Matt Quatraro, a 1996 graduate of Old Dominion University, reached into his duffle bag of baseball knowledge and pulled out a surprise.

As manager, he helped the Kansas City Royals achieve a remarkable turnaround early this season. By the beginning of July, the Royals had won 47 games with almost three months of baseball left to play. Last year, the team managed just 56 wins the entire season and ended with the second-worst record in Major League Baseball.

Now, it seems, the Royals are refreshed.

The team’s manager since 2022, Quatraro has helped the team find success through persistence, flexibility and experience.

As a history major at Old Dominion, he learned the value of looking back in order to move forward.

“You try to learn from your past, learn from your mistakes,” Quatraro said. “We all make them. We make them on a daily basis. But you try to learn from them and come back the next day better.”

Quatraro’s memories of Old Dominion contain more triumphs than tribulations. On the baseball field, he helped lead the Monarchs to Colonial Athletic Association championships in 1994, 1995, and 1996.

Drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization, he reached the Triple-A level, but he never played in a major league game. By 2010, he’d shifted gears and was working as Cleveland’s assistant hitting coach. That was followed by stints as third-base coach and bench coach for Tampa Bay. The Royals opportunity came along a few years later.

He treasures memories of his time in Norfolk. “It was a huge part of my life,” Quatraro said. “I keep in touch with tons of people from those days — coaches, teammates, friends.” Old Dominion Sports Hall of Famer Wayne Gomes, for example, was a teammate. “We’ve kept in touch over the years. He’s an incredible guy.”

Why did he choose to study history at Old Dominion?

“I always thought I would either teach or go to law school,” he said. “There was more math in political science, which was never a strong suit of mine. So, I just went the history route and really enjoyed it.”

He took classes that focused on European, Japanese, and American history. Twentieth century American history was a favorite era. “It was the socioeconomic stuff that took place in those eras, the cultural movements, too, not just the political events.”

History and baseball are wildly different pursuits, but his studies help him build a solid foundation, he said.

“There are interpersonal relationships you can learn from — and how people have handled situations,” Quatraro said. “But also, in the study of history, there are these massive world issues. It kind of helps put some of the things we deal with [in baseball] in perspective.”

According to a June article in The Athletic, the Royals were on a pace to match the 1903 New York Giants for the biggest year-over-year gain in baseball history.

That kind of turnaround was made possible by talent, yes. The manager’s tactical smarts, embrace of analytics, and willingness to learn also played a part.

Both Quatraro’s parents were educators. His father taught chemistry and worked as an assistant principal. His mother taught in elementary school and did some work with special education, he said.

Learning should be a way of life, and not limited to the classroom, he believes.

“Even within the game of baseball, I think you should experience as many things as you can,” Quatraro said. “See where your interests take you. Ask questions. Listen a lot.

“That’s been my overall philosophy.”

Photo: Matt Quatraro, seen here managing the Kansas City Royals, was a baseball star at Old Dominion University, where he studied history. Credit: Kansas City Royals.