Success in 2014 has changed Royals’ culture
Last summer I took in a game at Kauffman Stadium, but it might has well have been Yankee Stadium in disguise.
I was wrapping up my degree at the University of Missouri and living in Columbia. My friends and I decided to hop on Interstate-70 and make our way to Kansas City to see the Royals play the Yankees. The game was not entertaining for the hometown faithful, as the Bronx Bombers stomped the Royals 11-6.
Late in the game, there were audible chants circulating through the crowd.
Let’s go Yankees! Let’s go Yankees!
The loss would make the Royals 19-14 on the young season, which is still a great record by baseball standards. Kansas City was a winning team in 2013, racking up 86 wins. Still, Yankee fans outnumbered Royal fans at the contest.
Let’s not forget the hype that surrounded the Royals last year. Wil Myers had been traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher James Shields, and many baseball prognosticators had the Royals as their dark horse. Even with the expectations surrounding the team, a capable roster and a winning record, one loss to the vaunted Yankees had each fan wearing royal blue wishing they were wearing navy pinstripes.
These kind of things happen when a team and a fan base is not used to winning. Each terrible Royals season in recent memory has shriveled the confidence of a once proud franchise that won a World Series in 1985. In the 28 years since, the Royals have never made the postseason.
Kansas City is a small market team, and doesn’t have the money the Detroit Tigers do to piece together an All-Star roster. That’s why last night was such a fascinating night of baseball.
The 2014 Royals (64-53) had won seven-straight games and entered play last night just a half game back of Detroit. Workhorse and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander was to take the mound for the loaded Tigers against the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Royals’ youngster Yordano Ventura would be pitching against the best team in baseball: the Oakland Athletics.
Once the first pitch was thrown, this much was clear: the Tigers were going to fall. Verlander was shelled and then left with an injury, leaving the door wide open for the Royals. Using stellar pitching and two timely RBI hits from shortstop Alcides Escobar, Kansas City took over first place during the month of August for the first time since 2003.
With the Athletics down to their last batter, a new chant was circulating through Kauffman Stadium. Last night’s chant was different than the one I heard last May. It was not only audible, but deafening. It was the sound of a hungry group of midwestern fans who are tired of losing, and who finally believe.
Let’s go Royals! Let’s Go Royals!
Centerfielder Jarrod Dyson did a back flip after catching the last pitch. Hopefully the franchise that is used to being perennial losers can back flip all the way to October.
Allyus Fritz is the Fairfield Ledger sports editor.