Born: April 13, 1986
In December 2010, a phone call found its way to Lorenzo Cain. It was his mom, who saw on TV that he had been traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Kansas City Royals.
Stunned? That was putting mildly. After all, Cain had made his big-league debut that July after spending five seasons in the minor leagues.
“I didn’t know anything about Kansas City,” Cain said. “It was an emotional roller coaster. That said, I got a lot of texts and phone calls. But once I got to Kansas City, I knew this was the place.”
Cain went on to play seven seasons for the Royals – and was among the catalysts who led them to a Golden Era – and that’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted the center fielder with the Class of 2023.
Cain will be forever remembered in Kansas City for helping the Royals win two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series. In his time in Kansas City, he batted .289 with 765 hits – including 56 home runs, 21 triples and 140 doubles in Kansas City. He also stole 120 bases and drove in 308 runs. He was a 2015 American League All-Star and finished third in MVP voting in 2015, joining George Brett (MSHOF 1994) as the only Royals to win a World Series and finish in top three of MVP.
Defensively, he made jaw-dropping catches. He also had a three-run double in the clinching game of the 2015 World Series, giving the Royals their first title in 30 years.
Most, though, may remember Cain scoring the decisive run in the 2015 American League Championship Series, as he scored all the way from first base on Eric Hosmer’s hit down the right-field line.
“I was just trying to get on base in any way possible,” Cain said. “Hoz hit the ball down the right field line, and I was able to get a decent read. I was coming in hot into third base, and I always tried to pressure my third base coach. I was surprised he waived me around.”
Cain was part of a collection of Royals who helped the organization end a 30-year championship drought. The others were Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy, to name a few. They all were called up during the 2011 season and worked toward building a winner.
For Cain, call it a remarkable journey.
After all, he did not begin playing baseball until his sophomore year at Madison County (Fla.) High School – he wore jeans to his tryout – and wasn’t a full-time starter until his senior year. He later received only one college scholarship offer, that being from Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College.
“There was a (high school) game where a guy didn’t hustle, and Coach said, ‘Lorenzo, go play right field,’” Cain recalled. “Next thing I know I was in the lineup consistently. My goal was to take advantage of the opportunity. I remember working my tail off.”
Cain credits high school coaches Barney Myers and Terry Barr, along with Tallahassee’s Mike McLeod as well as scouts Ryan Robertson and Doug Reynolds along with dads of high school buddies.
Despite being a 17th-round draft pick after his high school senior season, Cain decided to be a draft-and-follow by playing one season at Tallahassee in order to develop before signing. When he did sign, he negotiated for $95,000.
Cain then won the Rookie-level Arizona League MVP over Michael Brantley by batting .356, and the next season led the Low-Class A South Atlantic League in hits (162).
“That gave me the confidence,” Cain said of beating Brantley.
Hamstring injuries eventually slowed his rise through the Brewers farm system and, despite making his big-league debut in September 2010, he was shipped to the Royals that December.
It became a blessing for Cain, who took a trainer’s advice and relocated his offseason home to Norman, Okla., in order to work on his running.
In essence, his bad habit of lunging toward the bases stretched his hamstring too far. It was a problem he consistently worked to avoid.
And he had a reason to. When he arrived to Kansas City’s spring training in 2011, he could see the talent in the organization.
“I played with those guys in Triple-A, and I knew it was a special group,” said Cain, who spent 13 seasons overall in the big leagues, with his final five back in Milwaukee. “It was a group of ballplayers who wanted to go out and win.”