STORY BY AUSTIN CANNON
Being a Kansas City sports fan can be rough and often frustrating.
Of the big four sports, we only have baseball and football, despite the state-of-the-art arena sitting unoccupied downtown.
The Chiefs are our NFL team. They haven’t won a playoff game since 10 days before I was born, including last season’s epic, I-can’t-believe-they-blew-a-four-touchdown-lead collapse against the Colts.
And then we have the Royals.
Before the 2013 season, they registered nine straight losing seasons, three of which were of the 100-loss variety. Fans showed up to games with paper bags over their heads. There would be more red than blue in stands when the Cardinals were in town.
The only reason fans would by tickets in the mid-2000s was in case the Royals got 12 hits, turning those tickets into coupons for a free dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme.
But who gives a damn about any of that now?
Not me. And not any other Royals fan.
The Royals ended their 29-year playoff drought three weeks ago. As of Monday, they’ve won all eight of their postseason games so far, four times in extra innings. They’re back in the World Series for the first time since they won it all in 1985. Stores can hardly keep up with the demand for Royals playoff merchandise (I myself blew $30 on a World Series T-shirt).
Kansas City is a baseball town again, and the way the Royals have played has been just mind-boggling.
The defense is pure nonsense. Nearly every player on the diamond has made some spectacular play in these eight games. Alex Gordon catches a ball before almost blasting through the outfield fence, Mike Moustakas falls over the railing into a dugout suite after making the play of the postseason and Lorenzo Cain catches basically anything hit near centerfield.
Timely hitting? Sure.
The Royals have hit three go-ahead extra-inning home runs to go along with Salvador Perez’s walk-off single in the 12th inning of the Wild Card Game. You can’t do anything but smile and shake your head.
These guys are fast, too. The Royals called up Terrance Gore, a minor league outfielder who will almost certainly never get regular playing time in the majors, in September. Why? He can get from first to second before you can blink. He’s the designated pinch runner. He and backup outfielder Jarrod Dyson make up the fastest tandem in baseball.
Hell, notoriously slow designated hitter Billy Butler, who usually takes about nine seconds to get down the line, swiped second base in game three of the American League Division Series. The Royals won the series that night, but people talked about Butler’s steal just as much the next day.
The best part, for me, is how there hasn’t been just one hero.
Gordon, Moustakas and faux-hawked first basemen Eric Hosmer all hit those extra-inning bombs. Perez had his walk-off. In the final two games of the American League Championship Series, the bullpen was lights-out.
Speaking of the bullpen, you might think Gore is the unlikeliest player on this team, but you’re wrong.
The Royals picked relief pitcher Brandon Finnegan with their first pick of the 2014 MLB Draft back in June. Later that month, Finnegan pitched in the College World Series for the TCU Horned Frogs. Fast-forward three months and 13 minor league appearances later, and he’s called up to the bigs. On Sept. 30, he pitched two shutout innings against Oakland in the Wild Card.
He’s the first-ever player to play in the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same season. Can’t make this up.
I was at Kauffman Stadium for game three of the ALDS, and it was like I was across the street at a Chiefs game. No one sat. Everyone yelled. It was loud. We all wanted to win.
It was the first time people in my generation had experienced anything like it, so we made the most of it.
And now the Royals are in the World Series.
They could lose. They could get swept (even though I highly doubt it) or they might, as some are now saying, fulfill their destiny and win it all. Either way, they’ve surprised everyone in the baseball world.
Even though Drake is hardly a baseball-conscious school, I’ll go ahead and encourage baseball fans to watch the Series. Kansas City is three hours south, so, if you choose, you can root for them on a proximity basis.
Royals in six.