(Kansas City) (AP) – The challenge was laid down. All that’s keeping Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles from deciding the fastest man in Kansas City sports is about 300 yards of parking lot between Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium.
Probably the folks in charge of their teams, too.
The idea of a match race came up when Dyson and a bunch of other Royals dropped in to watch part of a Chiefs practice last week. In his typical bravado, Dyson proclaimed that he could beat any of them in a foot race – including Charles, their Pro Ball running back.
“I’m not afraid to race nobody,” said Dyson, who had swiped 25 bases in 60 games heading into the Royals’ game Tuesday night in Minnesota. “I’ll tell you that straight up.”
The race is unlikely to ever happen in the city that produced former 100-meter world-record holder Maurice Green. There’s too much injury risk to line them up just for fun.
Sure is a compelling conversation piece, though.
Dyson is the fleet-footed base-stealer best over shorter distances – say, the 90 feet that separates bags on a big league infield. Charles is the speedy back who excels with a nice runway to get going – say, the 100 yards from one end zone to the other.
“If he puts a show on, I’m never going to back down,” Charles told The Associated Press after Tuesday afternoon’s practice, when asked of Dyson’s challenge. “Track’s my first love.”
If both of them are up for it, might as well try to assess the most intriguing match race in these parts since Seabiscuit took on War Admiral.
Dyson says he doesn’t put much stock in 40-yard dashes, but the 5-foot-9, 160-pound sparkplug thinks he could run it in 4.3 seconds. Charles, at 5-11 and nearly 200 pounds, turned a 4.38 when he was clocked at the NFL combine in 2008, following his senior year with the Longhorns.
Dyson isn’t as polished a sprinter as Charles, but he certainly has speed to burn.
The big league average for a player running from home to first base is 4.2 seconds for left-handed hitters. Dyson covers the distance nearly a half-second faster. The average time for a good base stealer taking second is about 3.2 seconds. Dyson can do it in about 2.6.
Royals manager Ned Yost said he’s “definitely the fastest” player in the big leagues, and Yost has seen some quick ones. He broke into the big leagues as a player in 1980, and as a coach watched the likes of Otis Nixon and Kenny Lofton – No. 15 and No. 16 on the career stolen bases list, respectively – when he was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Braves.
Even the Twitter handle that Dyson uses sounds fast: (at)mrzoombiya.
Don’t get it? Say it out loud.
“I don’t care if you’re a sprinter or whatever,” Dyson said, “you’re not getting past Mr. Zoombiya. You’re going to have to come at me over some distance.”
Turns out that’s precisely where Charles has an advantage.
He was a bronze medalist in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2003 world youth championships, and won state titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at Memorial High School in Port Arthur, Texas.
Charles took his speed to Austin, where he was an All-American multiple times over for the Longhorns. The former junior Olympian was fourth in the 60 meters at the NCAA indoors in 2006, and fifth in the 100 at the outdoors later that summer. Among those who edged Charles in the 100 was Walter Dix, a two-time world silver medalist and two-time Olympic bronze medalist.
Even now, Charles lights up when he’s asked about his “pretty elite” track career. He openly thought about returning to it during the NFL lockout a couple years ago.
“Not pretty elite. I was junior worlds,” Charles clarified. “It’s not that I’m fast. I have track history. Track is my first love. I’m not going to back down from a race.”
Not against Dyson. Not against anyone.
“It’s maintaining your sprint all the way through. It’s not how fast you are, it’s your strength and how conditioned you are,” Charles explained. “You can be fast, but if you don’t have the strength to maintain the speed, you’d better hold on.”
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey laughed when asked who he’d put his money on in a race between Dyson and Charles. He wouldn’t give an answer on the record, but with a bias that’s only natural, Dorsey did say, “I’m going to stand by my guy.”
So, the lines have been drawn in a race to determine the fastest man in Kansas City sports.
All that’s left is to bring the rivals together.