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Nice fit: Bo Jackson returns to work with Royals in camp

Legend Bo Jackson reacts after hitting a home run during the All-Star Legends & Celebrity softball game in 2010. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)
Legend Bo Jackson reacts after hitting a home run during the All-Star Legends & Celebrity softball game in 2010. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)
Associated Press

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Bo Jackson slipped into a Kansas City Royals uniform Sunday for the first time since 1990.

A little bigger, but still a comfortable fit with his old team.

“I just had to go up a size, that’s about it,” he said.

Jackson chatted with former teammate and Royals Hall of Famer George Brett and discussed bow hunting with manager Ned Yost. At 55, the two-sport star is a guest coach for the Royals in spring training.

His duties?

“Anything I want to do,” Jackson said, laughing. “I’ve been told I have diplomatic immunity.”

“It’s fun being back here because this is where it all started for me,” he said.

The Royals drafted Jackson in the fourth round in 1986, but few thought they had a chance to sign the Heisman Trophy-winning running back from Auburn. He chose the Royals over the Tampa Bay Bucs, who picked him first overall in the 1986 NFL draft.

A year later, the Los Angeles Raiders took Jackson in the seventh round and he signed.

Jackson last played baseball on Aug. 10, 1994, with the Angels. He got two hits and stole a base against the Royals in that final game – the same week MLB players went on strike and the season was lost.

Jackson’s career was shortened after he was injured in January 1991 in a playoff game for the Raiders. The setback required hip replacement surgery.

“Most of these players probably weren’t even born when I played or they were babies,” Jackson said.

But they likely know the aura of Bo Knows, his popular ad campaign.

“I hope so,” he said.

Jackson plans on mingling with minor league players.

“Giving what advice I can, tricks of the trade on how to get from over there to over here,” he said.

Jackson said the game has changed drastically since he retired.

“Players aren’t the same. The game is not the same. The players are bigger, stronger, faster. The players look like they should be playing for the Chiefs, instead of the Royals.”

“Not only that, the technical side of the game has changed a lot. Everything is done on computers now. Computers were in their infancy when we were playing. Everything is analyzed now from the computer,” he said.

Jackson was an eye-popping combination of speed and strength. He showed off those talents in the 1989 All-Star Game, when he led off the bottom of the first inning with a 450-foot home run and later stole a base in becoming the MVP.

“I would love to say, if I could go back 25 years from now to get out here to compete with these guys I would wear” them out, Jackson said. “I’m sure if you ask any player that played 25 years ago, they’d probably say the same thing. That’s just us old folk talking and reminiscing about our younger days.”

In 1990, Jackson homered in four straight at-bats. He hit three on July 17 at Yankee Stadium, but dislocated his left shoulder diving in the outfield for a line drive by Deion Sanders and didn’t come up again.

Jackson returned on Aug. 26 and homered in his first at-bat.

“I did it over a six-week period, but I got it,” he said.

Jackson had shoulder replacement surgery last year, the delayed result from diving for Sanders’ hit.

“That finally caught up with me,” Jackson said. “I kind of felt something bugging me about 2 1/2 years ago. Within 2 1/2 years, it went from just a little bug to I couldn’t lift my arm to put on deodorant.”

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