Massey shines at hometown park, looks here to stay

Chicago native goes 2-for-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field, where he attended games as a kid

August 4th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The feeling hadn’t quite settled in for Michael Massey when he arrived at Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday morning.

It wasn’t the excitement of his Major League debut. That came in Toronto a few weeks ago, when he was a member of the Royals’ replacement players needed when 10 of their regulars couldn’t enter Canada. The experience was quick, just four games, but it was a good way to get the jitters out and give Massey comfort in Kansas City's clubhouse.

But on Wednesday afternoon? This was a homecoming.

The Palos Park, Ill., native grew up a White Sox fan and went to many games on the South Side of Chicago. The rookie was the Royals’ starting second baseman in the 4-1 series-deciding loss on the same field he used to dream of one day playing on.

“On the weekends, it was an easy 20- to 30-minute drive, get a $20 ticket and you’re watching a baseball game,” Massey said. “Came to hundreds of games here. Every time I drove by the stadium, driving on the Dan Ryan [Expressway], I envisioned being able to do what I’m doing today.”

What Massey did in the series finale was knock out two of the Royals’ four hits, both coming off veteran right-hander Lance Lynn. The one at-bat Massey didn’t reach base on was a popup in a lefty-on-lefty matchup against reliever Jake Diekman, but Massey still worked a six-pitch at-bat by fouling off a couple of nasty pitches.

He also helped turn some key double plays, backing starter Brady Singer -- who allowed four runs in six innings during a long day that included a one-hour, five-minute rain delay.

“He just keeps everything so simple,” said Bobby Witt Jr., who homered for the Royals’ lone run of the day. “He sticks to his approach, has a plan every at-bat. It’s fun to watch.”

And that is what Royals fans can expect Massey to do now that he’s with the big league club for the foreseeable future.

The club’s No. 21 prospect -- who is due for a significant jump in the rankings when MLB Pipeline’s midseason re-rank drops soon -- got a taste of the Majors in Toronto, proving that he belonged up here when he got another chance.

That came after Kansas City traded Whit Merrifield on Tuesday. Massey was the obvious choice for a replacement, mashing with Triple-A Omaha and continuing the steady production he’s given the Royals both offensively and defensively since they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft out of Illinois.

“I know a number of our guys, they can’t take away those days in Toronto, but they feel like there’s a little bit of an asterisk next to it,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We were looking forward to getting him back. What we see is very professional at-bats every time. I thought he did a nice job defensively, made some nice turns, better than I remember.”

Massey had about 60 of his friends and family rooting for him at the stadium on Wednesday, A few, including his older brother Andrew, were behind the Royals’ on-deck circle. Many more were behind Kansas City's dugout.

When Massey laced a fastball from Lynn into right field to lead off the third inning, the Massey delegation was loud and proud.

“I didn’t have to look too far,” Massey said. “I looked up there after the first hit. I could hear all of them cheering. It was cool.”

Massey took a moment before the series finale in Chicago to walk around in the outfield and take in the stadium he knows well. Those walks are a part of his routine, thanks to advice from Double-A assistant hitting coach Christian Colón.

“We’d go for a walk barefoot in the outfield, just to kind of settle down, make sure that I was focused,” Massey said. “It was something he did, especially on day games with the quick turnaround from the night game.

“It gives me 10 minutes outside the clubhouse, kind of to think to myself and get locked in.”

The White Sox memory that stands out most for Massey as a fan is from the 2005 World Series. The improbable happened in Game 2, when Scott Podsednik -- owner of zero home runs in the 568 plate appearances that came before the one in the ninth inning -- launched a walk-off blast against Astros closer Brad Lidge.

The 7-year-old Massey was glued to the television. Podsednik was his favorite player, a role model in wearing eye black under his eyes and his pants rolled high.

Seventeen years later, Massey wasn’t watching the Sox on TV. He was playing against them, taking his spot on the infield for the Royals. His pants were rolled high, his eye black painted on.

Now, it's likely that Massey will be here to stay.