'Thankful' Hosmer soaks in Kauffman homecoming

August 5th, 2022

KANSAS CITY -- As he circled around Kansas City in the plane that was delivering him as a member of the Red Sox, Eric Hosmer couldn’t help but feel he was in a time machine, going back to the city that first made him a ballplayer.

For the first time since he left the Royals in 2017 as a free agent, Hosmer returned to Kauffman Stadium on Thursday night, not with the Padres as was scheduled later this month, but with the Red Sox after the Trade Deadline sent the 32-year-old to the opposite coast.

His first stop in Boston gear was in Kansas City to play against the team that drafted him No. 3 overall in 2008 and developed him into a top prospect and anchor of a team that won two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be back to see some familiar faces around here,” Hosmer said before Thursday’s series-opener. “There are just so many special moments here. Certain things stick out, like when we lost [the World Series] in 2014, and we were all sitting in the dugout after the game and heard all the fans cheer, ‘Let’s go Royals.’ Just showing you how much they supported us and how much they had our backs.

“And then to turn around the next year and win it all, just created a special bond through the team and community.”

The reunion video the Royals had planned for Hosmer’s return with the Padres -- the team he signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with when he left Kansas City -- was accelerated when San Diego sent Hosmer to Boston at the Trade Deadline on Tuesday. But about 10 minutes before first pitch Thursday, the Royals played a Hosmer montage on the Crown Vision scoreboard, complete with all his postseason success.

Royals fans at The K gave him a standing ovation as he tipped his cap to thank the crowd.

Hosmer spent seven years with Kansas City, was an All-Star and four-time Gold Glover and a leader as first baseman and in the clubhouse.

There were several front office executives ready to greet Hosmer when he got to Kauffman Stadium, and he visited with Royals catcher Salvador Perez -- the only member of that 2015 team still on the roster -- in the afternoon.

“It seems just like yesterday that we were drafting him and signing him and welcoming him to Kansas City,” president of baseball operations Dayton Moore said. “His arrival to the Major Leagues, we called it, ‘Operation Flip the Switch.’ It was just a very significant moment in the history of our franchise. The beginning of a new era, and the growth of a player and a team that ultimately won the World Series.”

On May 6, 2011, Hosmer debuted for the Royals. The hype was real for the bevvy of prospects in the Royals’ system, and the organization was ready to unleash them to the Majors. On that Friday in May, as the Royals prepared to face the A’s, Hosmer arrived at Kauffman Stadium, sliding in the lineup between Jeff Francoeur and Wilson Betemit and playing first base.

The night kicked off a summer of callups and debuts. There would be more losing to come that year, but the team’s vision for success was coming into focus. It started with Hosmer not only because of his talent, but because of his natural leadership.

This was something that Moore had hoped would play out, thinking back to the first time he saw Hosmer play at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla.

“The way he carried himself and to watch his teammates gravitate toward him was truly unique,” Moore said. “He was the man on the field. And everybody knew it. But the unique thing about Eric Hosmer. … I noticed how everybody gravitated toward him, but he treated everybody else like they were the star. We all knew he was the star on the field, but he treated everybody else like they were the star. That was a very important moment for me, as we began to narrow down who we were ultimately wanting to select.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

“I just know how wonderful it was to play here, how wonderful it was to be developed in this organization with Dayton and his staff,” Hosmer said. “That’s something I look back on now, and I’m extremely thankful for not only the baseball aspect of it, but just growing up and maturing as a man.”