Brett, Aikens connect through ‘The Royal’
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It tells the powerful and inspiring story of Aikens, whose promising baseball career was interrupted due to drug addiction and prison. But even upon his release, he finds that faith and family – as well as addiction – can still as hard as hitting a curveball. But the former Royals star did make it back to the franchise he slugged four homers with in the 1980 World Series.
Aikens played for the Royals from 1980-83, as part of an eight-year career in the big leagues. He also played for two seasons with the California Angels in 1977 and 1979 and with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1984-85. In his four seasons with the Royals, he hit .282 with 77 home runs and 297 RBI in 511 games, including a 1983 season in which he hit a career-best 23 homers while batting .302. In the 1980 postseason, Aikens hit .387 (12-for-31) with four home runs and 10 RBI, including multi-homer games in Game 1 and Game 4 of the World Series.
“I get a lot of credit for helping Willie’s post-prison years, but all these guys in this room that played baseball would have done the same thing with their teammates,” said Brett, who is portrayed in the movie by British-born actor Nic Bishop. “That’s what you do because we were teammates. Did we ever hang out before and after games? No. Did we ever go out and have breakfast or lunch or go out after games? Never. But once we got to the field, we were teammates. And we were great friends on the field. It didn’t mean that I didn’t like him off the field. I loved him off the field. But we just didn’t have anything in common.”
“He did a great job talking to all the guys in the minor leagues every year about his life,” Brett said. “I was really hoping that Major League Baseball would hire him, the Commissioner’s office would hire him, and he would go to every Spring Training camp and visit with all the minor league teams. I think he could have saved a lot of people just telling his story.”
While certain liberties were taken with Aikens’ true story for the film, the protagonist was more than happy with the final result.
“I’m hoping that this film will show that if you do time in prison, that it’s not the end of the line,” Aikens said. “That the correct name for a prison is a correctional institution, but a lot of people that are incarcerated, they don’t look at that. They don’t look at it as a place of going and trying to correct your lives. But I’m hoping that this movie will show that if you are willing to do an inventory of your life during that period of time when you are incarcerated, you can become a better person and get out of prison and make good decisions.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum