Keoni DeRenne’s first year as the assistant hitting coordinator of the Kansas City Royals organization has gotten off to a start unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The interactions DeRenne would have otherwise had with players and fellow coaches have been unquestionably altered. But DeRenne, along with the rest of the Royals organization, have done their best to adjust to the curveball that the pandemic has thrown.
“We’ve really maximized opportunities of seeing guys one-on-one, combining different departments together, collaborating together, really trying to give our players a holistic view on who they are and kind of just going in different avenues without actually being on the field,” DeRenne told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida.
While DeRenne has remained busy, he does miss the “One-on-one interaction. The one-on-one feel, the one-on-one touch that you have on these guys and the impact when you connect with them says a lot when you are there in a one-on-one space. You create that environment.
“Just a hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back, being able to really make eye contact with guys and make physical adjustments maybe if you have to move them around to tinker with some things.”
After graduating from ‘Iolani in 1997, DeRenne was a three-year standout at the University of Arizona, where he earned All-Pac-10 honors as a shortstop. After getting drafted in the 12th round of the 2000 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves, DeRenne played in the minor league for eight seasons with the Braves, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies organizations. Although he never reached the major leagues, he had three separate stints in Triple-A ball. He also played independent ball for three years, giving him 11 years of professional experience as a player.
DeRenne has coached professionally since 2012. Similar to his playing days, DeRenne has climbed the ladder and has coached for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs organizations before joining the Royals last October.
“All the playing that I’ve done before has got me to this point right now. For me to be present in my everyday process, still shooting a goal of coaching in the major leagues one day, but it’s going to take time,” he said. “The process I have gone through with Pittsburgh then transition over with Chicago, and being able to hit all these different levels has prepared me for this journey and this opportunity right now. I couldn’t be more thankful to Kansas City for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.”
DeRenne remains a prominent baseball figure locally, as he holds youth camps during the MLB offseason and invites current pros with Hawaii ties to instruct the next generation of island ballplayers.
DeRenne’s role with the Royals involves overseeing minor league hitting coaches and players within the organization. DeRenne hopes to coach in the majors someday, but perhaps not as a manager, citing that he may be better suited to be a hitting or bench coach. But no matter who he is instructing, he believes the key to getting through to players at any level is through personal connection.
“I think when you start empathizing with players and you start building trust and you build those relationships, it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done in this game from a playing standpoint,” he said. “I think when players really understand that you’re coming from a caring mentality and caring about who they are as people and their career, they’re gonna buy in.
“At the end of the day, they’re humans. They’re emotional, the human element of things that they go through each and every day that we don’t necessarily see. At times I feel like a big brother, at times I feel like I’m a dad, sometimes I think I’m a part-time psychologist too. That’s part of the art of coaching and there’s been a lot of people who have poured into me over my career as a player and as a student of the game and now transitioning into coaching and into this new role so hopefully being able to bridge that gap.”