Little did I know the adventure was just beginning.
Let me explain.
I was born in September of 1991, just 6 years after the Royals had won the World Series in 1985. Although I never got to watch the greats like George Brett, Frank White, and Bret Saberhagen play in person I was raised to idolize them. I remember, as a young kid, walking through the Royals Hall of Fame and seeing the '85 World Series trophy, the retired jerseys, and all the highlights from the teams and players of the 70's and 80's. It was cool to see but what I experienced as a Royals fan was pretty much the opposite.
I remember the Royals being bad in the 90's, but never embarrassingly bad. The 2000's decade of Royals baseball changed that. It started off promising considering we had a young outfield consisting of 1999 Rookie of the Year winner Carlos Beltran, and studs Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye. Unfortunately we couldn't, or should I say didn't, offer enough money to keep Damon and Dye around so we traded them away.
In 2002 we lost 100 games. In 2003 we finally looked like we were going to break through and have a competitive season. We started the season firing on all cylinders winning 16 of the first 19 games and at the All-Star break had a commanding 7 game lead in the Central division. Rookie shortstop Angel Berroa was having a great year and some of our free agent acquisitions were panning out, most notably starting pitcher Jose Lima (true Royals fans will remember Lima Time!). The citizens of Kansas City grasped on to the rally cry proposed by Royals' manager Tony Pena, 'Nosotros Creamos!' translated into English as 'We Believe.' The Twins ending up winning the division but for the first time since 1985 there was hope that Kansas City would have a championship caliber team.
The Worse Years
2003 turned out to be a fluke. We lost 104 games in 2004, finishing 34 games out of first place. We found out that Berroa was 25, not 23. He flopped, going from Rookie of the Year to possibly the worst position player in baseball. We ended up trading our best player, Beltran, for prospects John Buck and Mark Teahen that never quite lived up to their potential. That became a theme for Royals prospects throughout the decade.
2005 was worse. We lost 106 games, finishing 43 games out of first place. Our average attendance for the 2005 season was a little over 16,000. Kauffman Stadium was always empty, which my mom and I didn't mind because we could get a ticket in the upper deck super cheap and then go find a seat down the third base line after a couple of innings. The ushers, seemingly followed the example set by the owners of the Royals, just didn't even care.
The most exciting part of the 2005 season is we got to see the talent displayed by the young Zack Greinke. Greinke was only 20 years old when he got called up but the youngster was not quite ready for the show. He got send back down to the minors because of mental issues. Nothing ever seemed to work out. Other than Greinke, the most exciting part of Royals games was the Hispanic lemonade salesman that would walk up and down the aisles yelling "Leeeeeemonade, leeeeeeemonade, lemonade! WOOOO!" while all the nearby fans joined in shouting the WOOOO part.
Tony Pena quit mid-season and the Royals brought on Buddy Bell as their new manager. Everyone was curious to see what Bell would bring to the table. Well, a few months into Bell's position the Royals went on a 19 game losing streak. That is unbelievably bad. The next year, in 2006, the Royals would lose 100 games and endure losing streaks of both 11 and 13 games.
This video sums up what it was like to be a Royals fan in the 90's and 2000's.
After the 2006 season we fired our GM Allan Baird and hired Dayton Moore from the Braves organization. We drafted RHP Luke Hochevar with the first overall pick. Players that also went in that draft include Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Miller, Evan Longoria, and Tim Lincecum. Good little side note: Jarrod Dyson was a 50th round pick in that draft. In 2007 we drafted Mike Moustakas in the first round, Danny Duffy in the 4th, and Greg Holland in the 10th.
The 2008 draft yielded Eric Hosmer at #3 overall. They also got Mike Montgomery 36th overall who would end up being a key piece in the trade that brought in James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays. OF Wil Myers was the Royals 3rd round pick in 2009, and he too was a big piece in the trade with the Rays. In 2010 we drafted SS Christian Colon with the 4th overall pick. Also, in 2010 we parted ways with Grienke who demanded to be traded to a playoff contending team, to the Brewers for young big leaguers Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain.
Looking back these all look like fantastic decisions by Dayton Moore and the Royals organization, however, it didn't always look this promising.
The Royals lost 97 games in 2009, 95 in 2010, 91 in 2011, and 90 games in 2012. From 1996-2012 the Royals AVERAGED 94 losses a season. It's incredible how consistently awful we were.
Hochevar looked like a bust. After seeing the success of pitchers like Kershaw and Lincecum, Royals fans were extremely upset by the lack of production from Hochevar. Gordon was doing ok but not near what his expectations were. We signed players like Gil Meche, Jose Guillen, and Yuniesky Betancourt and those signings didn't produce any positives. Even touted prospects like Moustakas and Hosmer struggled and some questioned whether or not they would live up to their expectations.
In 2013 we began to put the pieces together. We won 86 games and finished 3rd in the Central division. More importantly, we competed til the end. It was the first time in my life where Royals games in September actually mattered.
Patience Pays Off
We all know how the 2014 season went. The comeback kids. The American League Champs. What a great story!
Not as great as 2015 though...
The Royals plowed through the American League Central. In first place nearly the entire season the Royals ran away with the division title with ease. Royals fans dominated the All-Star game voting and the Royals dominated the league, earning the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
ALDS vs Houston
I was at game 2 of the ALDS where the Royals, down 4-2 in the 6th, scored 3 runs to take the lead on a Ben Zobrist single and eventually win 5-4. As you can hear in the video I was pretty pumped. This game was the first Royals playoff game I've ever been to. It was special to say the least.
We had absolutely zero momentum. Statistically our chances of winning we just over 1%.
Bottom of the 8th. Single. Single. Single. Single. Single. Royals are now down 6-4 with bases loaded and still nobody out. Then, Morales's ground ball up the middle gets through, bringing in 2 runs to tie the game. Gordon's RBI ground out brought in the go-ahead run and the Royals were on their way to an improbable comeback. I know you all watched it so I don't really need to type out a play-by-play for you. It just helps me grasp how close the Royals were to losing and having their season come to and end.
The Royals won game 5 at home, 7-2, placing them in the ALCS for the second straight year.
ALCS vs Toronto
I was at game two of the ALCS. Alcides Escobar hit a single on the first pitch thrown by David Price. Price then retired the next 17 batters. All hell broke loose in the 7th inning though! Here is a video of Alex Gordon's go ahead double. As you can hear in the video I was super pumped.
World Series vs New York
I'm so happy that I will one day be able to tell my kids that I was at game 1 of the World Series. It was one of the most amazing baseball games I've ever witnessed. The K went absolutely nuts when Escobar hit the first pitch by Matt Harvey into left center for an inside-the-park home run. The place was electric. Not as electric as the bottom of the 9th when Alex Gordon hit a 1 out solo home run to dead center to tie the game, though.
You know when you go to MLB games and fans always get excited every time a player hits a high fly ball because they think it's going to be a home run? Yeah, this was the opposite. I will never forget the anxious silence that overtook the crowd as we waited for the ball the clear the center field fence. The moment the ball hit the bat was so unbelievable we had to wait for the confirmation of the ball landing before we exploded.
That set the stage for the walk-off sac fly by Eric Hosmer in the 14th. As you can hear in the video I was super duper pumped to the max. I knew at the crack of the bat that the ball was deep enough and that we were going to win. So did Escober as you can see him jumping up and down before he goes back to third to tag up.
-8 out of the 11 postseason wins for the Royals were comeback wins
-7 of those wins were comebacks of 2 or more runs
-Royals scored 51 (most ever) runs after the 6th inning this postseason. They only allowed 11.
-Royals scored 40 runs in the 8th inning or later. No other team had more than 5.
-Royals outscored the Mets 15-1 after the 6th inning in the World Series
-Royals are the first team in history to win 3 games in a single World Series when they trailed in the 8th inning or later
-The Royals won postseason games where at one point in the game their statistical chances of winning were 17.7%, 1.6%, 25.2%, 7.7%, 10%, 34.8%, 17%, and 4.8%.
What this team did is special. The special part was how it all finally came together. For the first time in my life Royals' roster moves worked out and prospects started playing the way we knew they could. As special as the victory was, the celebration may have been the best part.
The After Party
It is estimated that 800,000 people flocked to downtown Kansas City for the celebration parade. Almost a million people! I knew it was going to be crazy but I had no idea it was going to be that crazy. As I was driving on the highway and approaching downtown I began to notice cars parked alongside the highway. As I exited the highway there were cars parked on the side of the on ramp. Anywhere there was grass there were cars parked.
I will never forget in game 5 when Christian Colon hit the go ahead RBI single in the top of the 12th to take the lead against New York. As Colon was on first I stared at the lettering on his jersey. "Kansas City." That's really us. We're really going to win the World Series. I had to say it out loud, and even then it still seemed unreal. Like a dream.
I will never forget being surrounded by over 800,000 Royals fans at the parade in downtown Kansas City. I will never forget my experiences watching 3 comeback playoff wins at the K. I will never forget high-fiving numerous random people every time the Royals scored a big run. I will never forget how this baseball team united the people of this city.