Toby Cook (BA ‘90) was seven years old when his dad took him to his first Kansas City Royals baseball game. Through twice-a-year excursions to see the Royals from their home in Independence, Kan., and summer nights listening to games on the radio, Cook became a devoted fan. It's understandable, then, why he finds it almost unbelievable luck that today he works for them.
For the past two years, Cook has served as vice president of community affairs and publicity for the Royals. His responsibilities include a wide range of duties involving the Royals Charities and community service, as well setting up the off-season Royals Caravans in which players visit fans in outlying towns and cities. Cook said the Royals' first Fanfest, held in January, brought out more than 9,500 fans.
"I became a Royals fan by radio," Cook recalled. "It was also radio that got me interested in broadcasting."
Unlike most childhood aspirations, Cook's interest in broadcasting remained. After graduating from Pittsburg State University, he embarked on a 15-year career in broadcasting. It was during his service with WDAF-TV in Kansas City that he first came to the attention of the Royals.
Cook recalled that during a rough patch for the Royals in 2005, he always made a point to say something optimistic about the team during his time on the air. "I always had something positive to say," he recalled, "like, ‘this is the day we're going to turn things around.'"
After being asked to emcee two Royals Charities Galas, team owner David Glass called Cook aside and told him that if he ever wanted to leave broadcasting, the Royals had a job for him. Within weeks, this number one Royals fan was packing his bags.
Over the years, Cook said there have been a lot of positive changes on the team, and a $250 million renovation of the stadium (scheduled for completion in 2009) is well underway.
Cook said one of the most enjoyable aspects of his job is working with current and former players outside of the games.
"We do a lot of stuff in the community," he said, describing partnerships with the Salvation Army and the United Way. He admits his surprise when the pro baseball players he had idolized turned out to be so likeable. "I'm impressed by the fact that they're very, very nice people."
Doing something he could only dream of when he was a child listening to the Royals on summer nights, he describes his career today as "surreal."
"I always loved the Royals," he said. "This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."