Willie Aikens hopes for return to baseball

Willie Mays Aikens made some costly choices.� Fourteen years behind bars obviously attests to that.� He knows that.�


By Greg Echlin

FOXSportsKansasCity

September 20, 2010


Willie Mays Aikens made some costly choices.� Fourteen years behind bars obviously attests to that.� He knows that.� Aikens also knows as a free man there are still bumps in the road.� But his most important choice is staying clean and moving forward.� Not ever going to back the dark days.

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�I have been for 16 years now clean and sober.� It�s not a struggle,� said Aikens, the starting first baseman for the Kansas City Royals pennant-winning team of 1980, who credits spirituality for his contentment.�


Aikens� career took a downturn with the Royals in 1983 when he was among four on the team to become the first active players sentenced for drug use.� Aikens was later arrested again and convicted in 1994, a lengthier sentence that time for cocaine related charges.

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These days Aikens is getting by financially.� Either from his baseball pension or from unemployment benefits as the result of his layoff by a local construction company a month ago.

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�They were downsizing.� I was doing manholes and they cut back on the crew.� Since I was the guy that had the least number of years of experience, they cut me,� said Aikens.�


He hopes a book he�s writing on his life story will help financially down the road, too.

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With more time than he�d like to have, Aikens spent of portion of it at Kauffman Stadium conducting a kids clinic, sponsored by AT&T, before Sunday afternoon�s game against the Cleveland Indians.


He�s seen a lot of home games this season.� The Royals have accommodated him with a season�s pass.� On the the weekend the Yankees were in town, Aikens was recognized on the field with other Royals from the 1980 team, including George Brett, Dennis Leonard and John Wathan. ��

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�I didn�t really expect the Kansas City Royals to embrace me the way they have,� said Aikens, who turns 56 next month.

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Through continued dialogue with the Royals front office, Aikens maintains a positive outlook that perhaps something will keep him connected in a capacity greater than making appearances or conducting clinics.

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�Nothing has happened yet, but I still have hopes that maybe one day I�ll be on the baseball field either as a scout or a roving instructor, a coach or whatever,� he said.

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As far as what he has seen on the field in 2010, Aikens doesn�t hold anything back.

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�I�m not really impressed,� said Aikens. Pausing before he added, �I know they are re-building and that�s a good thing.� I�m not impressed with the players they have right now.� Maybe three or four.�

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Until Chase Utley accomplished it for the Philadelphia Phillies last year, no one had ever connected for multiple home runs twice in the World Series.� Aikens hit a pair of homers in Game One and Game Four of the �80 World Series against Philadelphia.� The year he had his most fun in baseball.

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�It seems like my whole baseball career was based on that World Series because today that�s what people remember me for,� said Aikens, who got off to a slow start after his off-season trade from the Angels to the Royals because of knee surgery.�


In the second half of the season his bat came alive and finished with 20 home runs and 98 RBI, second on the team to Brett in both categories (24 and 118).

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The night Brett�s 30-game hitting streak ended in Texas, Aikens drove in the winning run in a come-from-behind victory, 4-3, over the Rangers.� Had Aikens not provided the clutch hit, the game would have gone into extra innings with the likelihood of Brett getting another shot to extend his club-record streak. Instead the Royals celebrated another victory while Brett dealt with the media attention of the end of his streak to drop his batting average to .410 on August 19.

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�I remember sitting in the locker room and nobody came over and wanted to interview me after the game.� Everybody wanted to interview George because George just broke his hitting streak.� But that�s the way things were back then,� said Aikens.

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Today Aikens is one of Brett�s biggest fans.� When Aikens was released from prison in Atlanta, Brett was one of the first with whom Aikens had been in contact and who helped Aikens get back on his feet in Kansas City.

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Now Aikens is trying to help others choose the right path. �In baseball fundamentals and in life.