By Heather Nelson
It’s no secret that I’m a die hard Red Sox fan and that the most joy I’ve ever felt was after the last out in Busch Stadium in 2004. I have a love for baseball that far exceeds most other sports. (In the offseason, I watch Red Sox World Series DVDs to relive any little bit of baseball. You’ll probably even find me wearing Red Sox apparel with no shame.)
With the above being said, I’ll proceed with caution.
I won’t pretend I’ve been a Royals fan all of my life, but, damn, the Royals have been a fun team to watch. As an Omahan, I’ve had the pleasure of watching many of the World Series champions literally grow up through the Royals’ farm system. The Omaha Storm Chasers’ home, Werner Park, is 20 minutes from my house. Besides the College World Series, there isn’t much to keep Omahans busy in the summer, and since the park opened in 2011, I’ve made it to at least a few games each season.
During the Storm Chasers first season with the new name, 21-year-old Eric Hosmer stole my heart. I immediately bought his player t-shirt. A few days later, the Kansas City Royals called Hosmer up to the majors. My heart broke. It’s tough being a “fan” of a Triple-A team, where the roster is constantly shifting, but I didn’t stop there. The Storm Chasers won the Pacific Coast League in 2011 under manager Mike Jirschele. The Chasers topped the PCL in 2012, but fell short of the championship.
As a student at the University of Kansas, I found it rather hard to resist the hype around the Royals during baseball season. Thanks to the Royals student ticket promotion, I was able to attend a few games on a budget — not that Royals tickets have ever been too expensive. In 2013, the Royals claimed their first winning season in 10 years. Fans started to believe the hype. After overcoming a losing record halfway through the 2014 season, the Royals won their way to game 7 of the World Series. The Royals gave fans a team to believe in again.
I found myself in the parking lot of Kauffman Stadium with good friends and a few die hard Royals fans. I felt the twinges of nervousness Royals fans felt before game 7. I didn’t eat much, but I didn’t turn away the Boulevard. (It took the edge off.) I patted my friend on the back, and told him, “Whatever happens…these guys made a good run, and we’ll see them again next year. This is a good team, and their farm system has talent.” Who knows if he listened to my words. I think he was too wrapped up in the spectacle of the game, how the lights of Kauffman looked from the parking lot. It looked like the Royals were going to pull it off. But, the roar of the crowd spoiled the radio broadcast we listened to from behind the outfield gate — it was over. Tears streamed down my friend’s face. And all I uttered, “Next year.”
I laugh, now, because those words are so cliche. I’ve already consoled myself with those words following the shortcomings of the Red Sox this year. I did believe the Kansas City Royals would win the title in the near future — I just didn’t know how soon. In 2013 and 2014, the Omaha Storm Chasers won the Triple-A Championship arguably proving to Kansas City fans hope was on the horizon.
I watched last night’s game from my couch with memories flashing through my mind. Memories of my parents taking my sister and me to Rosenblatt Stadium to see the Omaha Royals to watch the fireworks. Memories of the hand puppet I owned — Casey, the Omaha Royals mascot. Memories of the short-lived Omaha Golden Spikes. Memories of my neighborhood friend who never once doubted the Royals. Never. Memories of the final Omaha Royals game at Rosenblatt; when “Moose” got his nickname; when Salvy got his start; when Gordon — the Nebraska boy — earned his spot on the KC roster. Memories of watching Hosmer and several others play on a small field in Omaha.
I watched their dreams come true. And I couldn’t help but count myself in the KC camaraderie. I’m not just another bandwagon fan. I’m a hometown fan that’s never accepted her fandom, until she realized she was missing out on all the fun.
Congrats to the Kansas City Royals and to all those die hard fans for hanging on so long. Pitchers & catchers report: 109 days. Royals v Red Sox: May 16 – 18.