KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Dayton Moore had walked into the somber interview room on the first floor of Kauffman Stadium so many times over the years, presiding news conference to announce high-profile trades, discuss free-agent acquisitions, celebrate two American League pennants and a long-sought World Series championship.
This was different, though. This was to announce his firing as a front-office executive of the Kansas City Royals.
Yet it spoke volumes about the character of Moore, who grew up in Wichita and rooted for the Royals during their glory years in the 1970s and ‘80s, that he would show up at the ballpark at all. He wanted to see the players one more time, and the folks in the organization — some of whom he’d worked alongside for 16 years — and bid them all farewell.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished here,” Moore said during brief remarks, “and I’m really excited about the future.”
“I have so many people to thank, and I will have that opportunity,” Moore said, “and I look forward to thanking each and every one of you, and the many people in this organization and around baseball. And I will do that personally. I will take the time to do that. That’s important, because that’s what makes this game strong. What makes the game strong is believing in one another. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do.”
There weren’t very many believers when Moore first walked into Kauffman Stadium in 2006, taking over a moribund club with poor infrastructure, worse finances and no direction. Heading out to the ballpark meant an afternoon sitting in the sun, killing time on a lazy summer day, and knowing full well that the Royals were probably going to lose.
Moore had a vision, though. He began to invest in Latin America, establishing academies in the Dominican Republic before every club in the majors was doing it. He built out the scouting department, knowing that the financially strapped Royals would need to win with their own draft picks. And he instilled a professional culture that remains today.
It took nearly a decade before the fruits of his labor were realized.
The Royals won the American League pennant in 2014 with a stunning run as a wild-card team, where they ultimately lost to the San Francisco Giants with the tying run left stranded on third base in Game 7 of the World Series. And they repeated as league champs in 2015, when they finished the job by beating the New York Mets in five games for the title.
“When we won the World Series,” longtime Royals catcher Salvador Perez said Wednesday, “we gave the trophy to him, because we knew how hard he had worked to bring that back to Kansas City.”
The business of baseball can be cruel. Players are moved around as if they are cattle, and the same goes for managers and front-office executives. Every team that had won the World Series from 2012-18 had since changed their general manager or president of baseball operations but the Royals, who have now followed suit.
The Royals have had several poor drafts over the past decade, and players they thought would develop into stars in some cases fizzled out before they even made the big leagues. Their pitching development in particular has been disastrous, and the front office has been slow to adopt the advanced analytics utilized by successful teams elsewhere.
The result is another frustrating season — one that began with higher expectations — spent trying to avoid 100 losses.
“Baseball is a business,” Royals second baseman Nicky Lopez said, “but this one stings because of the type of person Dayton is. I know everyone in here has a different relationship with him, but for me, that’s what stings.”
“He’s a remarkable person. Very few like him in sports or anywhere else,” acknowledged Royals owner John Sherman, who kept him as general manager upon purchasing the club in 2019, then elevated him to president this past offseason. “I would just reiterate the gratitude I feel for Dayton, now only for what he did for this franchise but how he did it.”
That character was on display one last time Wednesday.
Moore quietly slipped out of that interview room following his brief remarks, then walked into the clubhouse and spoke to every person there: players, coaches, trainers and even the clubhouse attendants. Then, he walked to his car and departed Kauffman Stadium, but not before visiting with the parking lot attendants as well.