Longtime C gets the 'C': Salvy named 4th Royals captain

Perez first to earn the honor for KC since Mike Sweeney in 2003

March 31st, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- On March 31, 2003, Mike Sweeney took a seat at his locker in the Royals’ clubhouse, a few hours before the Opening Day ceremonies. The team gathered for a meeting, and George Brett walked through the door to give Sweeney a jersey with a “C” on its chest, naming Sweeney the Royals’ captain.

Twenty years later, Sweeney walked through the door of the clubhouse with a jersey in his hand. It was early Thursday afternoon, about two hours before the Royals’ 2-0 Opening Day loss to the Twins at Kauffman Stadium. The team was gathered for a meeting, most unsure of the topic.

But many were left in awe after Sweeney, Brett and Frank White handed the newest Royals captain his “C.”

was named the fourth captain in Royals history on Thursday, joining Sweeney (2003-07), Brett (1989-93) and White (1989-90) as the only players to wear a “C” on their chest in the Royals’ 55-year history.

“The day George handed me that jersey was one of the most emotional, joyous days of my career,” Sweeney said. “Now, it’s exciting to collectively pass the torch to the next generation in front of his peers. To see Salvy, who’s become the face and heart of our team over the last 13 years, have tears in his eyes as he accepted it, just affirms the title.”

It’s been 15 years since the Royals have had a captain, and for some, naming Perez was long overdue. The 32-year-old catcher is a seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner, four-time Silver Slugger winner and two-time Royals Les Milgram Player of the Year. He was unanimously named the MVP of the 2015 World Series, becoming the seventh catcher to earn the honor and first since Toronto’s Pat Borders in 1992. Perez enters the 2023 season among the Royals' all-time leaders in home runs (223, second), RBIs (732, seventh), extra-base hits (470, seventh), total bases (2,202, eighth), doubles (236, ninth) and hits (1,275, eighth).

“It’s an honor to be the captain of the Kansas City Royals,” Perez said. “I know we lost, but it’s a special day. George Brett, Frank White, Mike Sweeney, the way they played the game, the way they taught us to play the game, have passion for the game, it’s something I want to follow.”

Perez prepared remarks for the meeting, thanking his family, the Royals and his team. Then his teammates gave him a nearly minute-long standing ovation in the clubhouse.

“You could tell how much it meant to him, because he took a little bit of a breather before he delivered the speech,” Nicky Lopez said. “He touched everyone.”

“No one is more deserving than him,” Bobby Witt Jr. added. “It’s really cool to see him represent the ‘C.’”

Making his ninth Opening Day start at catcher on Thursday, Perez knocked the first of the Royals’ two total hits, their fewest on Opening Day in franchise history. The Royals loaded the bases in the fifth, but MJ Melendez grounded into a double play. The Twins then scored the only two runs of the game in the top of the sixth.

This past offseason, Sweeney brought the idea of naming Perez captain to general manager J.J. Picollo and Royals executives.

“Given the years that Salvy’s been in the organization, what he means to our organization, the people that wore the ‘C’ prior to this are pretty special people to the organization,” Picollo said. “You have to have leadership qualities, you have to be a tough competitor, great teammate. You have to have some track record. Being a great player is a part of it.

“If you’re going to have somebody wear the 'C,' they have to have met those standards, and Salvy exceeds them.”

All three previous captains are in the Royals Hall of Fame, and Brett is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Perez is on that track. So is his batterymate on Thursday, starter Zack Greinke, who kicked off his 20th Major League season with two runs allowed in 5 1/3 innings. What Greinke will remember, though, is the pregame meeting.

“That was special enough that I think I’ll remember it 20 years from now,” Greinke said.

The Royals kicked off the 2023 season with plenty of newness, headlined by first-year manager Matt Quatraro and the new coaches around him. This season is about the young stars and the Royals developing -- and figuring out what they have in -- that young talent for the future.

But by naming Perez their captain, the Royals are saying there is no one better to guide those young stars.

“They all treated me like a captain before,” Perez said with a grin. “But now, it’s different. They see the ‘C.’”