SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mike Jirschele, the long-time Omaha manager, was kidded as well as honored on Tuesday as the Royals held their annual Minor League awards ceremony at their training complex.
Jirschele, who managed the Triple-A club for 14 seasons before joining the Kansas City coaching staff this year, will have his number 23 retired during an appreciation day on July 17 at Omaha, it was announced by team general manager Martie Cordaro.
"It was our privilege to have you for 14 years," Cordaro said. "We don't want you back except on that night but we're going to retire your number on that night."
"I'm surprised," Jirschele said jokingly. "I think they're going hang it on the backside of the wall. It's not going to be on the inside or somewhere where fans can see it."
Jirschele's Storm Chasers, who won the Triple-A championship this year despite an overall losing record in the regular season, received rings at the ceremony as did the Idaho Falls Chukars, champions of the rookie-level Pioneer League.
Scott Sharp, Royals director of player personnel, recalled something something that Jirschele told him with his typical wry humor.
" 'Scott, the first 144 games of the season don't tell you much about your team,' " Sharp said. "He proved it this summer, going 70-74 and getting a lot of help to get to the playoffs. But once in the playoffs the Chasers stormed through, beating the best three Triple-A teams in the regular season to capture their second PCL championship in three years and the first Triple-A championship in Omaha history."
Idaho Falls, managed by Omar Ramirez, overcame a 4-11 start to finish 41-35 and defeated Helena in the playoffs for the championship. Ramirez received the Dick Howser Award as the player development person of the year from John Wathan, a member of Howser's 1985 World Series champions.
While Royals owner David Glass and team president Dan Glass joined other officials at the morning ceremony at Dick Howser Field, several other Minor League Awards were made. Also on hand were Royals Hall of Famers George Brett, Dennis Leonard, John Mayberry, Art Stewart and Willie Wilson.
Brett gave the George Brett Award to Lane Adams as the organization's top hitter and he lauded the outfielder's hustle as well as his hitting.
"Just watch the way this guy plays the game," Brett said. "He plays the game hard and he plays it right," Brett said.
Leonard presented the Paul Splittorff Award to top pitcher Yordano Ventura, now a candidate for the Royals' fifth rotation spot.
"I think most everybody here is expecting to see him in the big leagues soon," Leonard said.
Former Royals captain Mike Sweeney handed the award in his name for contributions on and off the field to outfielder Alfredo Escalera.
Stewart, a legendary scout, gave the award bearing his name to Mitch Webster, former big league outfielder who is now Royals special assignment scout and Midwest regional supervisor.
Wilson gave the baserunning award named in his honor to outfielder Terrance Gore. Royals Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon presented the Frank White Award for the defensive player of the year to outfielder Bubba Starling. The Matt Minker Award for outstanding work as a Minor League employee went to Idaho Falls president/general manager Kevin Greene.
A new award was established in memory of Carlos Fortuna, a Minor League pitcher who died of liver and lung cancer last March just before his 23rd birthday.
The award is in recognition of his dedicated commitment to improving his English skills, his genuine work ethic to advancing his physical talents, and his outstanding conduct demonstrated on and off the playing field while representing the Royals in a professional manner.
The first Fortuna Award goes to pitcher Yunior Marte, who will accept the award formally during a ceremony at the Dominican Academy in Santo Domingo with Fortuna's family in attendance.