Royals coach Kuntz will be advisor this season

July 3rd, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Royals first-base coach and fan favorite Rusty Kuntz will not be coaching on the field this season because of COVID-19 concerns, Royals general manager Dayton Moore told on Friday.

Kuntz, 65, returned to the Major League staff last fall after hitting it off with new manager Mike Matheny while the two served in advisory roles with the Royals in 2018. Kuntz had left the coaching staff late in the '17 season because of eye issues.

“After consulting with [trainer Nick Kenney] and with Rusty,” Moore said, “and considering the risk factor of his age group, we provided the option for Rusty to assume another role in the organization for 2020. After discussions with his family, Rusty decided that another role would be best for him. It was best for him to stay back in Kansas City rather than travel.”

Kuntz will be replaced on the staff by Damon Hollins, who was going to be an organizational coordinator for outfield and baserunning.

Kuntz will remain as an advisor to Moore and Matheny.

“Travel was the big concern with Rusty,” Moore said. “He’ll be watching games from a safe and secure place, probably my suite.

“We’re committed to playing and making every adjustment we have to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our organization.”

Through a Royals media relations official, Kuntz declined to talk about his decision, other than to say it was the right choice for him and his family. Kuntz also has told the club he intends to return to the field to coach in 2021 provided conditions surrounding the pandemic improve.

Kuntz and Matheny became well acquainted in the summer of 2019 as they often intersected while traveling and observing Minor League affiliates.

“I got to spend the summer with Mike, and he’s just a great guy, just wonderful to be around,” Kuntz told in the fall. “He’s a smart baseball guy. Everywhere we went, to our affiliates, players just gravitated toward him. He has all kinds of positive energy. And he’s just a baseball guy.

“I kept kind of looking for a crack in that personality, and it was never there.”

Kuntz’s eye issues that forced him to leave the 2017 season in September were resolved last year. And when first-base coach Mitch Maier was promoted to the front office last fall, Matheny and Moore asked Kuntz to return to coaching first base.

“Once Mitch got the opportunity to move to the front office, that created a void,” Kuntz said. “Mike came to me and asked me if I would be interested, and the more I thought about it, I thought it would be great working on that staff with Vance [Wilson] and LC [Larry Carter] and Pedro [Grifol]. The time was right to come back.”

Kuntz is regarded throughout the industry as an outfielder guru, helping transform Alex Gordon from a third baseman to a seven-time American League Gold Glove Award winner in left. Kuntz also helped elevate Lorenzo Cain into one of the top defensive center fielders in baseball.

Kuntz will still work with players, from a distance or by Zoom, in his new role.