Macfarlane to enter Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
Royals' all-time leader in games caught fondly recalls Kansas City days
KANSAS CITY -- It was about 26 years ago that Mike Macfarlane was driving across the country to Baseball City, Fla., where the Royals were encamped, with his bride, Kathy.
Macfarlane was still getting over shoulder surgery, so it was important that they would stop along the way for a little practice.
"Part of our honeymoon was driving to Florida for Spring Training and playing catch with her. She was a girlie-girl and we'd go to a high school field in Texas or Louisiana, driving across those states," Macfarlane said with a laugh. "Our first marital spat was how bad her soft toss was."
Kathy Macfarlane must have done something right because her husband developed into the most durable catcher in Royals history and a highly respected 13-year Major Leaguer. That will be recognized Jan. 26 at Springfield, Mo., when he's inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
That comes 15 years after Macfarlane wrapped up his career in 1999 with Oakland.
"Anytime you get recognized with such a tremendous honor, you're kind of like, 'Really?'" Macfarlane said.
But he wasn't forgotten.
"It's really an honor to be inducted," Macfarlane said. "I know people say that, but when something comes out of the blue like that, you're genuinely shocked to a certain extent and asking yourself about the worthiness of your credentials. But the further away you get from the game, you tend to look back and say there were some things you try to stay humble with but, you know what, that wasn't too bad."
It sure wasn't. He caught more games, 798, than anyone in Royals history. No one else is even close (Brent Mayne is second with 620). Macfarlane was a superb handler of pitchers, excellent on defense, hit with power and was a team leader.
In fact, he was so respected that when after his first eight years with Kansas City he signed as a free agent with Boston, he was away for just one season before the Royals brought him back for two more years.
"I was so fortunate early in my career in the last couple of years in the '80s to play with George [Brett] and Frank [White] and Willie [Wilson], established veterans, and learned to catch from the likes of Bob Boone," Macfarlane said. "And then the pitchers here in Kansas City that I had a chance to work with, from Jeff Montgomery, who is my closest friend, to Sabes and Goobie [Bret Saberhagen and Mark Gubicza] and those guys that helped mold who you are as far as a game-caller and everything else."
Macfarlane had some impressive moments himself, including 20 home runs in 1993, a two-homer and five-RBI game in 1991, and throwing out 15 of 36 basestealers (42 percent) in '91. He could also take one for the team, being hit by pitches 97 times in his career.
His 2014 class of inductees in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame also includes Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Kendrick is saluted for making great progress in stabilizing the institution co-founded by the legendary Buck O'Neil.
Also in the class of 15 is former Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee.
"I played with Willie in Boston in '95 and what a class act he was," Macfarlane said.
Briefly an analyst for ESPN, Macfarlane these days concentrates on the operation of Mac-N-Seitz Baseball and Softball, a training facility in Kansas City. His partner is another former Royals star, Kevin Seitzer, who's just been hired as the Blue Jays' hitting coach.
"Kevin and I are awfully busy. Kevin with his success as a hitting coach leaves some of the duties on me during the spring, so I'm busy with that," Macfarlane said. "And chasing four kids -- my youngest is now a sophomore in high school, so I'm getting older than dirt."
He's 49 and he and Kathy have four children -- Megan, Austin, Allie and Ryan.
"I'm just a huge Royals fan -- to a fault," he said.
As a former catcher, Macfarlane keeps close watch on Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez.
"I like everything about him, just love him. I would've loved to have played with him, I would've loved to have caught behind him," Macfarlane said.
"My last couple of years playing [with the A's], being a mentor to Ramon Hernandez, A.J. Hinch, some of those young players and catching the likes of Tim Hudson. Those are some of the things that you look at that were kind of special and to think you had a part in their successful careers. You look at what Salvador has done at such a young age, how he's still humble, still respects the game and still plays it the right way. He's got a lot of old school in him."
Just like Macfarlane.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.