4/15/2014 8:14 P.M. ET
Royals emotional about honoring Robinson
By Chris Abshire / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- You wouldn't have known it just looking at the batting practice jerseys, but by game time, Jackie Robinson's signifier was everywhere in Minute Maid Park.
Hours before the annual celebration of baseball's first African-American player showed up on the back of their jerseys in the form of the No. 42, several Royals reflected on the former Dodger star's impact on the modern game.
"Just to get to wear No. 42 again, for all that he endured, all that he went through, the death threats to him and his family -- you get emotional," said outfielder Justin Maxwell. "To still go out and be one of the best players in the big leagues and endure all those things is incredible. The best word to describe it is a pioneer. He went above and beyond what should be asked of anybody. I wish I had an opportunity to meet him. We always have him to thank for our careers."
Jarrod Dyson wasn't dismissive of Robinson's effect on the acceptance of black ballplayers. Far from it, actually, as Dyson took a wider scope in thinking of the six-time All-Star's impact.
"It's not just what he did for black players," Dyson said. "You see all the Latin guys and guys from Japan in our game. He made it a global game. Anyone can come here and play because of him."
Alex Gordon said he's especially noticed how Jackie Robinson Day's impact has evolved through the years and said there's no better reminder than the number on the back of the jersey.
"It's really special, almost like you can feel that number on your back all game," he said. "You get a reminder of the sacrifices he made that made this game better. Everything about how we approach this day enhances his legacy. I think we do it right."
Maxwell makes first return to Houston
HOUSTON - It isn't exactly a homecoming for Justin Maxwell, but it's close enough.
Whether or not the Royals backup sees the field during Kansas City's three-game set, the outfielder is just happy to be back in the place he called home for nearly two years.
"It's pretty different, just passing the old clubhouse and not heading in there," Maxwell said. "I had a great time with my teammates there in Houston. It was a special time."
The Astros traded Maxwell to the Royals before last season's Trade Deadline, but he has no ill will toward the organization. It's quite the opposite, in fact. Maxwell was a hugely popular player during his one and a half seasons in Houston, a sterling clubhouse guy who also connected well with community, which was desperately needed during the Astros' recent losing woes.
"Justin was a great presence here, just a quality human being," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "When we traded him, we knew were giving up a guy who could potentially help [Kansas City], and he did. It's always a pleasure to see a guy like that get any break he can, and we welcome him back."
Maxwell reconnected with friend and Houston catcher Jason Castro before the game and said he would catch up with the Baseball Chapel rep for the Astros, Kevin Edelbrock.
Despite only starting one game so far this season, Maxwell said he wouldn't trade the situation he's in with Kansas City, despite his affinity for the Astros. But the outfielder's also been a Major Leaguer long enough to appreciate how nice it is to feel at home during a road series.
"They took a shot on me after I had Tommy John surgery [in 2010] and had missed a season [in 2011]," he said. "That organization gave me my first extended starting chance in the big leagues. I'll always be thankful for that."
Power numbers an issue for the Royals so far
HOUSTON -- The truth about the Kansas City offense's true nature likely lies somewhere between what manager Ned Yost believes about its potential and the weak slugging numbers on display through 11 games.
"I don't really care about the power numbers," Yost said. "We've got guys who can hit home runs."
The Royals haven't backed their manager up, at least not yet, hitting just one home run in their first 356 at-bats and tallying only 111 total bases during that span. Entering Tuesday's game in Houston, Kansas City's .312 slugging percentage is last in the Majors by 21 points, and only two Royals -- Salvador Perez at .472 and Alex Gordon at .450 -- would crack the top 100 individually in the statistic.
Cleanup hitter and DH Billy Butler's slow start has been particularly noticeable, with the slugger failing to record an extra-base hit en route to a .154 slugging percentage in his first 11 games.
Despite power numbers traditionally being low during early April's chilly evenings, Gordon said there's no hiding from the lack of production.
"The weather, slow starts -- that's just excuses," he said. "We're just not hitting for power where we should be. You're aware of it, but you can't change your approach. The extra-base hits and home runs come by swinging for hits, not a specific kind of hit."
The Royals might meet their match for offensive futility in Houston, though. The Astros lost a pair of 1-0 games against Texas last weekend and are the only team with fewer hits this season than Kansas City.
Scores like that may not be uncommon for KC this season, because the power woes have translated to the scoreboard. Through two weeks of the season, the Royals are last in runs scored with 32.
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.