Legendary Royals scout Art Stewart -- the longest-tenured associate in the organization and the only scout inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame -- died peacefully on Thursday morning. He was 94 years old.
Stewart was an original Royal, having joined the organization in 1969 as a scout covering the Midwest. In 1984, he became the Royals’ scouting director, and he held the position until 1997, when he became a senior advisor to the general manager -- a role he had since.
Stewart’s professional baseball career is older than the Royals. In 1953, he became a territorial scout for the New York Yankees, and he was their Midwest scouting supervisor from 1958-69.
“Art was truly an extraordinary human being, whom we all loved and admired for many reasons,” Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore said in a statement. “His unmatched love and appreciation for the game of baseball, recollection of players and events, combined with his special ability to tell stories will be forever cherished by all.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Rosemary, daughter Dawn Mansfield along with her husband Brian and children, David and Mark, as they mourn the passing of this very special man who meant so much to them and to our Royals family.”
From the time he was born on Feb. 6, 1927, in Chicago, Stewart seemed to be destined for a career in baseball. Feb. 6 was Babe Ruth’s birthday, and 1927 was the year Ruth hit 60 home runs, a record that would stand for 34 years.
By the time Ruth’s record was broken in 1961, Stewart was well on his way to making a name for himself in the scouting world.
Now there isn’t a scout in baseball he hasn’t impacted in some way.
“He drafted me in 1985," said Deric Ladnier, who served as the Royals' scouting director from 2000-09 and was also drafted by the organization. "I thought what an honor it was to go back there as scouting director and work with the man who started my career and watch and learn from someone who was so successful for so long.
“He was a wonderful human being. You could have fun with him. He was serious when he needed to be serious. His knowledge of players was a databank that was an incredible resource for me as scouting director. He wasn’t going to let me fail.”
Stewart has had a hand in just about every Royals’ Draft pick since the organization began. He was the scouting director who dialed the number for the Draft headquarters in 1986 and submitted the pick in the fourth round: Bo Jackson. Jackson and Stewart carried on their friendship long past Jackson’s playing days.
Stewart drafted Carlos Beltrán, as well as Royals Hall of Famers Kevin Appier and Mike Sweeney.
Until the past two years, when Stewart’s health and the pandemic restricted him from coming to the ballpark as often as he wanted, Kansas City had never conducted an MLB Draft without some input from Stewart, whether he was making the final selection -- as had become tradition -- or running the whole thing.
One of those final selections came in 2006, when Stewart selected an outfielder named Jarrod Dyson, who turned out to be the best 50th-round pick in baseball history. Stewart watched nearby as Dyson’s speed helped deliver the Royals two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series title.
“He had so many impactful Drafts, impactful hires,” Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said. “The thing that stands out the most about him is his passion and love for the game are unmatched. Always full of energy, great way of telling stories, was able to do it from generation to generation.
“You’re not going to meet anyone like him ever again.”
There is a classic Stewart story several people tell from shortly after the Royals won the 2015 World Series. Stewart was thrilled to win his second ring with Kansas City, but as he was celebrating, he was eager to get down to Arizona and start scouting the Fall League.
That was Stewart.
“Every day, he woke up to get to the ballpark,” Picollo said. “That passion, that energy, you marvel at it. As much as we love the game and have passion for it, there are days that you’re like, ‘OK, I got to get going.’ He didn’t have to worry about that. He was always going.”
Stewart’s life was filled with baseball stories. And he loved to tell them to whomever would listen. Those who knew him have stories Stewart told them about a game he watched or player he scouted, whether it was a Yankees player from the ‘50s or a more recent amateur player. He was always looking for talent, always with notes on hand about the player. The job brought him all over the world -- coast to coast and cities to farmland, with stories about some of the most prominent people in baseball history.
“His memory going back to players and what they did -- I’m talking years later -- was tremendous,” Picollo said. “He could recall who he saw, when he saw them and what they looked like. The stories he tells about his scouting adventures are really fun to listen to. He had that gift.”
Stewart was an ever-present marvel in baseball circles and a mainstay around the Royals’ front office and Spring Training until the last few years. Even then, his presence was felt through the baseball-operations officials, scouts, coaches, players and support staff around the Royals’ facility in Surprise, Ariz. In 2008, the Royals honored Stewart by renaming the Surprise observation tower overlooking four fields, the Art Stewart Tower.
“He taught us a lot of things,” Picollo said. “The importance of understanding the teams that are selecting around you and what they’re looking for to try to line up or anticipate who you might be getting. He was a master at getting information and understanding how it could impact our Draft. The way he listened to scouts, his selections were about collectively what the room thought.
“There was, no pun intended, an art to what he did.”
Stewart played a major role in the origination of the Royals' Dominican program, helping the club start the Salcedo Academy in the Dominican Republic. He was recognized in 1998 when the former Royals Academy building was named in his honor.
Throughout 68 years in baseball, Stewart has received numerous awards. In 1970 and 1983, he received the Ewing M. Kauffman Scouting Award, as well as the Long Meritorious Service to Baseball Award from colleagues and the Topps Company in 1998. He received the Bing Devine Executive of the Year Award at the second St. Louis Major League Scouts Hall of Fame Banquet in 1998, and he was named “Mister Baseball” at the 29th Kansas City Royals Awards Banquet in January 1999.
In 2008, Stewart received the Midwest Scout of the Year Award from the Scout of the Year Foundation. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Springfield, Mo., and he also received the Legends in Scouting Award in Los Angeles at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation’s annual dinner.