Kansas City sports fans have been spoiled as of late. Sporting Kansas City won the 2013 Major League Soccer Cup. The Chiefs of the NFL broke the Guinness World Record for the loudest indoor stadium at 142.2 decibels in their 41-14 trouncing of the Patriots on “Monday Night Football”. The University of Kansas men’s basketball team is a perennial contender, boasting two of the top three picks in the 2014 NBA Draft.
However, all of this pales in comparison to the end of 29 years of postseason futility that the Royals have endured.
I was born in 1995, 10 years removed from that Game 7 World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. By the time I was 10 years old, the franchise had sold its star outfield of Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran and Raul Ibanez, and would embark on several 100-loss seasons.
It was the classic sob story of a small-market team in a league without a salary cap. Baseball fans in Kansas City became used to ignoring the standings beginning in early August, because it was too painful to see us at the bottom of the division. Until this year, I thought that the season ended in September.
But this year is different.
When I flew back to Kansas City for Game 3 of the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels, Kauffman Stadium was filled to the brim with 40,000 fanatical supporters, many of whom sported gear from the 1985 World Series. It was my first sold-out game.
Led by a young homegrown core of first baseman Eric Hosmer, left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez, the Royals were playing loosely and confidently against the team with the league’s best regular-season record and possibly the MLB’s Most Valuable Player, Mike Trout. The Angels didn’t stand a chance on that night.
After an 8-3 dismantling of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Trout to finish off a series sweep, I remained in disbelief. Although the team had added key veterans in second basemen Omar Infante and starting pitcher James Shields, something larger had changed: the mentality of the city.
How can anyone outside Kansas City truly understand this new, foreign feeling of strength, pride and fate? This is a feeling of a team with nothing to lose, with no ceiling.
Once the team showed a bit of promise, Kansas City threw its full weight behind the Royals.
The Royals not only convinced the city to believe in them, they convinced the entire country with their base-stealing, hard-throwing style.
Experts project that this could be the start of an era of success for the Royals, but all that I care about is this year, this magical year that still doesn’t seem quite real.
Whether the season ends with a loss to the Orioles or with the franchise’s second World Series title, Kansas City has had its patience and loyalty rewarded and its belief restored for good.
Sam Abrams is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.