He would have preferred being in Atlanta, sitting next to Chris Piper tonight, calling the national title game on radio. Instead, he'll be sitting in the K this afternoon, next to Paul Splittorff, calling Opening Day on television.
"It's not a bad thing to fall back on," announcer Bob Davis said Sunday, after returning home to Lawrence from the Kansas City Royals' final preseason workout at Kauffman Stadium. "It'll be a fun day. I don't know how many hundreds of Japanese media will be in for the series, as well as the Boston contingency, which is always large."
Japanese reporters are following Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will start Thursday for the Red Sox against Zack Greinke, recovered from depression and coming off a strong spring training.
Matsuzaka, 26, was the MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic and was the object of a new-age bidding war this past offseason. What made it different was that teams had to bid just for the right to negotiate with him. The Red Sox won that battle, paying $51 million, then gave him another $52 million spread out over six years.
The Red Sox weren't the only big spenders. Gil Meche, 28, made his major-league debut with the Seattle Mariners at the age of 22. He has won just 55 games, still good enough for a five-year, $55 million free-agent contract from the Royals. That's quite a gamble, and it's a good sign that general manager Dayton Moore let it be known to Royals owner David Glass he wasn't about to accept his job offer without access to the checkbook.
Curt Schilling, World Series hero with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Red Sox, opposes Meche today. It's difficult not to think about the steroid hearings whenever Schilling's flapping jaws show up on television. Schilling was called to testify in front of a pack of grandstanding politicians because he had a couple of years earlier vented his disgust over wide-spread steroid use to Sports Illustrated. In his moment of "truth" before Congress, Schilling backtracked from those statements and said in retrospect nothing could be further from the truth than what he told SI. The star-struck politicians were so impressed they appointed him the head of some committee we haven't heard a thing about since.
Steroids will continue to be the cloud that won't lift, especially because Barry Bonds* is on course to pass Hank Aaron as baseball's all-time home run king, once he hits No. 756*.
At the opposite end of the national spotlight, the Royals will try to avoid a fourth consecutive 100-loss season. Davis likes their chances.
"You have to be upbeat about some of the position players," Davis said. "(Debuting third baseman) Alex Gordon looks like he has a chance to be a special player. Mark Teahen has adapted to the outfield nicely. He's a good athlete. (First baseman) Ryan Shealy has a chance to be a good player."
Tony Pena Jr., son of the Royals' former manager, starts at shortstop, next to veteran Mark Grudzielanek, whose sore knee won't keep him out of the lineup.
"Good to have him in there with all the freshmen," Davis said.
It doesn't quite match calling the action of freshmen Sherron Collins and Darrell Arthur playing for a national title, but Davis has no complaints about his 11th Opening Day in the booth.