The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 4, 2012

Mike Pound: Area man gets chance to help K.C. and Royals shine

— When I called Larry Miller on Tuesday afternoon, he politely asked if I could wait a second.

“I’m just sending an email to my boss to find out what time I need to come in to work tomorrow,” he said.

A minute later when he came back on the phone, I asked him a question.

“So you have to work on the Fourth of July?”

“Yeah, but that’s not a problem,” Larry said. “I told Trevor that I would work any time, anyplace, and come in at any hour. I said I would put the tarp on in the middle of the night. I wanted to show him that I had the desire for the job.”

The job Larry wanted was as a member of the Kansas City Royals’ grounds crew. Larry spent more than 26 years working at Pittsburg State University, and for most of those years, he was the head of the school’s grounds crew. Larry was good at his job and, perhaps more importantly, loved what he did.

But earlier this year, Larry was told that Pitt State no longer needed his services, and for the first time in his adult life, he was unemployed.

Tam, Larry’s wife, suggested that he call Trevor Vance, the head of the Royals’ grounds crew. Larry had met him the previous summer when, as the result of being the highest bidder at an auction, Larry got to spend a day working with the baseball team’s crew.

After a quick conversation with Trevor, Larry was officially a member of the Royals’ crew. I wrote about Larry shortly before the baseball season began, and Tam has been kind enough to keep me updated since then.

Tam called Tuesday and left a message on my phone telling me that Larry was home for a day catching a quick break before shifting into high gear with the Royals, and I gave him a call.

I figured that things might be heating up (no pun intended) around Kauffman Stadium with the major league All-Star Game coming to Kansas City next week. Larry told me that I figured correctly.

“Oh, there is pressure for everyone,” he said. “It has sort of been building like a big dome, and it creates pressure all the way down. But, still, it’s been enjoyable.”

Larry said the pressure brought on by the All-Star Game is a good kind of pressure. It’s the sort of pressure created when everyone is working for the same thing — in this case, making sure Kansas City and the Royals create the best impression possible for the rest of the world.

I asked Larry if he might be tempted during batting practice for the All-Star Game to pick up a baseball and toss it to a guy such as Derek Jeter and say, “Would you please sign this?”

Larry laughed and told me that protocol discourages that sort of thing. That’s not to say that there isn’t interaction between grounds crew members and ballplayers. But most of the time, it’s initiated by the players, he said.

“Most of the guys I work with have been with the team for 10 or 20 years, so they have gotten to know a lot of the players,” he said.

Larry doesn’t know yet what his role will be during All-Star festivities; that announcement will come in the next few days.

“That will be a drumroll moment,” he said.

Regardless of his job assignment, Larry said he’s looking forward to the next few days.

“I’m just thrilled to be that close to something so big and to play a small part in such a huge event — to be able to say, ‘I was a part of that,’” he said.

Larry said the neat thing about working for the Royals is that everyone within the organization feels the same way.

“The Kansas City theme for the All-Star Game is ‘It’s our time,’” Larry said. “And in a neat way, that’s how it has worked out for me. It’s my time.”

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