KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the end, George Brett knew he couldn’t turn back time, he couldn’t be 25 again, and he couldn’t fall in love once more with the major league lifestyle he once so cherished.
Brett stepped down from his interim position as the Royals’ hitting coach Thursday, a move that may have surprised some, but not those who know him or are close to him.
That youthful enthusiasm Brett displayed when he took the job in May eventually lost out to a 60-year-old’s reason.
Not that Brett is ancient by any means, and not that the game has passed him by — just the opposite, in fact, as evidenced by Brett’s successful tutoring of the Royals’ poster boys for the future, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
But in Brett’s mind, baseball is a younger man’s game, and its lifestyle is a younger man’s dream. And while Brett was grateful to have one final fling with both, he is even more grateful now for that normal life he had prior to May.
Keep in mind, though, that Brett isn’t viewing his announcement Thursday as a divorce from the Royals’ young hitters. Call it a separation, at most. He’ll still see Hosmer and Moose and Alex Gordon. He’ll still call, still text.
He just won’t see them every day.
“It has been a tremendous experience after being gone from that everyday life for 20 years,” Brett said, his eyes watering. “To have the opportunity again to put on a uniform … it was special.
“It was a tough decision. … But I will be here the next homestand in uniform, be in the cages, throwing batting practice on the field, doing all the things I was doing before. Then once the game starts, I’ll be back in the suite with Dayton, where I should be.”
Brett is not walking away. He will resume his role as vice president of baseball operations and, in fact, hinted strongly that his stint as hitting coach, which began May 30, has renewed his passion to contribute even more to the organization.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore suggested the same thing.
“I’m excited that his involvement will grow deeper and more enhanced,” Moore said.
That enhancement likely will include a few trips to the minor leagues with Moore to look over prospects. And, of course, it will include frequent work during homestands with the hitters, something he had not done during the regular season until the previous two months.
What it won’t include is the day-to-day grind he has experienced the last eight weeks.
“I don’t want to say I hate to travel or the day-to-day stuff,” Brett said. “It’s just a different lifestyle than I’m used to. If you ever had a job where you had to travel for (81) games a year, plus spring training, you have to believe it’s the stupidest job on the planet — unless you’re a player. I’m not a player anymore.
“I didn’t mind it when I was 20. I didn’t mind it when I was 35 years old. I started minding it when I was 39 and 40 years old, the last two years I played. Now I’m 60. And I was trying to do that life again and it was just very difficult for me. “
Brett said he did give some thought to hanging on through the rest of the season, but his energy level and enthusiasm simply were waning.
“It’s hard to explain why,” he said. “For whatever reason, I don’t know, it was just getting harder. I would get excited the first week on the job and look forward to going to the ballpark. Then after a month, yeah, I was still excited to go to the ballpark.
“I thought the four days off from the All-Star break would help. I was excited to come to the ballpark last Friday night. Then the next day we had a day game, and it was tougher. Then the Sunday game it got even tougher. And then that’s when I decided to have a talk with David Glass and Dayton and Ned (Yost).
“Once I talked to all of them, I knew it would all be all right.”
Moore asked Brett and Pedro Grifol to step in as the hitting coaches after reassigning hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David in hopes of reviving a dormant offense.
The overall offensive numbers suggest that Brett’s impact was marginal at best — the team continues to languish in the crucial runs-scored category, sitting at 13th in the league.
But there have been successes. Hosmer was the Royals’ player of the month for June and appears to have become the hitter again that Royals fans envisioned when he was a rookie. He leads the team with 11 homers and is second in average at .287.
Moustakas’ season was buried when Brett arrived, but Moose has lifted his average almost 50 points to .225 since Brett came aboard.
And the team, as Moore pointed out, has performed better with Brett around. They were 26-22 with Brett in the dugout — only Detroit, with 27, won more games in the American League Central during that stretch.
“No question he made a difference,” Hosmer said. “You just watch his passion for the game. It rubs off on everyone.
“It really stinks that he’s leaving, but then again, he’s not really gone. He’s going to be around during homestands. I think we’re all pretty happy about that.”
The full-time hitting coach job now falls into the hands of Grifol, who, according to several players, has the complete trust of the clubhouse.
“Pedro has been terrific,” Moustakas said. “He knows what he’s doing.”
“Absolutely,” Gordon added. “He’s a sharp guy.”
Brett, meanwhile, will remember fondly his last game in the dugout — he watched Alcides Escobar’s walk-off RBI double in Wednesday’s win over Baltimore.
“But I’m not riding into the sunset,” Brett said, grinning. “I’ll still be around.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.