Rojas stays connected to Royals, evolving game

April 10th, 2018

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals Hall of Famer Cookie Rojas is fully aware the game of baseball has changed over the years. He knows it must continuously evolve.

But Rojas isn't sure too much change is a good thing.

"It's different, absolutely," said Rojas, 79. "So many rules changes. The National League used to be a fastball league and the American League was a curveball league. Now it's the same. We used to have AstroTurf everywhere. Now it's all changed, especially the rules.

Rojas' Royals Hall of Fame profile

"I just hope it doesn't change that much. It's a great game. Fans like it the way it is."

And so does Rojas, so much so that he still stays connected to the game and to the Royals even four decades after he last played with the team. Rojas, who was an All-Star second baseman for the Royals for four straight years starting in 1971, was one of several guest instructors invited by the club to spend a week advising the players during Spring Training.

"It's always nice to come back and talk to some of the old guys and also exchange ideas with some of the younger players," Rojas said. "And maybe you can give them some tips that make their career better."

Rojas then added, "Hey, it makes me younger, too, just talking to them."

Rojas also sees a change in the players themselves from the time he played, especially in the number of players swinging for the fences on every cut.

"Money has made a big difference," he said. "You get 40, 50, 60 home runs, and it's money. Of course, all the young players want to do that. I understand that.

Royals Hall of Fame

"But I think there are just too many strikeouts. I think that's a mistake to want home runs or nothing. You need to learn to be a complete hitter, hit the ball the other way.

"It's OK if you are ahead in the count 2-0 or 3-0 ,and you want to sit on a pitch and try to pull a home run. But other than that, I think it's better to get the ball in play and see what happens. You don't get on base with a strikeout -- it doesn't help anything."

And that is what Rojas tries to install in the minds of today's younger players: Play the game right and play the game with intelligence.

"We talk about everything about the fundamentals of the game," he said. "You have to separate the game, offensively and defensively, and if you're in the field, be aware who is up to bat and who is coming up to bat. All the little things.

"It's fun to try to get those messages across. I enjoy it all."