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Q&A: Kuntz talks eyes, transition to new post

Beloved former Royals first-base coach discusses moving to off-the-field position
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals fans were saddened last September when the news hit that Rusty Kuntz, perhaps one of the most popular Royals coaches in recent decades, decided to step down from his first-base coaching duties because of lingering vision issues resulting from cataract surgery.

Kuntz, 62, has a new role now as a special assistant to general manager Dayton Moore, and Mitch Maier will take over as first-base coach.

KANSAS CITY -- Royals fans were saddened last September when the news hit that Rusty Kuntz, perhaps one of the most popular Royals coaches in recent decades, decided to step down from his first-base coaching duties because of lingering vision issues resulting from cataract surgery.

Kuntz, 62, has a new role now as a special assistant to general manager Dayton Moore, and Mitch Maier will take over as first-base coach.

MLB.com chatted with Kuntz recently about his future:

MLB.com: First of all, Rusty, how are your eyes doing?

Kuntz: "Well, the issue isn't totally gone yet, but it is better than it was. The doctors say the magic word is 'patience.' That's another way of saying, 'How long can you go before going insane?' It'll eventually be fine. But it's still like looking through a water bottle. But there are times it actually seems like it has cleared up, so there's hope. At least I won't have to dodge 100-mph line drives from Mike Moustakas anymore."

MLB.com: What will your new job entail?

Kuntz: "Basically, I'll be roving between the big leagues, Triple-A and Double-A. I kind of did that triangle years ago and I really liked it, back when [Eric] Hosmer, Moose [Moustakas] and [Jarrod] Dyson were down there. When the big league team is in town, I'll be here. When they are out of town, I'll go to Double-A or Triple-A. It's going to focus more on the teaching of outfield play, baserunning. And I really enjoy the teaching aspect. I really miss that aspect. At the big league level, you're just focused on winning and losing."

MLB.com: Are you going to miss coaching in the big leagues?

Kuntz: "Uh ... no. I started in the big leagues in 1979. I remember a coach once telling me that at some point in your life, your body will tell you that you've had enough. Well, it's been almost 40 years and my body started telling me it was enough last summer. I can barely throw a baseball anymore. I can barely stand for the length of time you need. It's the grind of travel. It's getting in at somewhere at 3 a.m. and getting up at 10 or 11 and off to the park for a 12-hour day. It just never ends. It just takes its toll."

MLB.com: You've have plenty of teaching success stories, most notably Alex Gordon transitioning from third base to left field and getting five Gold Glove Awards. How proud are you of that?

Video: DET@KC: Statcast™ measures Gordon's five-star catch

Kuntz: "Like a proud papa. But it's probably one of the easiest jobs I've ever had. He was more than willing to learn and was a good student. He was not going to fail. He was always pushing himself to be the best. And he wouldn't allow you to patronize him. If you told him he was doing a good job and he knew he wasn't, he'd let you know. But he was always beating me to the ballpark, always beating me to the field. That was easy. Proud of Dyson and [Lorenzo] Cain, too. Those are guys who, when they got here, just assumed they could use their speed to outrun every ball. Then they realized that, 'Hey, I can't get to some of these balls.' That's when you're open to learning."

MLB.com: Getting back to a previous question, are you sure you won't miss coaching up here?

Kuntz: "Well, I will miss the fans and the interaction. Kansas City fans are the best. I will miss cutting it up with the fans behind the first-base dugout. That part was truly fun."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

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