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Winning KC Royals are hot topic for George Brett, Tom Watson at ALS golf benefit

In the past few years, when sports legends George Brett and Tom Watson teamed up to raise funds for the the ALS Association at the Joe McGuff ALS Golf Classic at LionsGate, the Royals were buried in the standings and the team was something of an afterthought.

This year’s Royals have returned — emphatically — to the discussion.

“I’m loving it,” Brett, the Royals legend and MLB Hall of Famer said.

The Royals improved to 36-25 with Sunday’s dramatic 4-3 home victory over the San Diego Padres, scoring three runs in the ninth. They’re bidding for their first winning record and postseason appearance since the 2015 World Series championship team won it all.

Brett attended Sunday’s game. He participated in pre-game ceremonies on Lou Gehrig Day, honoring the iconic player whose life was cut short by ALS, a disease that would come to bear Gehrig’s name.

Tom Watson hosts a golf clinic during the 41st annual ALS Golf Tournament on Monday, June 3, 2024, at the Nicklaus Golf Club in Overland Park.
Tom Watson hosts a golf clinic during the 41st annual ALS Golf Tournament on Monday, June 3, 2024, at the Nicklaus Golf Club in Overland Park.

A day later, at an event dedicated to funding ALS research, Brett and Watson said — like all Royals fans — that they’ve been enamored with the team’s starting pitching. The Royals entered Monday’s off-day with a 3.10 ERA among their starters, trailing only the Phillies and Yankees.

The Royals’ pitching rotation includes veterans Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha — both played for the Padres last season — and Brett had gotten a scouting report from an old friend about the club’s new talent.

Former Royals pitcher Zack Grienke lives near Brett’s home in Arizona and struck up a conversation with Brett about what the future might hold.

“I wondered if these guys were the answer,” Brett said. “And Zack said Lugo is unbelievable, and Wacha is unbelievable. I thought, ‘That’s interesting,’ and it has been interesting.”

Lugo, the announced starter for the Royals’ series opener at AL Central-leading Cleveland on Tuesday, tops the American League with nine victories (9-1) and a 1.72 ERA.

Wacha (4-5, 4.24 ERA) had been a steady presence before taking a batted ball off his left foot last week (he is on the injured list now). He pitched 5 1/3 innings against the Padres over the weekend with a fracture in his left foot.

Brett and Watson made it a point to mention the benefit of communication among the starting pitchers after a starter’s day is finished.

“The camaraderie and culture they have in that locker room prior and after games is really good,” Brett said. “It’s only June and we’re talking about what a big series it is in Cleveland.”

Said Watson, winner of eight major championships during his illustrious time in professional golf: “It’s fun to be able to talk that way ... I’m a true-blue fan.”

Monday’s charity golf event was launched by Brett in 1983 to honor his friend Keith Worthington, who died of the disease the next year. Watson. In 2004, Watson’s caddie, Bruce Edwards, lost his own battle with ALS.

In 2003, the event was named for McGuff, the former longtime editor, sports editor and columnist for The Kansas City Star. who died from ALS in 2006.