Willie Mays Aikens tells his story in ‘The Royal’

COOPERSTOWN, NY – The biggest player in Kansas City Royals history hit the ground running at a baseball conference at the Baseball Hall of Fame last Friday. George Brett was pretending to be an FBI agent showing off his badge.

That way, you weren’t in Cooperstown. NY, jada. You were somewhere with the Royals in the early 1980s, and you could have serious problems.

“It brings my name, it brings Jamie Quirk’s name, and it puts your name on it,” Brett said, pointing to his old teammate, Willie Mays Aikens, on the table.

“And it bears the name of Vida Blue, and the name of Jerry Martin and the name of Willie Wilson. And he said, “You know, we’ve had a meeting before, to call the weekly bets and bets. Suppose George and Jamie are calling a guy we’re listening to … ‘”

Brett shook and quickly understood: he had stopped betting on football games. But the FBI didn’t care much about him and Quirk. Investigators were trying to tell others that they were using cocaine.

“If we had stopped there then, we would never have had a drug case,” Aikens said. “They tried to warn us, man.”

“And you kept doing it,” Brett said.

“And we kept doing it,” Aikens replied.

Aikens continued to do so for a decade. Like Blue, Martin, and Wilson, he served a brief stint after the 1983 season, but that was hardly the worst. That’s not why Samuel Goldwyn Films has turned the story of Aikens ’life into a film“ The Royal ”that will premiere on July 15th. It will be available in streaming and limited venues, and premiered last Friday in the Hall. popularity.

For Aikens, the 67-year-old was on his first trip to Cooperstown, where Brett is set to finish in 1993 with a career of 3,154 hits. By then Aikens had deepened his cocaine addiction, which he had consumed in his six-year career. Mexico after eight seasons in the major Angels, Royals and Toronto Blue Jays in California until 1985.

In 1994, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for selling 2.2 ounces of crack cocaine four times to a female undercover officer. Aikens said he was interested in the woman and complied when she asked him to cook the cocaine in a crack.

That decision turned Aikens — the first player in two homer games in the same World Series in 1980 when Royals lost to Philadelphia — into the public face of a serious disparity in the punishment of crack cocaine and cocaine powder offenders. The 1986 federal law punished people much harder for cracking; It took until 2010 for Congress to reduce the penalty gap between crack and cocaine powder from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1.

Aikens was imprisoned for 14 years and is now out of prison while in prison. “The Royal” mostly recounts his transition to society: reconciling with his wife and family, becoming a father again, digging holes in a roadside team, and, with Brett’s help, getting a job as a Royals minor league coach.

“How many people in this world spend their lives on earth and get a movie?” said Aikens, who currently serves as a special assistant to the Royals as a leadership development team. “Not a lot of people. I hope the film helps save some lives. ”

Actress Amin Joseph, who plays the role of a crack dealer in the “Snowfall” FX series, portrays Aikens. Joseph, 42, grew up in Harlem and said he remembers the crack pots thrown at the playgrounds. He was attracted to the role of another drug-induced character.

“There are real people in our communities who are struggling with this and are still healing, and as Willie often says, not all of them were major league baseball players, giving them a second chance to have the luxury of having friends in powerful places,” Joseph said. he said. “Many of these people are lost, forgotten, under what we consider to be society, people we judge.”

Aikens ’background gave him a way back into baseball, but he wasn’t always tender. He first had to deal with his past and show that he could share his experiences.

Aikens was a public speaker who spent most of his life dealing with the totel. Brett was first encouraged to tell his story to Brett’s son’s school for athletes, a scene that is freely described in the film. It became a revelation.

“When I heard him pick me up at the middle house and talk, I had tears in my eyes. I really did, “Brett said.” I was so proud of him. “

Aikens, who testified before Congress in 2009 calling for drug reform for drug offenders, has told his story many times since then about the future of the Royals and the group’s Urban Youth Academy students. The message has been very important in baseball; While cocaine was a plague in the 1980s, the death of Tyler Skaggs Angels ’pitcher in 2019 revealed the impact of the sport’s opioid epidemic.

The four Angels team members revealed in court this year that, like Skaggs, they had received oxycodone pills from Eric Kay, the former director of communications at Angels, for two counts of guilt over his role in Skaggs’ death. Prosecutors argued that Skaggs actually died as a result of pills or pills received from Kay, which were actually disguised as oxycodone but fentanyl, which were apparently disguised as a much more powerful opioid.

“This drug they have right now is mixed with Oxycodone and drugs like that, and it’s a blind killer,” Aikens said, referring to fentanyl. “When I was taking drugs, you would sit for hours or days and sniff or smoke cocaine. But now with this drug, fentanyl, you can take this pill and get rid of it. It doesn’t even give you a chance. ‘

Almost immediately, Aikens survived to get another chance. Now he has taken his story to a theater in Cooperstown, and soon beyond.

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