Mellinger: Forty years later, Royals Academy lives on in memories

From Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star on August 2, 2014:

The truth is, if [Ewing Kauffman] knew more about baseball he may not have bought the Royals. This was back in the days before free agency. The Royals could add players through trades, but new teams never have much to trade. By definition, the expansion draft is full of players not good enough to be on other teams. Kauffman wanted to build a strong farm system, but he knew that would take years.

“What I didn’t realize when I bought this team,” he told a man named Bill Harrison, an eye doctor who would come to work for him, “is that I’d have 40 has-beens on the team. Guys nobody else wants. I have to find a better way.”

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, so Kauffman challenged his baseball people to come up with something else. Another way, aside from the draft, to build his team into a winner. They brainstormed, and while it’s probably not right to give any one man complete credit for the idea, many involved at the time go back to Syd Thrift, who was then in the scouting department.

The idea was simple but radical for a baseball establishment that liked its norms and customs. The Royals would go searching for young men who were long on athleticism but overlooked by baseball because of their raw skills. If you could gather together the country’s best athletes who weren’t playing professional basketball or football, surely there’d be a potential baseball star in there if given the right coaching.

Read more here:

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 6, 2014. Last Updated: August 6, 2014.