MINNEAPOLIS — Buddy Bell chose family over baseball on Wednesday, resigning as manager of the last-place Kansas City Royals effective at the end of the season.
An emotional Bell, who will turn 55 on Aug. 27, announced the decision before Kansas City’s game against the Minnesota Twins. He will join the Royals’ front office in 2008 as a senior adviser to general manager Dayton Moore.
“I had to make a choice between managing and my family,” Bell said, “and to me, that’s a no-brainer.”
Bell’s nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Tim Bell Jr., was killed by a roadside bomb in August 2005 in Iraq, and Bell said health concerns also played a part in his decision. Last September, he had surgery to remove a cancerous growth in his throat.
“There are some things I want to do in my life right now, and that’s spending time with my family and with my daughter, in particular,” Bell said.
The announcement comes as the Royals, at 47-59 entering Wednesday night’s game, are showing signs of hope after two straight winning months. It was the first time they’ve had two straight winning months in four seasons.
The frugal franchise opened its checkbook in the offseason, signing 28-year-old right-hander Gil Meche to a five-year, $55 million contract and reliever Octavio Dotel (who was traded to Atlanta for starter Kyle Davies on Tuesday) to a $5 million, one-year deal.
There are also promising young bats in the lineup, but it has not been nearly enough for a team that has lost 100 or more games in four of its past five seasons.
Bell said he planned to move to Cincinnati, where he played during an All-Star career, while continuing to work for the Royals organization. “I’m still going to be a part of what the Royals are all about,” he said.
Before becoming the Royals’ 14th manager on May 31, 2005, Bell managed the Detroit Tigers from 1996-1998 and the Colorado Rockies from 2000-2002.
“We’ve got a long way to go this year and we need to go out there and not let this bother us, not let it get into our brains,” Royals outfielder David DeJesus said. “He’s going to be our manager still so all we can do is go out there and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said he was surprised by Bell’s announcement but also said the manager is well-rounded with interests beyond baseball.
“It seems like he still has a lot left in the tank, but there are family reasons he has for moving on,” he said.
Grudzielanek said Bell’s leadership has been a big part of the team’s improved play.
“It’s gonna be huge to keep him around,” Grudzielanek said. “With the young group we have here, just the way he goes about his business in spring training and during the season, he’s been a big part of (the recent improvement).”