The last few moments of the 2014 Royals season didn’t turn out the way that I hoped that they would. Indeed, falling a mere ninety feet from tying up Game 7 of the World Series proved heartbreaking as a Royals fan, especially considering that, in the twenty years that I have rooted for this team, this is the first season in which they even achieved a playoff berth. The last time they did so, I wasn’t old enough to even grasp the concept, much less to root for a team.
I didn’t make it to as many games as I would have liked this past summer, but each trip to the K remains as memorable as ever. As the season progressed, and the Royals continued to hold their own, bouncing between first and second place in the division, I watched the crowd at Kauffman grow increasingly larger and more rambunctious. I’m generally a pretty introverted person, but there is something about a stadium full of people cheering devotedly for its team that evokes a sense of solidarity in me. I had the privilege of attending Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, and never before in my life had I seen so much blue in one place. That, combined with the energy that emanated from the crowd, made me fall in love with the stadium and the Royals all over again.
As the regular season came to an end, I found myself checking the standings daily, sometimes more. The Royals had a shot at winning the division, but if they didn’t, it was also a close race in the fight for a Wild Card spot. When the Royals made the Wild Card, I cheered at the prospect of a “Blue October,” not realizing just how true this prediction would become.
My October flooded with late nights, which culminated in exhaustion as I no longer slept enough each night. Many times, especially when games went into extra innings, my adrenaline would get pumping so hard that, even when the final out was made or the winning run was scored, I wouldn’t be able to sleep right away. I exchanged numerous excited texts, phone calls, and emails with friends and family as the Royals not only won the Wild Card, but went on to sweet the Angels and the Orioles, en route to their first World Series in almost thirty years.
When the World Series won, I prayed that the Royals’ winning streak would continue, but was unsurprised when it did not. Streaks, as we all know, are fickle, and they are always broken sooner or later. The roller coaster of the series as a whole put me on the edge of my seat throughout. When the Giants took a 3-2 lead, I found myself filled with a curious combination of dread and confidence. When the Royals came back in Game 6 with a whopping 10-0 victory, I knew that Game 7, with the possibility of Madison Bumgarner making an appearance out of the bullpen, would be close. I just hoped that Bumgarner would be too exhausted following his complete game performance in Game 5 to pitch more than an inning or two.
This is where I, and the Royals, fell short. Once again, Bumgarner wowed the baseball world with a first-class performance, and the Royals simply could not figure out how to make anything happen offensively. When Alex Gordon landed on third base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, I started to shake with hope and anxiety. Surely Salvador Perez could pull off the late-inning heroics just one more time, right? But, alas, it was not to be, as Salvi popped out to end this amazing run of a season.
I turned off the television immediately following the final out of the game, having no desire to have the loss drilled in any deeper, but come Thursday morning, I was pleased to learn that fans in attendance at the K had broken out in a chant of, “Thank you, Royals!” It truly was a season to remember, and while I have been a baseball fan for most of my life, my love for the game increased two-fold this year. And, yes, I have the Kansas City Royals to thank for that.