Cabrillo High grad Danny Duffy agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Kansas City Royals on Monday. Danny Duffy called me after his press conference Tuesday afternoon in Kansas City. We talked about a variety of topics, including the love and gratitude he has for his parents Dan and Deanna, how this new deal came to be, what his plans are away from the game of baseball and how he feels about his hometown of Lompoc and his adopted home of Kansas City.
Here's the conversation, word-for-word.
Joe Bailey: How would you sum up your emotions right now after going through that press conference?
Danny Duffy: Everything that I’ve been talking about since I was just a pup in this game, just kind of coming to fruition and I couldn’t be more pleased, man. It’s a pretty incredible thing and, like I said earlier today, I’m so pleased I don’t have to wear another jersey or think about the prospect of that for awhile.
JB: That’s something that you’ve been talking about since you were drafted…We all remember the famous Tweet: "Bury me a Royal." How did this whole thing come to be? Talk about the process how this deal came to be.
DD: Any time a team is willing to put their name on you it’s an honor. It’s a huge blessing; I am not too educated on the business side of things, probably as much as I should be. I got a group that represents me, that made this happen. I told them that I wanted to stay. I told them that if there’s ever any interest that I want to hear the Royals. Sure enough they came to us in, I think it was late October, right after the season had ended, and asked if I would be interested in sticking around. I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Certain things need to get ironed out and worked out, but I would’ve done anything to stay and they gave me a deal that I think is really fair for me. So I couldn’t pass it up.”
JB: Looking at baseball, you see a lot of deals that some people might call bloated. Big deals. But looking at this deal a little, not getting too specific, it seems like it’s really good for you and it’s really good for the club as well. Was that important to you to have a deal that works really well for yourself and also works for the Royals?
DD: I’d like to say that. I’m not going to say that the Royals got a fair deal because, like I said, it’s just great to be able to put on the jersey and throw the mound at Kauffman for the home team. Obviously, hopefully this will free up an opportunity to sign another one of my boys back and we can continue down this road that we’ve been on. I hope that they feel as though that this can provide some comfort and flexibility. I think I got a pretty good deal, man. I’m extremely fortunate.
JB: Your family has been so involved in your career from an early age. To achieve something like this, to get a long-term deal and get some security for yourself. How did your family react, your dad and your mom, who have been so important to you. How did they take the news?
DD: I FaceTimed them when I agreed and they were over the moon. My mom and my dad have been there for me, obviously, from Day 1 and I’m lucky to have them. My folks. They’ve been instrumental and they got me to where I’m at today. Those long road trips in scout ball and high school. My mom would literally work so that she could fund my hobby, which turned into my career. I’ll never be able to repay them. I hope that they feel how thankful I am for them. I didn’t get the chance to thank them in the press conference because I was stumbling over my words a bit, but they’re at the top, man. They drove the bus for me.”
JB: Talk a little about this past season. We talked last winter and you were in the bullpen. You were just like, ‘Give me a jersey, man. I’ll go out there and I’ll do what I know how to do.’ How important was this past season in getting to this point and how well you pitched all year long.
DD: It was vital, probably, in their interest in extending me. I think I had a pretty good year. I think that hopefully that proved to them that I can be consistent in duplicating it. Being what I was last year for the team this year. I’m fortunate with the timing of it. I had a little bit of success. The timing was perfect. It was getting to the point where I was on the back end of my contract with the Royals. Everything works how it’s supposed to in the end.
JB: How focused are you on going to another level this year? Is there anything you can get better at on the mound?
DD: I think there’s another level that I can go to; I think I have another gear. Actually, I know I have another gear. I think one area I need to improve on is putting people away when I get them 1-2 or 0-2. I listened to David Price in an interview awhile ago. His main goal is to get people out on three pitches or less. I think that that’s where I need to be with the stuff I have in the tank. You get a guy 0-2, 1-2; try not to hang a breaking pitch. Try not to throw a fastball belt high. Trying to go letter high? Get it there. Trying to go in? Get it there. Don’t nibble around. Throw-every-pitch-with-a-purpose kind of mentality. While I do that sometimes, my fundamentals lack. So I think that I can improve on putting people away earlier in the count and punching them out when I get ahead in the count quickly.
JB: Seeing some of the reaction from Kansas City fans, they just seem overly excited to have you back for at least the next five years. Do you feel any of that from the KC fans, who seem really, really excited to have you for the next several years?
DD: It’s amazing the kind of support that this city holds. I walk around the plaza, walking around town in general and people come up. And they’re subtle with it. They’re like, ‘Hey, man. Congratulations. We’re so stoked.'
It’s good to feel wanted in a city. It’s good to feel like that fan base really enjoys having you around. I do my best to try and be a good advocate for the city. I put it right up there in my heart with Lompoc. And you know how I feel about Lompoc. So, it is pretty amazing, man. It’s surreal.
JB: Have you heard anything from those back home in Lompoc since the news broke about the new deal?
DD: I called (Cabrillo coach Jonathan Osborne) before it was reported and I just thanked him for everything he has done to get me here. Introducing me to what baseball is really all about at a younger age. We’ve come a long way from cutting the bushes, trying to get that clubhouse up out there at Cabrillo, maintaining the field and having rainouts when it’s not even raining. We’ve just come a long way and he’s been with me for the entire ride. I’d definitely be at fault if I didn’t thank Joe Denney, too. I’m going to have to call him. He was my pitching coach at Cabrillo and he taught me my changeup. He was a guy who was also instrumental in getting me here. He’s a fellow Santa Marian, with ya. He still teaches at Cabrillo, he doesn’t coach anymore. But I definitely have to make sure that it’s known to him that he played a huge part in this. I love the guy to this day. He’s a great guy.
JB: Anything off the field you want to do now? Any goals that you have away from the game?
DD: You know my mind wanders. It has been for a long time, regarding what I could do if I was ever blessed with this kind of stability... I have a heart for pediatric cancer and trying to help fund that kind of research. It’s not really common knowledge, but 4 percent of all cancer research goes to pediatric cancer and I think that’s a travesty. Maybe I’ll be able to formulate something with my wife to do my part to help find a cure.
JB: What motivates that? Is there something that kind of sparked that within you?
DD: I spent a lot of time at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. I met a lot of really cool kids... I have a lot of 10-year-old friends. Unfortunately I’ve had to say goodbye to some of those... young soldiers. I’ve met some of the coolest people I’ve ever met doing so. The families are just incredible and your heart just aches for the people who have to go through the loss of a child and obviously it aches for the child as well. No child should have to suffer. Last year I had to say goodbye to a kid named Liam Shipley. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, trying to make a promotional video for him and his family about a foundation out here. It brought me to tears.
So, you know, that’s kind of why. I went to Brian McCann’s benefit in Atlanta this year. It’s called the Rally Foundation, which does similar work. Dude, there’s just nothing like it. These kids are so genuine, they’re raw, they’re authentic. Truly incredible kids, truly incredible. That’s what I’d like to do. I think my wife would love to get involved. That’s where I’m at as far as anything off the field goes.
JB: How important is it to you not to change up your personality?
DD: I’m wearing flops to the field every day. I’m going to wear a T-Shirt to the field every day. I’m not going to stop walking. I’m not changing nothing, man. There’s no reason to. You stick to what got you here. You learn some lessons the hard way sometimes. All you can do is improve from those mistakes that you make in life. That goes for everybody. I’m really, really fortunate I have the people around me. I’m really fortunate, I’m just really fortunate to have my group of friends and fans.
JB: So what’s the deal with the World Baseball Classic? Are you still up for that?
DD: Yeah. I’m in. I’m in. Yup. I actually just got off the phone with Jim Leyland awhile ago. He called me to congratulate me. Gosh. You’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes. I mean it’s crazy. One of my favorite managers of all time. I can’t pass up that opportunity to play for a legend like that. I’m there.
The World Baseball Classic begins in March in Miami, and Duffy is playing for the United States.
Watch the full video of Danny Duffy's press conference, courtesy of John Sleezer/kansascity.com and the Kansas City Star, below