Damon reminisces about time in Kansas City

Damon reminisces about time in Kansas City

CLEVELAND -- Johnny Damon played nearly five and a half years with the Royals at the start of his 18-year career and still has a fond spot for Kansas City. In fact, he had thoughts about possibly returning this year.

"It's still my longest-tenured team and great memories," Damon said. "I hoped something in this offseason would have transpired to bring me back there and try to finish up there perhaps."

As it turned out, Damon never discussed coming back with the Royals and he wound up signing with Cleveland.

"I think every team was kind of waiting to see what their young guys can do and, unfortunately, that kind of leaves the older guys out -- until the middle of April for me and other guys, too," Damon, 38, said. "Teams worry about when a certain guy is going to break down and that's never been a question with me, but teams are always wondering if this is the year something will happen."

Damon, entering Monday's game against the Royals, had 2,735 hits in his career, 265 shy of the prestigious 3,000 mark.

"It's never been a goal of mine, but I'd love to get it, obviously," he said. "The way I'm hitting right now, it'd take about five or six years."

Damon laughed at his own expense because, since joining the Indians on May 2, he'd had just 12 hits and had a .158 average in 21 games.

It was Aug. 12, 1995, when Damon, called up from a hot season with Double-A Wichita, broke into the KC lineup, batted first and played center field wearing No. 51. He went hitless twice, then got the first of his three hits in a 7-2 win over the Mariners at Kauffman Stadium.

"Yeah, that 30-hopper past first base, went for a triple off [Tim] Belcher," Damon said.

Since leaving KC in a trade to Oakland after the 2000 season, Damon has been in postseason play in eight years while the Royals have been in none. Twice Damon has been on a World Series champion, with the Red Sox and the Yankees.

"It's something that I always want to do, to have that chance to win the championship and I was able to do it twice, so I've accomplished everything that I set out to do in this game -- No. 1 was always winning a championship and I did that," Damon said. "Do I have anything to prove now? No, except to show that I can still play."

Damon says he can still get down the first-base line in 3.9 or 4.0 seconds and play the outfield despite being primarily a designated hitter in 2010 with Detroit and 2011 with Tampa Bay.

"Can I still play like I did in my Royal days? No. But I know I can still run, I can still do OK out there, but the main thing with me staying in the game is if I can hit and I've showed some signs, but I've got to show a lot more to keep this gig I do have," he said.

Damon is not pretentious enough to view himself as a Hall of Fame player, although 3,000 hits would enhance his chances, but last year in an MLB Network interview he was asked, if ever elected, which cap he'd prefer to be wearing on his plaque.

"I said Kansas City. I've more hits, more runs scored, more stolen bases, most time with the Royals," he said.

Naturally, by playing four years each with bitter rivals New York and Boston, he riled fans in both cities.

"So you're going to have some people that love me, some people that hate me, but that's how I've been everywhere I've gone -- loved and hated and that's mostly due to my play on the field, and that's OK," Damon said. "I've proved I can be a big deciding factor in winning or losing a game."