Growing up in KC (Raytown to be exact, don’t judge), summers were filled with Royals baseball. Evenings meant playing outside while Dad washed the car and listened to Denny Matthews on a crackly AM radio.
Nights with peanuts and wooden spoon malts at the stadium were aplenty. The ginormo jumbotron at the new K is nice, but I miss the lights of the original crown. When I was too little to follow the game, the outfield fountains were the best entertainment.
I’ve always loved the Royals. But since I was only 7 in 1985 it’s mostly been platonic. Oh, those silly Royals and their ability to find new ways to suck. There were flashes of hope that were always quickly snuffed when my favorite players bolted for a more winning city. It hurt, but was a dull pain. Barely noticeable due to its consistency. You couldn’t fault comedians for making us the butt of jokes. Royals baseball WAS a joke.
Then things slowly got better and we tiptoed around, waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it did. A few times. We cautiously opened our hearts a little more to the idea of winning baseball. We got close, only to end up a dollar short.
Then The Wild Card Game happened (capitalized because it was THE Wild Card Game) and it was impossible to fence sit anymore. Over the course of 12 innings, we all fell. Hard. Cool detachment was no longer an option.
And in the year since, this team has redefined what it takes to win in baseball. They looked around and saw the Goliaths with their deep pockets and superstar names and determined to do things differently. Innovation out of necessity. If we can’t beat you using the old template, we’ll create our own. Royals style.
A style built on trust. A core group where each player knows their role, trusts their teammates, and plays with confidence that the coaches have their back, no matter what. Not an easy culture to build in today’s ego driven sports world.
Throw in the joy of getting paid to play a game and the fun of getting to do it with good friends and and you have a team that’s impossible not to love.
And we the fans got to be reminded again and again that things are rarely as hopeless as they seem. That you never know what will happen next if you just keep doing what you know how to do. That you may have a bad day/night/week/month but that’s just an opportunity for a teammate to pick you up, cover for you, and pull you across the finish line. Because that’s what teams do.
And best of all, we got to be reminded it’s worth it to put your heart into something. Fully. Even when you don’t know what the end looks like. It’s the best way to live.
Proud to be Royal. Proud to claim KC as my own. It’s the best small-town-big-city you’ll find. And man, do we know how to show the world who we are.
Well done, KC.