the morning, but I think it was until every phone started [going] off and our wives were wondering where in the world we were," Francoeur said.
Yost recalls walk-off of a different kind
KANSAS CITY -- Retaliation by pitchers to make amends for teammates being hit by a pitch was common years ago, but the practice has been reduced in recent years by the threat of ejections and fines.
Royals manager Ned Yost was reminded of an incident when Atlanta third baseman Terry Pendleton walked off the field when he felt Braves pitcher Marvin Freeman did not properly retaliate. Yost was a Braves coach at the time and recalled that Pendleton went in the clubhouse, took a shower and went home.
"Marvin had a great line after that, too," Yost said. "They asked, 'What'd you think when Terry was walking off?' And Marvin said, 'I thought that Terry thought I was pitching so good I only needed seven guys out there.' "
Aikens recalls life experiences in book
KANSAS CITY -- Willie Aikens has had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Some, such as his days playing in the Major Leagues, have boys and men of all ages envious. Others, such as the 14 years he spent in prison, no one wants to share.
Aikens explains the highs and lows of his life in his new book, "Willie Mays Aikens: Safe at Home," released this month.
Royals fans will remember the former big leaguer, who became the first player ever to hit two home runs in two separate games of the same World Series back in 1980.
But in the years that followed, Aikens struggled with drug use, and his big league career was over in 1985. In 1994, he was arrested and convicted for cocaine distribution. He was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.
Aikens was released after 14 years, when federal drug guidelines changed, and in the years since, he's turned his life around. He's made numerous public appearances, telling his story and issuing warnings to others about the dangerous lifestyle that put him behind bars. Also, in 2011, Aikens was hired by the Royals as a minor league coach.
Many people, including the minor leaguers he coaches, have heard Aikens' story. Now, with the publication of his book, Aikens hopes to educate even more people.
"I just want my book to touch the lives of people who are struggling with drugs and alcohol and to inspire some of the ones that are still incarcerated. Give them hope," Aikens said Wednesday. "I was incarcerated for 14 years, and I left behind a lot of people that are still there. It's just putting out the word that, hey, it doesn't make any difference how long you're there, it doesn't make any difference how long you struggled with drugs and alcohol, it doesn't make any difference if your dad or mom was there, you still can succeed in life."
The former first baseman certainly fits that description, and he said he's enjoying his time as a coach in the Royals organization.
"I'm having a great time," Aikens said. "To be where I'm at in my life right now is truly a blessing because, when I was incarcerated, I prayed that whenever I got out I would be able to get into baseball again. And in order for that to become a reality, after three years of being a free man, is a tremendous blessing for me."
Aikens will be attending several book signings this month in the Kansas City area. He'll be at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Overland Park, Kan., on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Later on Saturday, he'll be signing copies of his book at Kauffman Stadium from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. in the Royals Majestic Team Store. He'll also be appearing at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City on April 27 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Associated reporter Vinnie Duber also contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.