I was priveleged to go to the Wild Card game. And what a game it was! I had bought tickets a couple weeks in advance the day they went on sale at royals.com. They were mostly sold out so I had to get to single seats that weren't together, but close. My wife and I left home as soon as we could to make the hour drive to the stadium. When we got there 2 hours before the game, the parking lot was already packed. It was the furthest away from the stadium that I'd ever had to park. We tailgated with T-bone steaks! From the parking lot and all the way into the stadium people were chanting and cheering, "Let's Go Royals!" And it didn't let up when we made it to our seats in the upper deck. The opening ceremony was better than any opening day that I had been to. I thought to myself, "We need to save our cheering for later in the game or we won't have voices to cheer with when we need them!" Boy, was I wrong. As the game went on, we thought it was over twice before the 8th inning. First, when we went up 3-2, everyone knew we were going to win. Then, when we went down 7-3 in the sixth, we thought we were going to lose, but we still believed. And in the 8th inning we came within one run! Then we tied it up in the 9th to go to extra innings. Then we gave up the lead in the top half of the 12th just to win it with 2 runs in the bottom of the twelfth. What. A. Game. I have the game-winning radio call by Ryan Lefebvre memorized:
Swing and a ground ball toward third. It's fair. Fair ball! Up the left field line! And here's Colon! The Royals Win!
I then stayed up late multiple nights to watch the Royals sweep the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (is that still what they're called?) in the ALDS. The Royals played and won the most extra-inning postseason games of any team...crazy. Then I watched them sweep the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. This was just too good to be true. Was I dreaming? Nope. This is real!
I didn't get to go to any of the ALDS or ALCS games, and I wasn't selected in the lottery for the opportunity to purchase World Series tickets. The 3rd party ticket brokers were too expensive. My only hope was to sell my car or to get a generous gift. Well, an anonymous person bought my ticket to game 6 of the World Series and I enjoyed every minute of it. For the first time ever, I made a sign to hold up at the game with the hopes that it was clever enough to get on TV. And it was! I was...or at least my sign was on the Fox broadcast of the game, and then appeared on ESPN's Sportscenter. But the best part was watching my Kansas City Royals stomp the Giants 10-0. The crowd at the stadium was just as electric as it had been at the Wild Card game. I high-fived and hugged total strangers. I will hold on to that memory as long as I can.
It's funny, as a Royals fan, I've been to the stadium to see a lot of bad baseball. And the crew at the stadium usually does a pretty good job to entertain everybody with competitions between innings and other ways to keep the crowd engaged. During these games though, no hot dog race, dance off, kiss cam, or other ridiculous things were needed. We were all watching the game expectantly, hoping and longing for a win! No extra entertainment or pump-up music was needed. We were all-in the whole time. It. Was. Awesome.
Then came game 7. I had to watch from home with family and friends. It was a good game, a close game. It came right down to the 27th out. I've thought through all of the different things that could have happened differently, all the different ways that we could have gotten just one more run, but it didn't happen. It was a sports loss that hit me harder than any I had experienced before. It took me a good day at least to "get over it," and in many ways I'm still working on it. All in all, here's what I have come up with, and I still tear up reflecting on the 2014 Royals:
For pretty much my whole life I had to choose a new baseball team to root for in October, through the postseason and World Series. This year, I got to see the Royals make the playoffs and go to the World Series. I got to go to two postseason games including one World Series game. I got to share that with my wife and my son. I'm pretty sure the Royals are written on his heart now, and I look forward to a great future of sharing Royals baseball in Kansas City with him. It hurt to lose the World Series like that, but you have to make it there to have the chance to win or lose. We were one of two teams playing in the final game of the 2014 Baseball season. What a ride! What a dream! What a reality!