Then and Now: Q&A with David Howard

David Howard played for the Royals from 1991-1997, and is remembered most for his work with the glove. In fact, Howard had the top fielding percentage among A.L. shortstops in 1996, committing just 11 errors for a .982 fielding percentage. The son of former major leaguer Bruce Howard, David enjoyed nine seasons at the major league level, and is our latest guest in this edition of "Then & Now."

Royals Corner: Thanks for joining us. You graduated from Riverview (Florida) High School in 1985, where you played baseball, basketball and track. Was baseball your favorite sport at that time, and did you feel like it was your strength?

David Howard: Yeah, I felt like it was the one I could go farthest in, but it wasn't necessarily my favorite. Any sport in season was my favorite at that time.

RC: Yeah, makes sense. You were actually on the winning squad of the 1985 Babe Ruth World Series. What was that like, and what did it mean to you?

DH: It was cool. We finished second in 1984, and that was disappointing because we had a 6-1 lead in the game before blowing it. But we came back the next year and won it, so it was nice to redeem ourselves. And at that time, I think the first scout for the Royals saw me playing, and he told me that later, but it was the first big thing I had ever been a part of and won, so obviously it was pretty special in that regard.

RC: After high school, you ended up attending Manatee Community College in Bradenton (Florida). Were you receiving any interest from big name baseball schools or major league scouts at that point?

DH: Oh no, no. I had injured my back in high school, and I hit .250 my senior year. So, I knew I'd go to school, and I wasn't being recruited by very many four-year colleges, just a couple small ones, so my dad thought I should go to a JUCO and luckily, Manatee was close to home and had a quality baseball program. So I got a scholarship and once I got there, it was all baseball, I didn't do anything else. No other sports, except a little golf in my off time, but it was finally all baseball. And that's when I really kind of took off and my skills kicked in.

RC: Was that around the time you began switch hitting, and how much did your dad (Bruce) have to do with that?

DH: Well, he did switch hit when he hit. He was a pitcher in the big leagues, but he switch hit. I started doing it full-time… Well, I did it in little league and whiffle ball. My favorite players were Fred Lynn and Rod Carew, so I would always hit left-handed, just because that's how they hit, and I would imitate them. So I probably started at 8 in the backyard, but I didn't start in games until I was 13, at least not consistently. I tell parents all the time – that's the one thing, if their kid has a possibility to do it, that he or she should do – it will help them more anything.

RC: While at Manatee, you obviously had contact with major league scouts, including Herb Raybourn and Art Stewart of the Royals, who eventually signed you after the Royals selected you in the 32nd round of the 1986 draft. What do you remember about the moment you found out you had been selected?

DH: I had a feeling I was going to get drafted, but I knew I wasn't going to sign, because I played centerfield my freshman year and I was going to play shortstop my sophomore year. They (the Royals) drafted me and we'd never even talked – they just said, "Hey, we're just going to watch you play next year." So it was basically a draft and follow type thing. And then I played shortstop that second year, and I think I either led the state in hitting or was right up there. There was talk I could go anywhere from the 3rd to 4th round in the June draft, so I ended up getting a pretty good signing bonus, at least for back then, because they didn't want me to go back in the draft.

RC: What did you know about the Royals prior to being selected?

DH: Well, obviously they'd won the World Series in 1985. You knew the (George) Brett's, (Bret) Saberhagen's, those guys. I knew they were a good organization, and being in Manatee, we got to play against the Pirates' minor league system a lot. And the Royals were in Sarasota, so we'd go out and watch practices and games, and we went out to see Bo Jackson when he came down to work out.

Anyway, I just knew they were a good organization, and everything that was being said was good. And all the dealings I had with them leading up to signing were very professional and well done. Raybourn first contacted me, and Stewart came in later on. They were all very professional and class guys, so it made you feel good about it.

RC: You began your professional career with Fort Myers in 1987, where you hit .194 in 89 games. Was that first season of professional baseball difficult or exciting, and how big of a life adjustment was it?

DH: It wasn't a huge adjustment, other than playing every day and getting used to that. That was a bit tough, with me being only 155 pounds, maybe 160, so that took its toll. Going from aluminum to wood was also an adjustment. I was used to a certain routine and I tried to do it as a pro, and it wore me down a little bit. The hitting coach told me to back off a little bit.

Actually, they told me coming into pro ball, "Don't worry about your hitting, just catch the ball and play good defense and everything will take care of itself."

I had always looked at myself as a hitter first, and all of a sudden I wasn't doing that, so that kind of affected my mindset as a player. I went straight from JUCO to High-A, and I thought I could handle it, but obviously I didn't handle it all that well hitting .190. I did get to go to big league camp that next spring, which was in my contract and a huge thing for me. Getting to stand out there next to Kurt Stillwell and all the infielders and see what they'd do and how good they were, it made me realize that I had the ability to play at that level athletically, and I just had to fine tune some things. So that was a huge thing for me, and I'm glad my dad negotiated that in my contract.

RC: Like you said, you went to Spring Training in 1988, which ultimately saw you in Appleton, where you hit .223 in 110 games. A lot of guys I've talked with say those memories of the low minors are good, but they couldn't ever imagine going through the long bus rides and worries ever again. Do you share the same sentiment when you look back on it?

DH: Yeah. Having played in High-A the year before, I was kind of ticked that I was going to Low-A. So I went up there with a bad attitude and it kind of carried on through that year. I didn't like that I was going down a level. Looking back at it now that I've been a coach and worked in player development, it was the right move, but it give me a bad taste at the time and I went there with a bad attitude and had a bad year. So it was a learning experience in that respect. But yeah, you have the good and the bad at that level when you look back.

RC: 1989 was a frustrating year for you in that you had two stints on the disabled list while with Baseball City and logged just 83 games due to a bad hamstring. Between struggling offensively your first couple of years in the system and that injury-plagued season, were you ever concerned the Royals viewed you as organizational filler rather than prospect, or did that thought never enter your mind?

DH: That actually was the year that I started playing other positions, because they had a young kid that came up when I was hurt and played well, so when I got healthy, I played a little second base, left and center instead of strictly shortstop. I felt like I was losing some status, and after that season, I wasn't invited to the instructional league, which I had been in ‘87 and ‘88. And then one week into instructional league, someone got hurt, and they called me and asked me if I'd go. It was interesting, because I remember thinking, "They didn't invite me, they're down on me." I was actually contemplating using my signing bonus to pursue a golfing career, because I was playing good golf, and I thought if I just took two years and kept doing that, I could maybe go that route.

But anyway, they called and I asked my dad what he thought, and he told me to go. And I went and met Jeff Cox, who was actually our Double-A manager in Memphis, and he saw me and liked what he saw. He told them he wanted me in 1990 as his shortstop at Memphis. So it was a big thing for me to get that call and go. We went on and won that championship in Memphis the next year, too, and the next winter, I got put on the 40-man roster. So that was huge for me, because he (Cox) instilled me with this excitement of playing again. And I give him all the credit in the world for turning me around.

RC: Like you mentioned, 1990 was a huge year in your development, as you advanced to (AA) Memphis and hit .250 in 116 games. What do you remember about that year, and who were some of your teammates on the Chicks?

DH: Oh shoot, we had Sean Berry at 3rd base, and now he's the hitting coach for the Astros. Jeff Conine played 1st, Brian McRae played center, Kos (Kevin Koslofski) was on that team, Bobby Moore, Stu Cole, Brent Mayne caught. So, we had 5 or 6 major league players, and it was awesome. We won the first half and we knew we'd be in the playoffs, and the second half leading up to it, we knew certain guys would get called up, and we ended up beating Ron Gardenhire's Orlando Twins, who had Chuck Knoblauch and Denny Neagle.

But it was a great, great memory to go through all of that with the great nucleus of guys we had. We all felt like it was something where we'd all move up together and move up to the big leagues together, and a lot of us did end up doing that. That's the best year I had in pro ball, to be honest.

RC: Before we talk about 1991 and making your major league debut, would you have ever believed someone the last day of the season in 1990 with Memphis if they had told you that the next time you'd play in a regular season game, you'd be in Kansas City?

DH: That winter? Yeah, because a friend of mine gave me a book called "The Power of Positive Thinking," and I read it cover to cover. That whole winter I put stuff up in my room – signs that said, "Kansas City in ‘91," pictures of Royals Stadium, etc. Everything I had in my room and on the walls was about being in Kansas City in '91. Because the more you see that, the more you think about it and you're working towards that. I shot high.

Actually, there was a comment that Marcus Alen had. He said, "You shoot for the moon, and if you fall a little bit short, you're still amongst the stars."

And I shot as high as I could go, which was the major leagues. I got some great advice in ‘88 from Brad Wellman, and he said, "If they ask you if you can play a certain position and you never have, lie and say you did."

And sure enough, in the spring of '91, they asked me if I played third base, and I said, "Yeah," even though I hadn't. And I moved all over the place. And finally, (John) Wathan asked me if I was ready to play in the big leagues, and I said absolutely, and I made the team.

RC: Take us back to the moment you found out you'd be heading north with the Royals in 1991. What do you remember?

DH: I was still there at the end of camp, and it was getting to that point, a week away from breaking with the club, and I knew I was in a dogfight with some other guys. I thought I had a chance. It was great when he (Wathan) told me that I'd made it, I was like, "Wow, this is awesome."

I called my parents and told them. My mom got excited, my dad was like, "Well, now let's think about what you're going to do next." He was happy and congratulated me, but he's like, "You've done that, now do this." It was the right thing to do and it was great. I called my buddies and they all came up from Sarasota. Just those memories are the ones you remember, of the friends supporting you and coming up and celebrating with you, stuff like that.

RC: You made your major league debut with the Royals on April 14th against the Yankees, and recorded your first hit off of Eric Plunk. What do you remember about that first game?

DH: I know I was starting and playing second base. I faced Andy Hawkins my first three times up, and didn't strike out, at least. I flew out, grounded out, and then Plunk came in. I got a fastball and lined it into right field. Got to first base, and there's Don Mattingly. First hit, fans gave me ovation, 30,000 fans or so. Mattingly smacked me on the butt, and said, "2,999 more to go, kid."

And actually, this comedian I didn't even know was at the game and took a picture with Mattingly and I together, so that's cool. I've got that up on the wall. It was obviously special doing it against the Yankees.

RC: You stayed with the Royals in a utility role that 1991 season until May 9th, when you were optioned back to Omaha. That was also around the same time that John Wathan was fired as manager and replaced by Bob Schaefer, and ultimately, Hal McRae. What do you remember about the start of that season and the managerial situation?

DH: There really wasn't a situation, I didn't think, until we started losing. Russ Morman and I got sent down together. Obviously, we were two utility guys, we're not even playing that much, why are we getting sent down? That's not going to change anything, so we were down about that, but not long after, John did get fired, and Hal took over. It wasn't a day or two after Hal had gotten hired that I got called back up. And it wasn't long after that at the All-Star break that he informed me and Bill Pecota that we'd be starting at shortstop and 3rd base, and (Kevin) Seitzer and Stillwell would be on the bench. So I get sent down, and a month and a half later, I was starting shortstop, which was great.

RC: Like you said, you were sent back to Omaha May 9th and appeared in 14 games with the O-Royals, but 18 days later, you got called back to Kansas City on May 27th, where you spent the rest of the season. You ended up as the everyday shortstop from July 7th to September 14th, and hit .216 with the Royals. As a team, you guys finished 82-80 (6th in the A.L. West), which was considered a miserable season at that time. Besides your major league debut, what do you remember most about that 1991 season?

DH: Just going through that whole year. Kirk Gibson was on the team, and he didn't take me under his wing, but he made me do a lot of rookie stuff. Kept me in line, and then you've got teammates like Saberhagen, (Mark) Gubicza, (Mike) Boddicker, George (Brett) guys like that, and they were all really good to me. I fit in, or at least they made me feel like it, and you couldn't have asked for a better group of veteran guys. They took me out to dinner, invited me places, to play golf, and made me feel very welcome, which isn't always the case with younger players on a veteran team.

RC: You hit your first big league home run in 1991 off of Jimmy Key in Toronto. What do you remember about that, and did you get the ball?

DH: It was a really long at bat. My parents were actually in Toronto at the game, and I fouled off like eight pitches or something like that with two strikes. I just remember going up there before the at bat, and Seitzer told me "Dude, you're squeezing the life out of the bat. Relax your hands, relax your fingers, wiggle them, make sure they're loose, and see the ball."

I honest to God remember stepping out after hitting those foul balls and thinking, "Just relax." I wiggled my fingers, he threw a fastball in, and I hit it really good. I don't know if it got to the second deck, but it was further than I normally hit them. I went right to Seitzer and said, "I thought about it, I thought about it" and he said, "I told you."

And yes, I supposedly got the ball. You never know if it's the ball or not. Gibbie said that he signed a ball for the fan and supposedly got it for me. So I still have that and the bat.

RC: Did they pull any good rookie pranks on you?

DH: Not really. I had to stand up and talk about myself in the clubhouse in front of everybody on our first workout at the stadium, and had also done it at Planet Hollywood in Orlando before we broke camp. Nothing too bad, though.

RC: 1992 had a frustrating start to the season for you, as you made the Opening Day roster and were the starting shortstop for KC until April 21st, when you suffered back stiffness that forced you onto the DL and then the minor leagues until July 15th. Those frustrations turned into excitement, however, when you came back after the All Star break and were the everyday shortstop until the end of the season. The reason for the excitement was the .394 clip you hit at (26/66) from July 30th to August 25th, and for the season, you finished at .224, which was great considering the slow start. From a personal standpoint, was that a satisfying season?

DH: No, because I was the starting shortstop coming out of camp. I felt good, and felt like I was in good shape, and just playing catch before a game, my back just went. It locked up on me and stayed there for a long time. I went down to Florida and rehabbed with the A-ball team, and I couldn't get rid of that stiffness.

I'm glad that I rehabbed as long as I did, because I didn't come back too early. It gave me the ability to show up and be healthy, and to their credit, they let me play again and start at short. I did end up strong and I felt like I had cemented myself again. So yeah, I guess it was and it wasn't a satisfying year; I would have loved to have not gotten hurt, but I did realize finally what was wrong with my back and then I took care of it, and I never had any problems with it after that.

RC: 1993 was another frustrating year for you, as you were limited to 47 games in Omaha and 15 in Kansas City after a string of injuries and being diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. How scary of a time was that for you?

DH: It was a wasted year, pretty much. I did not make the team out of spring training, which was very frustrating. I went to Omaha, got called up, sent back down. It was just very frustrating, and then getting Bell's Palsy was obviously a freak thing. It knocked me out for a month, if not more. A lot of different things happened that year, and nothing I could control. I did what I could to salvage the year

RC: As a team, the 1993 Royals finished 84-78 (3rd in A.L. West). You hear it all the time, how players on the D.L. say they miss their teammates and the game more than anything, and wish they could be out their in the battles. Was that how you felt?

DH: Absolutely, you always feel that way. You feel isolated and God, I should be out there, I should be playing. I'm sure every player feels that way. You feel like you're not helping at all and that you're letting everybody down. That was tough when you watch the games on TV and everyone is celebrating, and they're all your friends, and your feeling so left out. That's the hard part.

RC: 1994 is one of the most disappointing seasons in Royals history in that you guys were 64-51 (3rd in A.L. Central) and well on your way to the playoffs when the strike ended the season. When you look back, what were the chances that you guys would have made the playoffs had there been no strike?

DH: I believe when it ended, we were 2.0 games behind the Angels. We had run off a big winning streak, and that was the most awesome feeling in baseball, to go there every night, and the excitement, it kept building and building. Bob Hamelin hit a walk off against Roberto Hernandez of the White Sox. That got us to like 10 or 11 wins, and just every night, there were more and more people at the ballpark. It was the place to be - the excitement was just awesome. It was really special.

RC: And would you have made the playoffs that year?

DH: I liked our chances big time. We were playing so well. I thought we matched up with anybody. We went out with the attitude that we were going to win every night we went out there. We knew when our pitchers were taking the mound that we had a chance to win. You never know what would have happened, but the mindset was obviously different than previous years.

RC: 1994 ended up being the last season for Hal McRae as Royals manager, as he was replaced by Bob Boone following the season. What was it like playing for Hal, and did he get a fair shake from the Royals?

DH: You know what, yeah, I guess. As well as we played in '94, it was surprising that he got replaced, because we were playing well. So from that aspect, you would have thought he'd stay on. I don't know what happened behind the scenes, I have no idea. Bob Boone loved me, so it didn't have a huge effect on me for my career, other than Bob really, really used me a lot. Not to say Hal didn't, because he gave me the chance to start, which was huge.

RC: From an individual viewpoint, 1994 was very memorable for you, in that it was your first season spent completely on the big league roster, and your first chance to pitch in the big leagues. What do you remember about that outing against Boston?

DH: We were getting killed. I contributed to that because I played short and I screwed up on an error, and next thing you know, it's like 21-7. And I told Bruce Kison (pitching coach), "Don't waist any more pitchers, I can pitch; I'll throw, I'll take it."

So he went and talked to Hal, and they said, "Okay, but don't throw any breaking balls." And I felt like a gun fighter going with a toothpick into a fight. It was fastballs and change ups. But I loved to pitch in high school, and I was like, "Hell, I'll do it."

RC: Anything memorable about your outing?

DH: Well, I just remember that Scott Cooper hit for the cycle that night and I gave up the last hit. I had no idea because I was gassed, but it was my second inning, and I threw him two half-decent changeups, and he missed them by a mile. And their dugout was giving me hell, and I didn't know why. But they kept getting more and more angry. So I said, "Well, I'll throw him a fastball and surprise him."

Turns out, he hit it right past my ear for a hit. And they erupted in the dugout and I was like, "Gee whiz, what is going on?" Then they flashed it on the screen, that he'd hit for the cycle, and I was like, "Oh, cool."

So the next day, I told him that if I knew he was going for the cycle, I would have never thrown the effuse pitches. I would have tried to get him out, but I wouldn't do that. But he told me it helped him stay focused and he was glad I did. We ended up playing together in Kansas City, so that was cool.

RC: 1995 saw the Royals finish 70-74 (2nd in A.L. Central) and individually, you hit (at the time) a career high of .243 as the Royals top utility player. What was it like playing under Bob Boone as compared to McRae?

DH: Boonie liked me. He liked what I brought to the team. He talked to me a lot. That was one difference between Hal and Bob. Maybe I was younger and Hal was more about veteran guys, and young guys had to know their place, and I was always a younger player with Hal. So I'm sure that had something to do with that, but in '95, I'd been there for four or five years, and Bob just talked to me. He trusted what I did and what I brought to the team, and he asked my opinions on things. When somebody does that, you feel that loyalty and you try and do everything you can for the guy. I felt that way then and now. In fact, we had my 30th birthday party one year, I think ‘97, and he showed up and gave me a bottle of wine that said, "To the last manager you'll ever have." He always wanted me on his team was what he was saying. You want to play your best for a guy like that

RC: It is said that leftover replacement players were treated horribly during that 1995 season after the strike, and you guys definitely had more than a few on the roster. Without naming names, what kinds of things would some of the players do to these replacement players, and were they really "outcasts" in the clubhouse, or is that overblown?

DH: I think it was overblown by the media. Obviously there was resentment at the time. But Jeff Grotewold was on our team, and I talked to him and asked him why he would do that? I mean, he had been in the big leagues with the Phillies, but he had a bad back. He was in independent ball and he couldn't get a job. He felt like he could still play. They called him and he said, "That was my one way back. I couldn't get a job; that was my only way to get into spring training and to get in front of coaches and get back into the game."

You try to be mad over that, but I couldn't, because I understood. You would hope they would go the other route, but you understood. So yeah, I think it was way overblown. I had beers with Grotewold more than once. And there were other guys on our team that were replacement players as well. Grotey wasn't necessarily threatening my position on the team, but Jose Mota and Edgar Caceres were both infielders and replacement guys. They were getting playing time and I wasn't, so there was a little bit more with that. But Jose is with the Angels, and he's a television guy nowadays, and I talked to him and still do. I don't think anybody ever treated them the way it was portrayed in the media, at least on our team. You didn't go out of your way to invite them out, which maybe is a way of treating them poorly, but they had to expect some backlash. I think they had to have known when they'd made the decision to be replacement players that it was going to happen.

RC: 1996 (75-86, 5th in A.L. Central) was a big year for you, as you appeared in 143 games and were the team's starting shortstop by mid-April. For the season, you had the best fielding percentage among regular A.L. shortstops (.982) and had career highs in several offensive categories. What sticks out about that year?

DH: Just that I got a chance to play every day. I basically took the ball and played pretty much every day from mid-April on. I thought I proved to them that I could play every day, and I thought I proved I could play quality shortstop every day. I didn't hit, but there were circumstances that went into that. My left shoulder had been hurt in spring training, and I was getting cortisone shots to keep playing. I had to; this was my opportunity, and so I got one in spring training, another one in May, one in July, but I guess it was a rule you couldn't get more than three shots per year. And then come September, I was hitting around .240, and it was one of those where I couldn't even lift my arm. I didn't know what to do – I mean, I wanted to prove that I could play every day and stay healthy. It was a choice I had to make; I'm hitting .240 – do I take that and shut it down, or do I keep going out there and do what I can? And I made the choice to go out and try to play everyday. I ended up hitting not much over .100 in September and around .220 for the year. It was terrible, but I look at it that I went out and played.

We had Bip Roberts on our team, who found every opportunity to not play. Or, he'd play, get a hit or two, and come out of the game. He did, I'm serious. But I wanted to be able to be looked at in the exact opposite fashion, and obviously that hurt my numbers, but I felt like I could play every day.

RC: 1997 would end up being your last year with the Royals, and it was a tough year for the team, as you guys finished 67-94 (5th in A.L. Central). There was also another managerial switch, as Bob Boone was replaced by Tony Muser at the All-Star break. Did you know well before the end of the season that you wouldn't be back in 1998?

DH: I had a feeling I wouldn't. Jose Offerman got hurt early, so I was playing a lot of second base. Boonie even said, "Look, you're 50 percent, just run 50 percent, I don't care, I need you to play." I hit well, and was hitting over .300 in May when they offered me a two-year contract, and I countered with some small incentives in case I ended up starting, and that day, they pulled the offer off the table.

That was weird, I thought, because I didn't even ask for that much extra. And then Boonie got fired, and I ended up having shoulder surgery later on that year, which ended my season. It was a bad year once Boonie got fired and went downhill for me from there with the injury and some other things that happened at the end of the year. I knew they kept saying all of our free agents had been given contract offers. And I'm like, "I haven't, what the hell are they talking about?"

So I could see the writing on the wall. I wanted to stay, but was never offered a contract.

RC: You signed with the Cardinals prior to 1998, ending a string of 11 straight seasons in the Royals organization. How difficult was it to walk away from the Royals and Kansas City?

DH: I didn't want to leave, but I had no choice. So from that aspect, it wasn't hard, I didn't have any options for KC. But I didn't want to leave. I lived there, my family and my wife were there, and I wanted to be a part of them winning again. It didn't work out, but the chance arose to play for Tony LaRussa, and talking to him and hearing how he'd use me, got me excited. I had played against him in Oakland, so he knew what I could do. It turned out that in '98, McGwire broke the home run record and I was there for all that. And the first day I got there, I told Tony I'd be standing right next to him learning from him. So I told him if I ask you questions, I'm not second guessing you, I just want to learn. And I learned a lot from him, it was good, a good two years, but I didn't want to leave KC, it just happened that way.

RC: You never appeared in the majors again after 1999. Refresh us what you did?

DH: I actually went to camp with Colorado in 2000, but I injured my quad, and there was a certain date I could ask to be released or they had to put me on the 40-man roster. And when that time came, they knew my leg would be bothering me, so they didn't put me on the 40-man.

So, I signed with the Orioles, and I actually had conversations with the Royals about coming back, but went back to Sarasota and ended up really injuring my leg to the extent that I said I'd take the year off and let it heal naturally, and try to come back in 2001, which I did.

I came back with the Mets and ended up hurting my groin in spring training. It was becoming more and more frustrating with my body that I was going through all these things to get in the best shape I could. And I was playing and kept getting hurt, and it was very mentally taxing. It kept happening and happening, and I talked to the assistant GM of the Mets after I got sent down, and I told him I wanted to get into coaching after that. I went to Triple-A and played, and I talked to my wife before I went to the field one day and told her, "I think I'm done, I don't want to do this anymore with my body."

So, she backed me up and I went into the clubhouse. And it was funny – the coaching staff were such good guys, and actually John Gibbons, now manager of Toronto, was my skipper. We'd gotten along well and I got there early and wanted to tell him I was retiring and get out of there, not having to hang around too long. And the coaches actually got there late that day (Laughs). Here I was, waiting early for once, and they weren't there! Finally, they got there, and one of the coaches told me that Gibby wanted to talk to me. So I walked in there, he told me to shut the door. I said, "Wait a minute, before you say anything, I've got something to tell you. I'm going to retire today."

And he looked relieved and said, "Good God, thank you." He said he was calling me into his office to release me. And I told him that I kind of knew that, because "I was waiting for two hours to retire and you were late!" (Laughs)

And he actually made the call back to New York and said I was retiring and wanted to coach. And he told them he wanted me on his staff, so I basically just switched lockers from the players to the coaches.

RC: Wow, so you literally stayed there and instantly began coaching?

DH: Pretty much, yeah!

RC: Nice! So when you look back, what are your favorite memories of Kansas City, both on and off the field?

DH: On the field, it'd have to be the first hit, the first home run, Saberhagen's no hitter, playing shortstop for that… George's 3,000 hit.

Off the field, just spring trainings, rooming with the guys I did. Wally Joyner, Keith Miller, Bob Hamelin… One year it was Keith, Wally, myself and George. Just the camaraderie and all the stuff we did.

Going out at night, going to dinners, just having six or seven guys that we would always go out to dinner with. And playing the credit card game to see who would pay for things. We'd play poker in spring training and whoever lost first would have to buy groceries for that week. And going with Hamelin and Miller and knowing you have to pay for groceries, it was something else. You'd have Hammer throwing 12 steaks into the carts. And the bill would be $500, just things like that, you remember.

Also, getting to meet all the people I got to meet through George. Freddy Couples, Brad Faxon, guys that I looked up to because I also played golf. That led to me getting to caddy for Faxon for three tournaments. And just the people you get to meet – everything that comes with being a major league player that I think guys take for granted when they're doing it – I know I did. You just feel like its going to last forever, and when it's gone, you just miss that.

RC: Which teammates from your Kansas City days do you still keep in touch with?

DH: A lot of guys. I see them all the time, Tommy Goodwin, Chris Haney… There's so many of them that still live in KC, you see them all the time. Jeff Montgomery, Mike MacFarlane, and I just saw Gubicza the other day. I e-mail back and forth to Saberhagen a lot. Just a lot of them, it's great.

RC: When you look back, do you consider yourself a Royal?

DH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

RC: And finally, what is David Howard up to today, and what has he been doing since 2000?

DH: 2001 and 2002 I coached with the Mets, but in 2003 we couldn't come to an agreement, and it happened so late that I couldn't get another job.

In '04, I was recommended for the Red Sox, and I've been with them ever since. Hitting coach with the Red Sox (Sarasota) in '04, and was a pro scout '05 and '06, and this year, a major league scout. Have kids and a wife and hang with them. Still golf a lot – well, as much as the job allows me. I play in a tournament every year.

RC: What is the general consensus among other scouts about the direction of the Royals, and what do you think of the future of KC baseball?

DH: They're getting better. I really like a lot of the moves, if not all, that Dayton has made. I think the Glass family is allowing him to do a lot of things, which I don't think Allard got the chance to do a lot of times due to budget constrictions. I think they've allowed Dayton to do the things Allard was not allowed to do. More money into scouting, more money into the draft and sign more players for more money, which is going to turn into hopefully better players. He's made some good moves. I loved the Bannister trade when it happened, and obviously that's turned out well. Gload was a good addition – I think Moore has a very good outlook on what he wants to do. I got the chance to meet him and talk to him and I think he'll do a really good job there.

RC: That's what we like to hear! Thanks a lot for your time Dave, and anything else you'd like to add?

DH: Just thanks for having me!

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