There was a time when everything was different. There was a time, before I existed, when the Royals were consistently one of baseball’s best. It was a time of division titles, trips to the World Series, and beautiful powder blue uniforms. It was a time almost 30 years ago. Today, the people I hang out with can’t believe such a time ever existed.
My dad was in the stands on that fateful October night in 1985, when Andy Van Slyke’s fly ball landed in Darryl Motley’s glove, clinching the Royals first and only World Series title. I was born just two years later, barely missing the Royals last postseason trip. That is, until Tuesday night, when we sat at The K together, completely unaware (and unprepared) for what was about to unfold.
A few friends reminded me that this would be a perfect time to return to this blog, and I more than agreed with them. The issue was, every time I started, I got lost. I struggled with trying to both comprehend what I witnessed the other night, and putting it into coherent sentences that people who read this (all ten of you) could understand. It was just that kind of night. Two days later, I’m still not sure I can do Tuesday night justice, but I’m going to give it a try.
To me, the night broke down into three components: The company, the atmosphere, and the game itself.
Tuesday night’s game will go down as one of the greatest games in the history of the Kansas City Royals, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity to watch it with my dad, who sat to my right. As I said earlier, he was in attendance in 1985, the last time the Royals played a Postseason game. When I told him I had a ticket for him if he could make it, there was no hesitation, his flight was booked. In so many ways, he is the reason I had the tickets in the first place. He has always pushed me, inspired me, and most of all, believed in me. His guidance was the driving force behind my landing a job at MLB.com, and without him, my experience of Tuesday night’s game is very different. “Blessed” is not a word I like to use to describe anything, but it’s hard to feel anything but that after getting to take in that game with him.
To my left sat Chris Kamler (AKA “The Fake Ned“) and Rany Jazayerli. Chris is a top dog in what is affectionately known as #RoyalsTwitter, and was the driving force behind the magical 9 days that saw SungWoo come to KC. I remember him telling me about how proud he was of the people of Kansas City during SungWoo’s trip, and I remember thinking that he was a perfect representation of why there was something to be proud of. Rany has a dermatology practice in Illinois and writes for Grantland (how he finds time for both, I’ll never know). He may have described himself to me as “a regular guy with an opinion who gets a chance to write about it”, but I was admittedly excited to hang out with him. I knew I was in good company when I realized that the only person having a harder time standing still than me, was Rany. If you haven’t read his account of the game, it is a must-read. Between Chris, Rany, and my dad, I could not have imagined a better group to ride the lightening with. At one point in the 8th, as the Royals began their first of what seemed like 85 rallies, Chris turned to me and said:
“I don’t know what’s about to happen, but I can promise you it’s going to be SPECTACULAR.”
Maybe the understatement of the century.
Last season, I got the privilege of being in attendance at PNC Park as the Pirates ended a playoff drought of their own (20 years). Many times I have told people that game was the best atmosphere I have ever seen at a baseball game. Tuesday night was like if that game took a double shot of 5 Hour Energy, got locked in a cage without room to move for 30 minutes, and then got let out at game time. We stood more than we sat, blue rally towels waved everywhere, and fans cheered like there hadn’t be a Postseason baseball game in Kansas City for 29 years (wait…). When the A’s lead reached 7-3, you could have heard a cricket at The K, but that only made the 8th inning on that much more insane. More than once, I was convinced that the ground was shaking. In hindsight, it may have just been my body preparing to pass out, but I’m not sure that distinction matters.
By now, you know how the game went, so I don’t feel the need to recount everything that happened (if you’d like to hear that give me a call, I’d LOVE to tell you). With that said, there are two things I don’t think I’ll ever forget about the game itself. The first is how badly I wanted Salvador Perez, in particular, to win the game for the Royals. I met Salvy at the Home Run Derby this year, and it was an amazing interaction. First, Salvy seemed as excited to me me as I was to meet him (at least he acted like it). He loved that I was a huge Royals fan, and insisted someone take a picture of us on his phone. For a few minutes, the professional in me disappeared and the 10-year old baseball fan in me came out. He was already one of my favorite Royals, but he locked up the number one spot that night. I had noticed by being around the team previously how players gravitated to Salvy. It made sense to me, he was the catcher on a young team; he was in a natural position to lead. During games he was focused and fiery, and then after the game he would steal the microphone from a reporter and interview his teammates. Pitchers respected him, everybody loved him. What was interesting was that at the Home Run Derby, it was more of the same, but from players on other teams, both young and old. His combination of skills, leadership, and charisma make him everything you want out of a player on your favorite team.
Up until the bottom of the 12th inning, Salvy had as bad of a game as I can remember, going 0-for-5 with two strikouts, and allowing two wild pitches and a passed ball on defense. In the bottom of the 10th, with Perez at the plate and the winning run on third, I turned to Rany and Chris and said, “This is Salvy’s game to win, he’s gonna do it.” Turns out I was two innings early, but the feeling was the same. Seeing my favorite player redeem himself in the biggest way possible made the outcome that much sweeter.
The second thing I’ll always remember is Christian Colon rounding third on the winning hit, his hands in the air. That’s the last thing I remember, the scene that plays in my head over and over. I’m not even sure if I saw him score. Once he raised his hands, it was hysteria. The Royals drafted Colon ahead of Chris Sale, and for the first time, if only for a split second (until you remember he was drafted ahead of CHRIS FREAKING SALE), I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way. Sure, it could have been someone else scoring that run, but the symbolism in that moment was real for me.
As you can imagine, I’ve found myself watching the highlights of that very moment a lot. My emotions range from calm to hysterical during those viewings, but it always ends the same way: My hands in the air, my eyes closed, a smile on my face. I hope that never goes away.