Sportress of Blogitude

Royals turned around season after players stopped obsessing over ‘Clash of Clans’?


Back in July, the Kansas City Royals were nothing like the red-hot baseball team that has run roughshod over opponents this postseason, not dropping a single game on its way to a World Series that opens in Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night.

In fact, the Royals were exactly the opposite of what is expected of a championship-caliber team. Players allowed distractions take away from their focus, drive, determination and competitiveness.

After a loss to the Boston Red Sox on July 20, the team’s third loss in a row, one that dropped them to one game under .500, Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz walked into the clubhouse and saw something that really upset him, a sight that had become all too commonplace as the team began to slide into irrelevancy and mediocrity.

A lot of the players were looking down. Not out of disappointment or dejection over a losing streak that could quickly derail the season. Instead, the players were focused intently upon their iPads, as they were enthralled by the immensely popular video game “Clash of Clans.”

Instead of trying to figure out how to turn things around, the players were distracted by a video game, lost in a silly world of make believe as opposed to the task at hand, a frequent occurrence that reportedly began to frustrate the Royals coaching staff to no end.

“At that time, in that situation, it’s really disappointing,” said Kuntz, via the KC Star. “You just got to a point where you go, ‘What’s the priority here? Is this just three hours out of your time, spent away from what you’re actually being interested in?

“We’ve got to find a way to get this changed, so that the priority is the game, and all this other stuff is secondary.”

Exactly how the Royals turned it around and transformed into a postseason contender-turned-playoff machine can’t all be credited to players focusing less on “Clash of Clans.” But The Kansas City Star‘s Andy McCullough notes in his piece that a players-only meeting followed a few days after Kuntz came upon the team zombified by “Clash of Clans.”

From that point forward, players redirected their focus and recommitted themselves to baseball. Players began arriving at the ballpark earlier to break down film of opposing pitchers. They began to work harder, including devoting more time working in the cages with hitting coach Dale Sveum.

Perhaps most interestingly, the amount of time spent on their iPads began to dwindle.

“Their priorities,” Kuntz said, “have changed.”

A regular season in baseball, perhaps more so that in any other sport, is a grueling grind, a months-long march of monotony, with plenty of down time to fill between actually playing competitive baseball in a 162-game marathon. Players need distractions and things to fill their downtime, but it sounds like the Royals were using “Clash of Clans,” among other things, as a crutch, as a means to distract themselves and their focus from baseball. That’s when something becomes a deterrent, not a distraction.

It certainly looks like the Royals learned their lesson in time, instead of too late. And look where it got them. Let that be a lesson to all the kids out there, what with their highfalutin video games and Twitter and social media and whatnot. Dagnabbit.

[H/T Big League Stew]