Sports

Bloomquist might trade infield dirt for ice tracks

It was an idea borne of the Winter Olympics.

South Kitsap graduate Willie Bloomquist and Kansas City Royals teammate Jason Kendall had yet to play a game together, but quickly were becoming friends.

During the ever-changing coverage in Vancouver, B.C., bobsledding appeared on the TV.

While neither player took credit for the idea during a three-game series last week at Safeco Field, they both arrived at the conclusion that it might be a fun sport to partake in after their playing careers end.

“If they’re serious, I wouldn’t put it past either one of those guys,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “If I can think of two guys going about their business in a really professional manner ... Willie and Jason are two guys that can do it.”

Kendall, a 15-year major-league catcher, signed with the Royals on Dec. 11, and found a similar mentality in Bloomquist, who played with Seattle before joining Kansas City last year.

“We hit it off instantly,” Kendall said. “We both play the game hard; play it the right way. The combination works.”

Which is why they are talking about narrow, twisting iced tracks in the future.

“He told me he wanted to win a gold metal,” Kendall said. “I said, ‘I’m your man, let’s do it.’ It’s something we’re serious about.”

Bloomquist said bobsledding was an easy choice. After all, baseball no longer is an Olympic event.

“It’s the only Olympic sport I could do,” he said. “I sure as heck couldn’t ice skate.”

Neither player has bobsledded before, and both acknowledge that they will not have an opportunity to pursue it until their baseball careers end.

Bloomquist, 32, said he wants to play at least five more seasons if he remains healthy. He had arthroscopic surgery on both knees during the offseason, but said he both are fine now.

After playing in a career-high 125 games last season, Bloomquist has just 45 appearances this year. His batting average (.229) and on-base percentage (.270) through the first half of the season both are career lows.

Despite those struggles, Bloomquist’s name still is featured in rumors as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. A story in the Kansas City Star earlier this month linked Bloomquist to contenders such as the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that you don’t take in too much talk until it happens,” he said. “My hope is to get this team to the playoffs.”

That appears unlikely as the Royals, who have not advanced to the playoffs since they won their lone championship in 1985, finished the first half of the season with a 39-49 record and are fourth in the American League Central.

But Yost, who thinks Bloomquist could play around 150 games in the National League because of its more frequent late-game substitutions, said he brings value to any team.

“Willie’s probably the most versatile player that I’ve ever come across in terms of excellence at each position on the field,” he said. “He plays third, short, second and first just about as well as any of our regulars.

“He’s my No. 1 guy that I always pinch run with because he’s got baseball savvy. He’s just a complete player.”

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