Programming note: For the most comprehensive World Series coverage from Kansas City, watch "October Quest" today immediately after Game 6 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
KANSAS CITY – What a unique lens through which Steve Balboni is watching this World Series play out.
The former slugger has the honor of having starred on the only Kansas City Royals team to win the World Series back in 1985. Yet for the past five seasons, Balboni has served as an advance scout for the Giants.
He spent much of this postseason writing up reports on the Royals organization for which he set the single-season club home run record during that ’85 championship year.
With the Royals now back in the Fall Classic for the first time since that magical season, Balboni was asked if he feels any sentimental tug toward his old team.
“No, I don’t really know anybody in the other dugout,” he said while watching batting practice before Game 6. “But I was excited for George Brett. I know he has a relationship with all these kids (on the current Royals roster). He’s been around them their whole career. It was fun to watch his excitement and I’m happy for them. But this is where I am now. And I have a strong connection with this (Giants) team.”
Balboni grew up in New Hampshire and played high school ball against current Giants general manager Brian Sabean and assistant hitting coach Joe Lefebvre. He’s won two World Series rings from 2010 and 2012 to complement the one he earned with the Royals.
From scouting the current Royals team, he said it’s a much different squad than the one in 1985. This current team is anchored by a young core that had virtually no postseason experience before this season.
The ’85 Royals featured battle-tested veterans such as Brett, outfielder Willie Wilson and reliever Dan Quisenberry, who all had been on the 1980 squad that fell to Philadelphia in the World Series. They also featured 21-year-old ace Bret Saberhagen, who won the Cy Young Award in a breakout season.
Balboni? He was a slugging first baseman known for one of two outcomes when he stepped into the batter’s box. He set a Royals single-season record with 36 home runs in 1985, while also leading the American League with 166 strikeouts.
“We had strong, young pitching, but we had a core of veteran players,” Balboni said. “I think both teams (this season) have been such a surprise.”
Because Balboni spends most of the regular season scouting the National League, he doesn’t get back to Kansas City often or see many of his old teammates. One exception is San Diego Padres manager Bud Black, who was a starter on that 1985 squad.
But Balboni has enjoyed re-connecting with Royals fans during this World Series, and when he and his wife settled into their seats behind home plate for Games 1 and 2 at Kauffman Stadium, she made an observation.
“She said it was pretty much where she sat in ’85,” Balboni said with amusement.
Unlike 29 years ago, however, Balboni is at her side for this one.