The Royals’ Magical Season, and Hope That the Best Is Yet To Come

According to my handy Weather Channel app, the sun rose at approximately 7:41 A.M. Central Sunlight Time on Thursday morning. I woke up maybe an hour after this, and saw sunlight coming in through the window. I did not have quite the “Kevin Costner in Thirteen Days” reaction to this, but I was pleased to see it did in fact rise none the less.

The Royals lost Game 7 in heartbreaking fashion two nights ago, losing 3-2 when Salvador Perez left the tying run on third by swinging at six pitches not even close to being in the strike zone. But you can’t blame him; the man did his best against a pitcher who may or may not be of this Earth. A Royals fan base felt their hopes and dreams come crashing down after they were briefly lifted by an Alex Gordon single that turned into a triple* when the Giants center fielder misplayed the ball. At this point I’m sure Yost thought for a brief moment of inserting Terrance Gore to attempt to steal home, but that wasn’t going to happen. Salvy came through once, and all of us hoped he could do it again. But even Michael Jordan dribbled the ball off his foot every once in a while.

*For those of you saying that Alex Gordon could have scored, I direct you to this Deadspin article, which uses science and a stopwatch to explain why Gordon would have been out by 50 feet – 40 if the throw was only mediocrely accurate – had he tried to score. 

The truth is I still have no idea how to feel about this. I’ve experienced a Jayhawk loss in the Final Four/Championship Game – three times in fact – but still those losses came with more sadness than this did. We were so close, yet just far enough that we could only look and not touch. But the fact that we weren’t even been able to dream about looking until last year means that we had the “we’re just happy to be here” mentality. Not the team; they didn’t have that. But the fans certainly did. As I watched the inside of my hat while Pablo Sandoval secured the final out, there were a few cries of frustration, but most of Tanners on 143rd and Metcalf sat in accepting silence. “Aw shucks,” it seemed a lot of them thought, while snapping their fingers. But I think this reaction was partly based in fear. What if we never get back here?

And that’s where a lot of people’s minds are. As we were leaving the bar, my cousin jokingly said, “Welp, see you in 2043.” I chuckled, but still I couldn’t help but escape that worry. What if it takes another 29 years to experience this, to raise another American League Champions flag, to feel the energy that comes with playoff baseball in Kauffman Stadium?

But that won’t happen. Not with a talented group of players and pitchers all under the age of 28 who already have two years minimum of big league experience, not to mention the knowledge of what it takes to win on the biggest stage.

I was home from San Diego all week. I was even fortunate enough to be selected in that Royals ticket lottery that no one else seemed to be selected for and got upper level seats to Game 2 at face value. And during that game, Omar Infante hit a home run that would have blown the roof off the place if Kauffman had one. And the Giants pitcher decided to blame his trouble on Salvy, which meant words being exchanged. During this, three, maybe four, Giants players came out of the dugout. But literally every single player for the Royals, including the pitchers in the bullpen, came racing out onto the field. This made it evident to every fan there and at home, the people who don’t have access to the clubhouse everyday, just how much each player on that roster cares for each other.

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I took my mother to Game 2 because obviously I’m the best son ever.

And that’s why these guys won. That’s why they made it this far. They grew up through the minors together, helped each other through the trials and triumphs of being a big league ballplayer.

This is one way these guys changed the game. Every team that encounters an extended period of hard times from now through the end of the world will follow Dayton Moore’s and the Royals model. Homegrown talent that makes their way through the farm together can show itself to be much better than the bought-off-the-market talent. They partially have by laying waste to the Angels, a team with two guys, and soon a third, that will be making more than $20 million a year. They showed what a team with chemistry can accomplish as opposed to nine guys who were brought together by a checkbook.

There will be so much optimism when pitchers and catchers report over President’s Day weekend in February. No matter what the roster looks like, that optimism will be higher than it has ever been. And I think this team will show itself to be more than a fluke; they will not go from 90 wins to 90 losses the way the Diamondbacks did.

I fully expect to be back in Kansas City next October for another World Series. And as long as we don’t play the Cubs, I feel really good about our chances.

But until that day comes, thank you Royals. Thank you for being fast. Thank you for concerning me that the Terminator may soon become a true story with the three-headed cyborg that came out of the bullpen every night. Thank you for blowing bubbles while making catches, for revving that engine, being confident, and not listening to us fans when we wanted to fire you for making this trade or that lineup change.

Thank you for giving me the most exciting, thrilling, nail-biting, frustrating, invigorating season I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. I promise I will curse at Ned Yost for pinch hitting in that situation only half as much next year.

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