Quick on feet and to speak, Dyson helping Royals zoom
Outfielder's speed proving to be weapon for KC on scorching World Series run
KANSAS CITY -- Reporters digging for even a controversial quote during the American League Championship Series didn't have to look very far in the Royals' clubhouse. Jarrod Dyson obliged by declaring the Orioles were finished and the series wouldn't return to Baltimore.
Dyson might have ruffled some of the Orioles' feathers, but he was right.
"I'm not afraid to say what I think. I'd rather take the heat than have any one of the other guys in here taking it," Dyson said. "I speak out basically because of the confidence I see in here. I feel like we're a great team, we work so hard and I know what we're capable of doing and the way we've been playing, there just [isn't] doubt in my mind, we're going to get the job done."
Dyson has certainly gotten the job done for the Royals this season, primarily as the fourth outfielder, although he did start 66 games. He hit .269, scored 33 runs, knocked in 24 and swiped 36 bases to lead the Majors' top team in stolen bases (153).
Dyson has been enjoying the rash of World Series fever that has swept through Kansas City. On Friday night, during a Miami Heat-Golden State Warriors exhibition at the Sprint Center, he and teammate Jeremy Guthrie were invited to demonstrate their basketball skills in a shootout. The crowd loved it.
"He made every shot and I made two dunks, and that was it," said the 5-foot-10 Dyson. "I got the T-shirt, so I guess pumped the crowd up with my dunks.
"It was nice. I loved being out there with the crowd and seeing their reaction toward us. I've never been a part of anything like it, and I'll never forget it."
Dyson, in the last three seasons, increasingly has become more important as a Royals pinch-runner, basestealer and defensive replacement.
"Speed and athleticism, that's what he does," manager Ned Yost said. "He's a 50th-round Draft choice that's made it to the big leagues and is now playing in the World Series. And there's a reason for it. He's tremendously athletic, and he's got something that very few players have, and that's speed."
Yost often has noted that speed guys like Dyson take longer to develop, because they have to accept that they're different than most players and they must sharpen a skill set that involves slapping the ball on the ground and bunting. Indeed, it took Dyson a while.
"I loved hitting home runs, though. Home runs feel better than anything I think except probably for robbing one," Dyson said. "I had to kind of get away from hitting fly balls and all that. After so many struggles, you tend to find yourself -- what type of hitter you are and what type of player you are, and that's what I've learned to do."
As the second half unfolded, Dyson became a late-inning replacement for Nori Aoki by taking over center field while Lorenzo Cain slid over to Aoki's spot in right. It strengthened an already tight outfield.
"Another thing going for Dyson, too, is he's totally, totally fearless," Yost said. "He's tough as nails, he's not afraid of [anything]."
Perhaps that stems from an early childhood in "the Bricks," the projects in McComb, Miss.
"I never forget those days that we had struggles," Dyson said. "My mom was a strong woman, making ends meet for us kids to survive. She deserves all the credit, all the thanks. It was an uphill battle. I was around a bad neighborhood, but you put your mind together and things'll happen. My mom was able to move us into a decent home and a better neighborhood. We kind of like took off from there; who knows where I would be if I'd have stayed in the projects?"
It was just happenstance that Dyson ended up with the Royals. During the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, they were down to their 50th and last pick, and there were three or four portfolios of players lying on the desk. Senior advisor Art Stewart took a look and an "80" score, a scout's highest, on speed jumped out at him. With that, Stewart announced Dyson's name, and Dyson has been in the organization since.
"No one ever expected me to be here. It's just a lot of hard work and dedication I put in," Dyson said. "This staff did a great job of keeping me around and letting me showcase my ability. I thank them a lot for that, because I couldn't be here without them."
In recognition of his speedy nature, Dyson had his barber carve a lightning bolt on one side of his head and chisel the word ZOOM on the other. And, of course, he also talks a blue streak.
Now 30 years old, Dyson's goal is to be an everyday player.
"Next year, I hope I'm there -- I mean, I'm tired of backing up," he said. "… I need to see what I can do with 600 at-bats or something. I think I can do something special."
And how's this World Series going to turn out? Nothing even remotely rash came out of Dyson's mouth.
"I'm making no predictions right now," he said. "We're taking it one game at a time. That's a prediction."