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ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Royce Lewis didn't travel to Anaheim for the Twins' series against the Los Angeles Angels at the end of April. The Twins third baseman is recovering from a quadriceps injury; but his parents, Cindy and William, were there for one of the games.

Sitting a half-dozen rows behind home plate, William wore a gray No. 23 Lewis jersey.

This was supposed to be a homecoming trip for Royce. He grew up about 30 minutes from Angel Stadium. Family members and friends planned to come out in droves. Royce wanted to take the entire Twins team to The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, a restaurant his dad co-owns near the ballpark.

"Royce was really disappointed," Cindy Lewis said. "That was on the calendar and something he was planning. He was really excited about that to treat everybody, but it'll happen in the future."

There were a lot of big plans for Royce this year. He transformed into a fan favorite with his knack for big hits in clutch moments. He was a key reason the Twins ended their 18-game postseason losing streak last October, becoming the third player in major league history to homer in his first two playoff at-bats.

Royce had so many milestones last season that he and his family didn't realize this year was his first Opening Day game. Royce's parents and maternal grandparents surprised him in Kansas City after his fiancée, Samantha, flagged affordable plane tickets at the end of spring training.

"I always just have more fun when they're there," Royce said. "I want to give people, especially my family, something to watch."

Royce opened the season with a 423-foot home run in his first at-bat, blasting a fastball into the Kauffman Stadium fountains. Cindy remembers a line Kurt Stillwell, a former All-Star shortstop who now works in Scott Boras' agency, told her when Royce played at a Team USA event almost a decade ago: "Ma'am, when the lights come on, Royce shines."

He hit a single in his second at-bat, then partially tore his quad muscle attempting to score from first on a Carlos Correa double. After twice tearing a ligament in his right knee, costing him two seasons, Royce had the start of his 2024 season derailed by another injury, one that will likely keep him out through May. His family, with him in Kansas City, did their best to keep his spirits up by taking him out to eat and playing card games together.

"It's been hard for him," Cindy said. "He is a super positive guy, and he always looks at the glass half-full. I think he's taken it in stride with each of these injuries. This last one, I think, hit him a little harder than the rest because he felt like I got through these two things and now I'm good to go."

The three-game series in Anaheim should have been a celebration for what Royce accomplished since he starred at JSerra Catholic High School.

"It would've pulled on the heartstrings a little bit, getting on the field, watching [batting practice]," said JSerra baseball coach Brett Kay.

Great cooks, modest parents

The Winery Restaurant has three locations in Southern California, including one in Tustin, a 20-minute drive from Angel Stadium. It's an upscale spot that features steaks, seafood, ribs, a half-pound bison burger and pasta on the menu.

Cindy Lewis occasionally brought her children, Royce and Rylie, to The Winery, so they could spend additional time with their dad. Royce recommends pork belly lollipops as an appetizer.

"There were a lot of holidays that we would try to swing in and see him," Cindy said. "He always worked around his schedule to come to games and tried to be at every single one. I do think both of our kids, they know I'm a hard worker always too, but I think they really got their work ethic seeing how hard their dad works."

The Winery opened in 2007 and Royce said his dad was typically at work from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. six to seven days a week.

There was still a priority on family meals.

"He'd just come home and cook us gourmet restaurant food every night, it seemed like, in the middle of the night," Royce said. "At 1 a.m., we'd all wake up and eat as a family. It was like our third dinner. I had two awesome chefs, my mom and dad. I was always eating good."

At The Winery, there are autographed photos from Angels All-Stars Jered Weaver and Darin Erstad, two players who previously partnered with the restaurant, along the walls. There are more Erstad photos in the outdoor cigar lounge.

No pictures or mementos inside the restaurant indicate the owner's son is a potential star player.

When Torii Hunter played for the Angels, he frequented the restaurant and developed a friendship with William. There were passing mentions that William's son played baseball, but it wasn't until Hunter, then working as a special assistant in the Twins front office, helped with draft preparation that he realized William's son was a candidate for the No. 1 pick.

"He kind of got mad at me because I didn't let him know that was Royce," said William, laughing. "When they come in, they don't want to hear about a 10-year-old who is good. How many times have they heard, 'my son is great,' this and that."

Always on the fast track

Inside the JSerra gymnasium, along one of the walls, are murals dedicated to 11 athletes who earned player of the year honors. Royce's mural sits in the middle, directly below the scoreboard.

Royce's mural features a five-photo collage with three pictures from when he played in high school and two after he signed with the Twins. Next to the mural is a list of Royce's awards in high school: Three-time Trinity League MVP. USA Today All-California Team. Max Preps All-American. At the bottom, below 32 other honors, is "Major League Baseball #1 Overall Draft Pick."

His 2017 Gatorade California Player of the Year trophy sits in a case alongside the baseball team's league championship plaques, and there is a banner photo of him next to the baseball field's scoreboard.

"The common theme that we get around here is [rival coaches saying] I have never wanted an opposing team's player to be more successful in life and major league baseball than Royce Lewis just because of who he is," said Kay, the baseball coach.

Kay's oldest son, Brody, tore a ligament in his knee when he was 8 years old, shortly after Royce suffered the same injury. Royce called Brody to offer advice and encouragement.

"My biggest weakness is I don't want to bother Royce," Kay said. "Here is the high school coach that is hanging on Royce Lewis' coattails. We don't want to do that. He's the opposite. He's like, no, I need you to call me. I want to say hi to Brody and [youngest son] Kaden."

Royce — who played on high school baseball teams that featured another major leaguer, Texas' Davis Wendzel, and two more infielders who are in Class AAA — never dealt with injuries in high school. He was almost never sick. Cindy estimated he missed one day of school between kindergarten and his graduation.

"It's really hard for us because you know what he's capable of," said Kay, who played in the New York Mets' farm system. "You never know what it's going to be like, but if there is a kid that can do it and is capable of being a face of the franchise, or even partially the face of major league baseball, this kid is it."

Royce admits his quad injury has been mentally tough on him. When he injured his knee, he knew he was out for the season. With his quad, he doesn't feel pain, but he hasn't been cleared for full baseball activities.

“I think he's taken it in stride with each of these injuries. This last one, I think, hit him a little harder than the rest.”
Cindy Lewis

He's remained busy during home games, generally cheering from the top step in the dugout. He's active in the clubhouse, always chatting with teammates whether he's offering support or congratulating them on a big play.

"It just shows his character," Twins pitcher Chris Paddack said. "He's out for a good bit and he's still in here with a smile on his face and bringing everybody up. I think that's something you can't teach."

When the Twins leave for road trips, however, it can be a reminder of what Royce missed. He didn't see his parents sitting behind home plate. He couldn't set up a team outing to a restaurant he grew up around.

"This is more anticipation than my debut call," Royce said. "I'm waiting for the call to just go back out there to play."