Red Sox coach Jerry Royster enjoys daughter’s budding acting career
|08.13.12 at 3:05 pm ET|
When Red Sox third base coach Jerry Royster watched his teenage daughter, Kara, act in a TV show in May 2010, he couldn’t help but feel that the tables had been turned.
It was Kara’s first TV gig, an appearance on Nickelodeon’s “Bucket & Skinner’s Epic Adventures,” and Royster was sitting backstage with Kara’s mother, Kathy, watching on a monitor. Jerry gave Kathy a hug and told her, ‘This is pretty cool, huh?”
“We sat there, and watching her brings tears to your eyes,” Royster said. “It’s just so cool for me to see my kid perform after they’ve spent all their lives watching me perform and watching me on TV. Now I get to watch her on TV.”
Kara and her older sister, Kristie, have been following their father’s baseball career their entire lives, including visits to spring training.
“She’s such a great student and I looked at it, being in baseball, that’s all they know,” said Royster, who played third base for five teams during a 16-year MLB career from 1973-88 and is in his first season with the Red Sox. “They know their dad’s travel agent, when school is out, when she gets out of school she’s coming to see her dad. Both her older sister and her, that’s the only life they’ve ever lived. That’s all they know.”
Even though baseball was a presence in their young lives, neither Kara nor Kristie wanted to devote themselves to athletics. They played softball briefly, but it was always acting and entertaining that enamored the two.
“This is what they’ve always wanted to do,” Jerry said. “They’ve been independent and knowing what they want. For them to get the opportunity to pursue it makes me and their mom proud. We’re proud. We’re proud of what both of them have done.”
Kara’s acting started with childhood plays at a middle school for the arts she attended in Florida and has expanded to include occasional appearances as Remi on Nick at Nite’s teen drama “Hollywood Heights.”
“It’s absolutely amazing just because I’ve been able to sit in the dugout and watch him kind of perform,” Kara said. “Because I’m an actor I watch baseball almost like a performance as well as entertainment. So for him to now be in the dugout watching me is an amazing experience.”
Jerry isn’t the only one in the Red Sox dugout supporting Kara, whose character has appeared in roughly 12 episodes.
“Bobby Valentine is always like, ‘Go get ‘em,’ ” Kara said. “He’s always very supportive and he knew us back in Korea [where Royster managed from 2008-10] and everything, so he’s known a little bit and he’s just very supportive. He’s been a good friend to the family.”
While Jerry elects not to broadcast Kara’s success to his current team, a few Red Sox players and coaches know of Kara’s acting.
“She’s good at what she does,” Royster said. “I turned it on the other day in the coaches room to let the coaches see the show, and we were on the airplane and I had my iPad and I turned on one of her shows and it’s cool. Trust me, I’m pretty proud.”
In order to continue acting at that level, Kara usually reads scripts over and over again, sometimes to her mother. But about 13 years ago, Kara was the one being read to.
“We’re [about] 10 years apart and my sister had a few monologues for school,” Kara said. “Eventually my mother got sick of hearing the exact same monologues over and over again, so my sister would use me at about 5 years old to sit like a stuffed animal almost to bounce her acting off of,” Kara said. “So, I can almost still remember the monologues she used to get into the [Los Angeles County High School for the Arts], and that’s when I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that,’ or talk about funny things, watching commercials and everything.”
Kristie’s passion for acting was imbibed by her younger sister, who wanted to follow her lead. Eventually Kara joined her sister in Los Angeles after being admitted to the same prestigious high school.
Kara’s acceptance was the push she needed to move to Los Angeles, but it was just the first part to jump-starting Kara’s career. Her mother was the other.
“I started doing this at 15 and I obviously didn’t have a license or any sort of business idea, so she’s who I attribute all of my success to,” Kara said. “She was the one driving me around. She was the one who got me the right headshot person. She was on the Internet researching for days just to find the right one, and she’s the one who keeps pushing me and supporting me.”
Even though Kara’s mother has been instrumental in her success, the 18-year-old still looks to her father for guidance as well. Jerry, who signed his first major league contract with the Dodgers, knows multiple people in the Hollywood industry.
“She asks me for advice all the time, especially in big moments,” Jerry said. “She has the big stuff that’s coming up and she just wants to talk about performing in front of people. She knows how to do that, but she has definitely reached out to me for advice.
“But the life that we lead, we’re really close. We’re an extremely close family. The four of us, we pretty much do many things together and she’s able to watch and see how I handle things and how just draw from it. She’s very independent, but she’s very observant also.”
The togetherness has lasted through distance and divorce. Jerry and Kathy, after being married for 17 years, ended their marriage more than a decade ago, while his MLB career has taken him all over the world.
“Their lives have not changed with the divorce,” Jerry said of his daughters. “As hard as it was and how difficult it was for [Kara] as a young kid, at 7 years old to go through the divorce, that was extremely hard on her. And her sister was 14 or 15 at the time, so we’ve had our difficult times. But we were able to get it back together. And it’s just because you’ve got to make it work. Whatever it takes to raise your kids, that’s my motto. Her and her mom now, I think her mom now and I are closer than we’ve ever been.”
Talking to each other was the key, Jerry said. It still is, as he calls his daughters every day at 6 p.m. It’s a system the Roysters have used for years, one that started with Kara and Kristie wishing their father luck before games.
As a player, manager and now a third base coach, Jerry has reached out to stay in touch with his family. He usually missed the big moments but was able to see his daughter graduate from high school in June.
For Jerry that moment bypasses Kara’s entrance into the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, her first acting job with Nickelodeon and even sitting down with Emmy Award-winning producer Dan Schneider — which was a close second.
After watching Kara’s performance on Nickelodeon, Schneider — known for producing a series of highly successful Nickelodeon shows, including “All That,” “Drake & Josh,” “iCarly” and “Victorious” — invited Kara to a table read and cast her for an upcoming production.
“I got to go to a Nickelodeon studio, which was dressed in all the orange and green and everything, and just sit with him across the table just reading,” Kara said. “He’s so hilarious and it was just this amazing experience to have and I had an amazing time and we got to do the whole table read with the rest of the cast. Afterwards we said hello to him and he said, ‘Great job.’ It was nice to kind of know him before I got off set.”
Kara, who has tried out for acting roles multiple times, is no longer the nervous actress who relied on veterans to help her through her first audition.
“I’m less nervous but I’m certainly still nervous and I hope I’m always nervous,” Kara said. “I just think it means I’m still into it. It means it’s still a new adventure.”
While the worlds of acting and baseball are different, there are parallels between Kara and Jerry’s careers. They both started in the same place.
Jerry, a native of Sacramento, Calif., was signed by the Dodgers in 1970 and played sparingly for them for three seasons (1973-75) before being traded to the Braves, for whom he played 10 of his 16 major league seasons. After his playing career ended in 1988, he managed various Los Angeles farm teams for four years. The 59-year-old also spent time managing in the Padres system.
Because of his baseball career and Southern California connection, sometimes it’s Jerry who gets recognized the most when he watches Kara film her shows.
“That’s still always going to be the focus, especially in Los Angeles because that’s where I started my career,” Jerry said. “Those people know me, associate me with the Dodgers. The producers and the directors and everybody else, they obviously they know what I do and who I am and they’re waiting to meet me, and I could [not] care less. It wasn’t my time, that’s Kara’s time. And it was cool. They made sure of that. They just said hello and they didn’t make it about me, and that’s the one thing you can’t do.
“That was all about Kara. And we were pretty proud. We’re proud parents. You can only imagine. Obviously, what I do is unbelievable. I’ve got the greatest life that you could possibly have, being in baseball. I’ve been in baseball forever. But to see my daughter on stage, doing her thing and her signing autographs after the live session was done on “Bucket and Skinner,” which was her first one, her signing autographs, it just makes you proud.”
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