By Alan Eskew
September 7, 2002
KANSAS CITY–While a threatened strike was aborted at the final moment, the Kansas City Royals’ instructional league this fall became a victim of the labor negotiations.
The Royals canceled the league, where young prospects spend about six weeks of concentrated tutoring after the season and play other teams in a competitive, but relaxed atmosphere, where there is no official scorekeeper and or standings.
With Royals owner David Glass projecting the club to lose about $20 million in 2002, the club decided to ditch fall ball as a cost-cutting move.
“With the labor negotiations and the uncertainty of a strike, we had to take a look at not having it,” said Royals assistant general manager Muzzy Jackson, who is in charge of minor league operations.
Jackson estimated with 35 players for six weeks, plus staff, transportation, housing and meals that “it could run $200,000” for the instructional league.
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Jackson said. “Obviously, I would like to see these guys play, but we can’t do that this year. I would have loved to have an Instructional League team if possible.”
Instead, Jackson said the Royals would invite some minor league players, probably mostly pitchers, about two to three weeks earlier than normal to a mini-camp next February at Surprise, Ariz., the club’s new spring training site that opens next year. Those players would work out in the afternoon with the big league club practicing in the morning before games begin, which would allow manager Tony Pena and his staff time to work with the prospects.
“It will be different,” Jackson said. “We’ll do a lot of individual work.”
Jackson, who was with the Cincinnati front office in 1998-98, said the Reds used the early spring mini-camp and it “accelerated the progress” of players making it to the big leagues. Jackson said Gookie Dawkins, Scott Williamson and Mike Frank were members of the 1998 Reds’ February camp.
“I thought it was real beneficial,” Jackson said.
Jackson said with the labor negotiations settled, he plans to talk to general manager Allard Baird about bringing some players into Kansas City during the winter for individual instructions.