• Bill Althaus: Brett faces toughest challenge

  • No. 5 was back in familiar territory Tuesday afternoon as the Kansas City Royals began a lengthy home stand with a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins.

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  • No. 5 was back in familiar territory Tuesday afternoon as the Kansas City Royals began a lengthy home stand with a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins.
    Hall of Famer George Brett, whose No. 5 is retired, was back on the field serving as the Royals’ new hitting instructor in his first home series. He accepted the job last Thursday when the team was in St. Louis.
    And he has his work cut out as the leading hitter on the team is a pitcher and Brett's heir apparent at third base is well under the Mendoza Line.
    When asked if his new coaching gig ignited his competitive fire, an animated Brett jumped on his soap box and went to town.
    “You bet it did,” he said, “Big time. I'm a competitive guy and I was lucky enough to play on Royals teams that had the opportunity to win every time they stepped on the field. These guys lost 10 in a row at home and 18 of 22 at one time, but I'm 2-2 since last Thursday and I've seen some good things.”
    While James Shields, a starting pitcher, leads the team with a .333 average – one hit in three at bats – Brett is more concerned that all-star Billy Butler is hitting just .254, slugging first baseman Eric Hosmer has one home run and third baseman Mike Moustakas is hitting an eye-opening .186.
    “These guys don't want to go to the plate, look up on the scoreboard and see their average or lack of production,” said Brett, who had just left a clubhouse meeting with the Royals offensive players. “I can talk all day, but they're the ones who have go out and get it done. You know that old expression, 'Easier said than done?' Well, when I was playing it was easier to do than say. But I know these guys are willing to work hard and I'm excited about the challenge.”
    It's a challenge that has consumed the greatest player in the history of the team. He went on to talk about his daily 8 a.m. walks with his dog.
    “A month ago, I'm on my morning walk with my dog and I'm thinking about playing golf and now, I'm thinking about Moustakas' batting average and how to help Hosmer with his power game,” Brett said. "When I talk to the guys, they seem to be paying attention. I mean today, you could have heard a pin drop.”
    Brett brings a passion to the game he dominated for two decades, winning three batting titles and cracking 3,154 hits. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
    “He's a special individual,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said as he watched Brett interact with the players before batting practice began. “We're excited about what he brings to the team.”
    Page 2 of 2 - But is he a miracle worker?
    “I was talking to Clint Hurdle (a former Brett teammate who has gone on to become a successful major league coach and manager) the other day and he said, ‘George, you know what made you such a great player? You practiced harder than any other player I've ever seen. When you work so hard in practice, it makes the game seem easy.’”
    That's an approach Brett wants to take with his struggling players.
    “I never even knew I was working hard or that anyone was noticing it,” Brett said. “I worked hard in batting practice. I worked on my fundamentals, I worked on everything. Batting practice isn't a time to have a home run contest.
    “It's a time to work. You work on your swing; you work so your body knows your swing.”
    From Day 1, Brett said he is on an interim basis, because he does not want to be fired from his new position.
    “I'm giving it a month,” he said matter-of-factly. “I hope I'm here all summer and I hope I help this team turn it around. I'm excited about the challenge, I really am.”
    He then excused himself and went out to batting cage to face the biggest challenge of his career – helping a team that has underachieved all season get back in the groove offensively.
    Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or bill.althaus@examiner.net. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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