With 162 games during the regular season (not including Spring Training and postseason), a front office career in Major League Baseball is a grind, even if it’s just for one season. Dean Taylor ’73 worked in professional baseball for 40 years and has watched between 7,500 and 8,000 games for teams he has been involved with.
So it’s understandable why after 40 years at the ballpark, Taylor decided to retire and make the 2015 season with the Kansas City Royals, his last one in professional baseball. He couldn’t have written a better ending for his career than what ended up happening for the Royals in 2015. Kansas City won the World Series title, the first for the Royals since 1985 and Taylor, a Claremont McKenna College alumnus and former Stag baseball player under Bill Arce, was one of the main architects of the team. He served as the Royals’ vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager from 2006-2014 and spent the 2015 season in an advisory role to help train his front office replacements before he retired.
“I wanted to be able to transition out and also help the Royals’ staff transition in my replacements,” Taylor said. “It was meaningful to have the opportunity to work with them during the course of the year.”
So when Wade Davis struck out New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores to end Game 5 to give Kansas City the World Series title – its first since 1985 – Taylor watched from his seat a few rows behind the Royals dugout at Citi Field knowing that he played a major part in the process of putting together the World Champions. With the exception of outfielder Alex Gordon, who was drafted by Kansas City in 2005, each of the nine players on the field for the Royals when the last out was recorded in the World Series was acquired through the amateur draft or trades completed after 2006, when Taylor and the baseball operations staff led by General Manager Dayton Moore arrived in Kansas City.
“There were a lot of hugs, a lot of smiles and a lot of cheers,” Taylor said about the postgame celebration, which he shared with his wife Susan and son Colby. For Taylor, it was the third World Championship ring during his career in professional baseball.
Taylor was with the ’85 squad as well when it won Kansas City’s last World Series and he added another World Championship ring with the ’95 Atlanta Braves as their assistant general manager.
While Taylor witnessed Kansas City’s last World Series victory, generations of Royals fans that came to Kauffman Stadium during the successful 2014 (American League Champions) and 2015 seasons had never seen a championship team in Kansas City. “I was happy for the players, the entire organization and also for the city,” Taylor said.
For the World Series celebration parade which concluded the storybook season for the Royals, an estimated 800,000 people showed up and turned downtown Kansas City into a sea of royal blue-clad fans. Most schools in the area were shut down and many offices across the city were left empty during the parade.
The parade concluded a season that began for the team in February during Spring Training in Arizona. Despite serving in an advisory role with the team in 2015, Taylor went to the Winter Meetings and spring training and took part in the usual process with other front office members: assembled the team, salary arbitration, negotiated player contracts, attended games and much more.
“The process” as Taylor calls it, of assembling a championship club is what he enjoyed almost more than winning the World Series itself.
“It’s very rewarding to win a World Championship, but you can’t forget all of the hard work that went into it [winning a World Series] by so many people for all those years to get the organization to a point where we could win a World Championship,” Taylor said. “The process is just as gratifying as the end result.”
During the 2015 regular season, Taylor’s transition to retirement really began. He still attended most of the regular season home games – he estimates 70 of the 81 – and took part in the normal front office discussions during each game in the Royals baseball operations suite. However, there was one aspect that was really different.
“I tell a lot of people jokingly that the difference between my time in an advisory role and my time as a full-time staff member was, instead of going in at nine in the morning on game days, wearing a suit and getting home at midnight, I would show up at batting practice around four in the afternoon, wear a polo shirt and then go home right after the game,” Taylor said.
Most retirees celebrate their last days at work with a retirement party and a cake. Taylor will celebrate his retirement with another World Championship ring, knowing that “the process” paid off in a big way. Not a bad way to end a 40-year career in baseball.