Rusty Kennedy / AP
Published Monday, April 2, 2012 | 4:35 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | 5:26 p.m.
John Kruk never holds back when giving an opinion while serving as a baseball analyst for ESPN.
It’s the same way when talking about his appreciation for the Las Vegas Triple-A franchise. Kruk, long before he appeared in the 1993 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies or became a colorful television personality, was a member of the Las Vegas Stars from 1984 to 1987.
“Of course it was exciting playing there,” Kruk said. “It’s Vegas. How could you not want to play there? How could not want to be there? To me, it was a no-brainer.”
On the 30th anniversary of Las Vegas’ Triple-A team coming to town, the Las Vegas Sun has ranked the top 30 players in franchise history. Kruk, who in 1985 led the Pacific Coast League with a .351 batting averages, comes in at No. 4.
Kevin McReynolds, who batted .377 with 32 home runs during the club’s inaugural season of 1983, took the top spot. Kruk, who like McReynolds was a top prospect in the San Diego Padres organization, likes the selection. “That’s a good pick. He had Hall-of-Fame talent.”
Kruk was pretty talented, too.
His .344 batting average over parts of three seasons in Las Vegas is the best all-time in franchise history, including 148 hits in 1985 with seven home runs and a team-leading 59 RBIs — the now stout Kruk even recorded the first inside-the-park home run in club history. In 10 big-league seasons, he batted .300 with 100 home runs and 592 RBIs before retiring in 1995.
But talk with Don Logan, the Las Vegas franchise’s executive director and former longtime president, and he’ll confirm Kruk brought more to the team than a solid batting average. While most know Kruk for his mullet haircut and wacky ways during Philadelphia's run to the 1993 World Series, Logan had a chance to develop a lifetime friendship with one the sport's true characters.
“Johnny is just a very special guy,” Logan said. “A lot of those guys from the early years, the Larry Browns and Rick Lancellottis, are very special people.”
Even though Kruk left Las Vegas in the mid-1980s, he’s remained close friends with Logan, who is known in the baseball industry as “Donny Baseball” and is very popular with several former Las Vegas players.
“He was one of us. He was one of the guys,” Kruk said. “Most front office people, you keep them at a distance. But he was one of us. There is no way to describe it.
“I had a lot of friends on the team, but I consider Don as close of a friend as I had there,” he continued. “He would do anything he possibly could do to make your life in Vegas comfortable, and still does to this day. If I’m coming out there and want to play golf, I call Don Logan. If he can’t get it done, it can’t get done.”