KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After nearly a half-century with the Kansas City Royals, John Wathan will retire after the 2022 season.
A World Series champion in 1985, the Royals drafted Wathan with the No. 4 overall pick out of the University of San Diego in the 1971 draft and he played 10 seasons in the major leagues from 1976-85.
He later worked as a coach, broadcaster and scout for the organization during his 47 seasons with Kansas City.
“I’m very fortunate to have worked with the Royals, the classiest organization in baseball, and with so many great people through the years,” Wathan said in a statement from the club. “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, and I have had a full and blessed life to join this organization at 21 and work here until almost turning 73.”
Watha, 72, became a Royals coach after his playing career ended, spending 1986 as the manager for the Royals Triple-A affiliate Omaha Royals before taking over the big-league club in late August 1987.
He managed parts of five seasons for Kansas City, finishing 287-270 as the Royals manager before he was fired early in the 1991 season.
Wathan received a vote for American League Manager of the Year, finishing fifth.
Wathan returned to southern California as third-base coach for the Angels in 1992, taking over after manager Buck Rodgers went on medical leave after a bus accident.
The Angels went 39-50 under Wathan, who would later go work as a coach for the Boston Red Sox in 1994 before joining Royals telecasts in 1996-97.
Wathan joined Kansas City’s player development department in 1999, serving most recently as a special assistant for player development.
During his Royals career, Wathan primarily played catcher, but he also played first base and in the outfield.
He was a career .262 batter in 860 games, all with Kansas City.
Wathan received an MVP vote in 1980 after batting .305 with six home runs, 58 RBIs and 17 stolen bases, amassing more walks (50) than strikeouts (42) in 510 plate appearances.
His 36 stolen bases in 1982 still rank as the major-league record for a catcher, though Wathan famously rankled at the notion someone “runs well for a catcher.”
Wathan and Nancy’s two sons, Dusty and Derek, also played professional baseball, while their daughter, Dina, has worked for the Royals for 18 years.
“We are proud to celebrate Duke for his 47 years as a Royal,” Royals General Manager J.J. Picollo said in a statement from the team. “Not many people walking this earth have done so many things for one organization. Personally, I want to thank Duke for his complete honesty, regardless of the situation, and how he represents the game of baseball.”
Wathan earned the nickname Duke for his John Wayne impression.