The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 24, 2013

BLOG: Leftovers from the Royals Caravan

By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer

ROLLA, Mo. — Broadcaster Steve Physioc said the Kansas City Royals expected color analyst Rex Hudler to be criticized early in the season. However, Physioc also said the Royals were confident fans would learn to grow fond of his sometimes “over the top” colleague.

The chances for criticism seemed high. Hudler was a 10-year MLB veteran with no connection to the Royals. Plus, he was taking over for a Kansas City legend in former second baseman Frank White, who just went through a public break-up with the organization.

“We knew this would happen, because Rex was so different than Frank White,” Physioc said Monday while attending the Royals Caravan at Northpark Mall’s Vintage Stock. “Frank is rather laid back and not as excitable as Rex. And Rex comes in and he can be over the top, because he’s so passionate about the game of baseball. A lot of people don’t realize that he’s one of the last players to have spent 10 years in the minor leagues and 10 years in the major leagues. That’s remarkable.”

Early on, fans were perplexed by Hudler’s unique calls, such as referring to two RBI as “a couple of steaks,” or saying “call the cops” after a good play. But Physioc said that by the end of the season, fans were starting to warm up to Hudler’s antics.

“His passion comes out,” Physioc said. “And I knew even when he was getting criticism at the beginning of the season that the same people would love him at the end. I had people coming up to me at the end of the year saying, ‘I hated the guy in the beginning, but now I love him.’ Because he is genuinely in love with the game.”

Physioc said he could tell Hudler had a future in the business even as a player.

“It was 1996, and it was my first year with the Angels organization,” Physioc said. “Rex was still a player. They had a nine-game losing streak, and we’re going into Yankee Stadium. The team was really playing poorly. We don’t know what we’re going to do in the open. So I said, ‘let’s get Rex Hudler. He’s always in a good mood.’ We get Rex and I asked him the question, ‘you’ve experienced slumps in three different countries — the United States, Canada and Japan. How do you get out of it?’ His explanation of how you get out of a slump in Canada, America and Japan was hilarious. This guy gave us one of our best opens. It was a fun broadcast. Rex had a couple hits that day.”

Physioc and Hudler later worked together on Angels broadcasts and then reunited this past season in Kansas City. Physioc said he is exciting about working another season with Hudler.

“To sit with him in the booth, I’ve told people that once a game Rex will say something that no other broadcaster will say,” Physioc said. “Sometimes it’s goofy, sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s poignant. But it’s always passionate, and that’s what I really love about him.”



OTHER LEFTOVERS FROM THE ROYALS CARAVAN ON MONDAY IN JOPLIN:

Broadcaster Steve Physioc on joining the Royals after growing up as a fan of the team:

“It was fantastic, because Ryan Lefebvre and I have been fans for a long time and my mentor growing up was Fred White. Being a Royals fan as a child growing up, then leaving the city and going out and broadcasting Major League Baseball whether it was for the Reds, ESPN, the Angels or the Giants, there was always a part in my heart that loved the Royals. They were always the first team I looked at in the box scores in the newspaper wherever I was to see how my Kansas City team did. When the opportunity came up, it was perfect. Joining my Angels partner Rex Hudler was icing on the cake.”



Physioc on the Royals’ offseason moves to add pitching:

“It wasn’t but two weeks after the season ended that they made the trade for Ervin Santana. I thought, ‘well, that’s a nice move.’ Then about a month later, they require Jeremy Guthrie who was fantastic the last two months of the season. And I thought, ‘we’re done. I like the rotation. It looks like we have six starting pitchers vying for five spots.’ Then they make the trade and require one of the best right-handed pitchers in the game in James Shields and Wade Davis. Now you have eight legitimate guys competing for five spots.”



Physioc on the excitement in Kansas City:

“In the city I’m seeing more Royals fans. I’m seeing more Royals T-shirts. At the FanFest the other day, they had almost 10,000 people. There is a buzz about Kansas City baseball. Right now, I think they are the second best team in the AL Central with Detroit being the best. I still think Detroit is the team to beat.”



Royals Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Leonard on Kansas City’s offseason moves:

“The fans we’re crying that they needed to upgrade the starting pitching, and they did. So it’s going to be an interesting year. If all these guys can live up to expectations and some go beyond, it could be a pretty good year in Kansas City.”



Leonard on Royals pitcher Danny Duffy’s shoulder injury and recovery:

“Duffy was a tough blow not only for the organization but for him. That’s not something you expect out of somebody that young. Just talking to him on this Caravan, I know how hard he’s been working to get back. When you look at some of these younger pitchers, it will give the organization a little more time to make sure they’re ready when they get up there. Anybody with an injury, you don’t want to rush them back before they’re ready.”



Leonard on how Kansas City’s veteran pitchers will allow the organization not to rush its young pitchers:

“When I played, when we got to the big leagues we were ready to pitch. We weren’t taught a lot in the big leagues. We were taught in the minor leagues. “



Royals pitcher Danny Duffy on his recovery from Tommy John surgery:

“I’m feeling great. I have no soreness whatsoever. I feel like I’m ahead of schedule, but that’s up to the team to decide.”



Duffy on how the Royals’ pitching acquisitions will affect his status with the team:

“I can’t worry about stuff that I can’t control. The only thing when you’re a pitcher that you can control is the what you throw the next pitch and how well you execute it. When you think about it like that, you can’t really have any worries.”



Duffy on training to get back to full strength:

“I’m throwing twice a week. I’m working out four times a week. I run every day. It’s pretty standard. My rehab is over. I’ve spent enough time rehabbing.”



Duffy on the players’ expectations:                        

“We’re all ecstatic. We have everything we need. If you look at our staff from the beginning of last year to going into spring training this year, it’s just a huge difference.”



Duffy on the trade and the loss of minor leaguers Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi:

“It gives us time to come back and rehab. It gives the team a chance to be patient with us. I think it’s just a great set up for all of us. You hate to see guys like Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery go — those are my guys. Those are some of my boys. Monty and I are twins. We’re goofy as heck. But it’s a great situation for them as well as us. And when you get somebody good, you have to give up some good things. That’s just the name of the game ... I’m really excited. They’re going to be patient with me, but when I come back I’m going to be ready.”



Royals pitcher Bruce Chen on making China’s provisional roster for the World Baseball Classic:

“I made that provisional roster. It will be an honor to be able to represent my grandparents, and I will be honored to represent the Kansas City Royals. I will be the first major league player to ever pitch for China. I also will be representing Panama, because I’ll be the only Panamanian in the World Baseball Classic.”



Chen on how he’s approaching his competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation:

“I’m aware of the situation. I’m aware that there’s going to be a lot of competition and that I haven’t been given anything for sure ... I’m going to keep working very hard to help this team win. I’m just trying to get better and see it in a way that this is a challenge to help me be a much better pitcher.”



Chen on the difference from being a No. 5 pitcher from being a No. 1:

“Being a No. 5 is a lot different position, but my goal is not to take it easy or be in the fifth spot. I want to help this team win any way I can. Even though you’re No. 5, sometimes you’re facing a No. 1. Sometimes you face Justin Verlander, sometimes you face Jake Peavy. You face different guys. That’s when the team really needs you. If you’re the No. 5 guy can beat their No. 1 guy, that’s huge for the team.”



Royals pitcher Will Smith on the trades for more starting pitching:

“I was really excited. We upgraded our staff to where we feel like when we put a pitcher out every fifth day, we have a real good chance to win a ball game.”



Smith on how he grew in his rookie season with the Royals:

“When I first got there, I was a little overwhelmed with how big the stadiums are and how fast the game moves. But after a while, I started believing in myself and knowing I could do it. I started talking with Bruce (Chen) a lot. He took me under his wing and helped me out. By the end of the season, I was real confident every time I took the mound.”



Smith on the difference between minor league hitters and major league hitters:

“Just their discipline. They go up there with an approach, a plan. They’re going to attack it, no matter what you throw them. They’re experienced. They’re strong, faster. Overall, they’re just way better.”



Smith on the veteran presence of starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie:

“He’s just an older, wise guy. He’s been there, done that. He helped me out as well. He’s a good teammate. He’s knowledgeable, smart, well-spoken. He’s a good guy to follow around and sponge up what he has to say.”



Smith on learning from fellow left-hander Bruce Chen:

“I’ve probably learned the most from Bruce. Being left-handed, I just kind of went straight toward him. He’s a nice veteran. He gives us our hard times being a rookie as he’s allowed to. But at the end of the day, he’s a good teammate. I enjoy being around him on and off the field.”