Royals promote Jirschele to Major League staff
Kansas City hires Wakamatsu as bench coach; Sveum to serve as third-base coach
KANSAS CITY -- Mike Jirschele had to put aside the rocker he was checking over at the furniture repair shop where he works winters in Clintonville, Wis. A phone call was waiting.
Congratulations were coming in for Jirschele, along with Don Wakamatsu -- both of whom were appointed on Friday to complete the Royals' coaching staff for 2014. Wakamatsu will be bench coach and catching instructor, and Jirschele will be a general assignments coach.
Wakamatsu, 50, managed the Seattle Mariners in 2009-10 and last year was a special assignments scout for the New York Yankees. He was a Minor League catcher from 1985-96, surfacing in 1991 to play briefly for the Chicago White Sox.
Jirschele, 54, has been in the Minors as a player, coach and manager since 1977. For 14 years, he managed the Royals' Triple-A club at Omaha and won Pacific Coast League championships in 2011 and '13. His promotion to Kansas City comes after 37 years in the Minors.
"I'm excited, it's something you've been waiting for," Jirschele said quietly, "for a long time. Sometimes it just takes people longer than others."
Jirschele and Wakamatsu join manager Ned Yost's staff that previously added former Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum in the offseason. Sveum has been assigned to be third-base coach, as well as infield instructor. They join holdovers Dave Eiland, pitching coach; Pedro Grifol, hitting coach; Rusty Kuntz, first base, outfield and baserunning coach; and Doug Henry, bullpen coach. The Royals also announced that head athletic trainer Nick Kenney and his staff will return.
It's been a long road for Jirschele, who signed as a fifth-round infielder out of Clintonville High School with the Texas Rangers in 1977 but never got beyond Triple-A as a player. At the end of his playing career, he was with Omaha in the Royals' organization. Over the years, he really got to know the place well.
In 1990, John Boles, then the KC farm director and now back as a senior advisor, named Jirschele a player-coach, and his new career began in the low Minors. Now he's made the big leap.
"The way I look at it, and I tell my players the same thing: You know what, you have no control over that," Jirschele said. "All you have control over is what you're doing, and that's just the way I look at it. You just go out and do your job every day, do the things you're supposed to do, get players better and get people better and get 'em to the big leagues. If your chance comes, it comes. If it doesn't, at least you can look back at say, 'Hey, I did everything I possibly could. It just wasn't for me.'"
Many of the players currently on the Kansas City roster passed through Jirschele's care.
"That's when it's been exciting over the past few years, just seeing all the kids that have come through or been at our level and ended up getting to the big leagues," he said. "You walk through there and it's almost like walking through our old clubhouse."
Jirschele and his wife, Shari, live in Clintonville, where they've raised a school-teaching daughter, Jennifer, and two baseball-playing sons, Jeremy and Justin, both infielders. Jeremy played in the Royals' system for a while, and Justin is currently in the White Sox organization and hit .304 this year for Great Falls in the Pioneer League.
"I think I'm happier for my wife and kids than I am for myself, because they put up with me in the Minor Leagues for all these years -- not that it's a bad job, but your goal is always to get to the big leagues, and I finally did," Jirschele said.
After his phone call, he was back to doing furniture repairs.
"I've been doing this almost as long as I've been doing baseball," he said.
That would be a while.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.