KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Longtime big league catcher and manager John Wathan announced Wednesday that he will retire after this season, ending a career in professional baseball that included 47 of 51 years spent with the Kansas City Royals.
Nicknamed “Duke,” Wathan was a first-round pick of the Royals in 1971 and eventually spent 10 seasons behind the plate for them. That included his memorable 1980 season in which he hit .305 and helped Kansas City win the AL pennant, and their 1985 season, when he helped the club win its first World Series title in his final year before retiring as a player.
Wathan went into coaching and managed the Royals from 1987 into the 1991 season before spending part of the 1992 season managing the Angels. He also did some broadcasting work for Kansas City before returning to the Royals in a player development role, eventually helping the club win two more AL pennants and the 2015 World Series.
"I’m very fortunate to have worked with the Royals, the classiest organization in baseball, and with so many great people throughout the years,” Wathan said. “I’m grateful for the tremendous support from all the great Royals fans throughout the years, and my wife Nancy and I are proud to have made Kansas City our home and be part of this community.
“This was my dream as a kid," Wathan added, "and I have had a full and blessed life to join this organization at 21 and work here until almost turning 73.”
Wathan's son, Derek, spent a decade playing minor league baseball. His other son, Dusty, played briefly for the Royals and is now the third-base coach of the Phillies. His daughter, Dina, also works for the Royals.
“Not many people walking this earth have done so many things for one organization,” Royals manager J.J. Picollo said. "I want to thank Duke for his complete honesty, regardless of the situation, and how he represents the game of baseball.”