This article first appeared in the Platte County Landmark on Thursday, September 28, 2017.
This weekend it ends. Sunday afternoon around 4:00 PM to be exact.
That is the time when the crowd of fans at Kauffman Stadium will begin to disperse after giving their final standing ovations, leaving only hot dog wrappers and empty beer cups. The men from the green field, wearing the blue and white uniforms will have gone below to their locker room to begin to pack their belongings for the long winter ahead.
Many will say their goodbyes, and many of those same men will never again return to that clubhouse. Another season has come to a close, yet this one will close the greatest chapter in Kansas City sports history. A chapter that began over five years previously as the General Manager of the Royals, Dayton Moore, made a third attempt to push forward the infamous “process.” The child of Wichita, Kansas, planted many seeds in 2006 when he got the job, and they finally began to bear fruit in the first half of the next decade.
Names like Butler, Hosmer, Perez, Myers, Duffy, and Moustakas would eventually become household names, but they first had to cut their teeth in the minors as a group. They learned to lose at first, but then they learned to win. Notching championships as a group in Northwest Arkansas, then Omaha – all the while, the hapless Royals in Kansas City continued to stupify fans whilst continuing to finish at the bottom of the standings.
That all changed in 2011 and 2012 as the Royals began to promote these baby boomers to the major league squad, as they cast off their dopey manager Trey Hillman for a gruff and surly new skipper named Ned Yost.
As the Royals played host to MLB’s All-Star Game in 2012 under the national spotlight, Yost and Moore would make additional acquisitions, shipping off Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke for Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar in what any Royals fan simply calls “the trade.”
The team took a couple of years to gel, but gel they did into their own style of baseball now being mimicked by teams like Cleveland and Washington. While the rest of the league looked for long balls, the Royals capitalized on stifling defense, a lockdown bullpen that shortened games to basically be six-inning affairs, and a pestering offensive approach that could only be equated to death by a million paper cuts. “Keep the line moving” was the “Billy Ball” of the twenty-teens in KC.
You know what happened next. For me, I recall it as a flash of memories. Booing Robinson Cano at the 2012 Home Run Derby for dissing Billy Butler. The losing streak of July 2014 and the Summer of Sungwoo that would happen for the month that followed. Watching Game 1 of the 2014 World Series from a dugout suite. The pain of Game 7. The incredible pace with which the Royals started in 2015 like a boy trying to get the taste of soap out of his mouth. The sweeps in the ALCS and victory in New York in five. The parade. And, of course, the Wild Card Game.
I could go on for pages and pages.
All of it ends this weekend. The babies in blue from 2010 and 2011 have reached the end of their first contracts as boys in blue. With a World Series ring as a bargaining chip, those men will become free agents and leave for greener pastures and massive paychecks.
To mourn would be a waste of effort. To try to stop it would be futile.
May I suggest, rather, that this weekend you take a moment to remember and reflect what the Royals of the past five years has done for this city. And then, as the Royals learned to do, keep the line moving while we impatiently wait for the spring.
[All photos by Chris Kamler]