The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

July 25, 2013

Patek had his doubts about Brett as a rookie

Royals all-star shortstop says fans should be patient with Hosmer, Moustakas

If it had been up to Fred Patek, Kansas City Royals fans may have never witnessed the greatness of George Brett.

Patek was already an All-Star shortstop by the time Brett broke into the majors with the Royals in 1973, and the veteran middle infielder had his doubts whether the 20-year-old rookie would make it.

“I was looking at him and I was thinking he didn’t belong in the big leagues,” Patek said.

Brett hit .125 over 13 games in 1973. In his first full season in 1974, Brett hit a respectable .282 but had an on-base percentage of .313 and displayed little power with only two homers and 47 RBI.

However, Brett improved over time. He led the American League in hits (195) and triples (13) in 1975. He hit a league-best .333 in 1976, appearing in his first of 13 consecutive All-Star games. In 1977, the power came with his first of eight 20-plus home run seasons.

By the time Brett retired in 1993, he led the Royals franchise in almost every offensive category and is on the short list of considerations for best third baseman of all time.

“George was pretty much a handful when he first came up,” Patek said. “He wasn’t really sure of himself, and he really wasn’t hitting very good. His third base defense was a little suspect. But he’s the type of guy who worked hard at his craft, and he made himself into a baseball hall of famer. It was fun watching him develop and to see what he became.”

Patek, a three-time all-star who played in Kansas City from 1971-79, was at Joe Becker Stadium on Thursday to coach first base for Blue Springs Post 499/FIKE in the American Legion AA state tournament.

His story about Brett reveals a lesson in patience, which Patek said Royals fans should apply to such young players as first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas.

 “I think Hosmer is beginning to turn it around,” Patek said. “And people need to understand that it takes some players four or five years before they get in to the flow of things. You have to be patient with them. I still think Moustakas is going to be an excellent player. I think he’s going to hit. I just think it’s going to take a little more time.”

Brett stepped down Thursday as Kansas City’s interim hitting coach, but he and Pedro Grifol have already appeared to make strides with the young corner infielders. Entering Friday’s meeting with the Baltimore Orioles, Hosmer had hit .309 with 11 doubles and 10 homers in the 48 games since Brett and Grifol became Kansas City’s hitting instructors. Moustakas, who not long ago was hitting in the .170s, entered Friday’s game with a .225 batting average.

“He’s obviously done a good job,” Patek said. “George is the type of guy who has a lot of character and he’s going to give you 110 percent no matter what it is. Once he was hired and got his feet wet, I think George has done a great job and it’s beginning to show and pay off for them.

“If I had to guess (why Brett’s stepping down) it’s that Pedro has done a good job, and he probably felt like he’s done everything he could. George has so much going on his life. I kind of thought he might stay on until the end of the year, but Pedro is a good hitting instructor so that’s why I think he probably turned the reins over.”

Patek, who retired in 1981 after 14 years in the majors, still lives in the Kansas City area. He said he has been coaching his grandson, Jackson Rehkow, for about five years, but it is his first year coaching the Blue Springs Legion team.

“My grandson’s not on the team, but he’s got a chance to make the team this fall,” Patek said. “I wanted to come and get a jump on things a year in advance and see how things were at this level. I wasn’t sure how I would react to 15- and 16-year-olds. But I’ll tell you what, it’s been very good for me and I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”

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