August 1-3 marked my third trip to a baseball city this summer, the first two being Milwaukee and Chicago. This was, however, my first trip that didn't involve the Orioles. It was also probably the first time in my entire life that I've blatantly rooted for a team other than the O's. I've been to a few non-Orioles games in my life, but I'm usually quite passive. I enjoy the baseball but don't get very invested in the outcome. Not so this time. I am proud to say that I cheered my ass off for those Kansas City Royals.
The idea for the trip came about easily enough. My friends Anthony, Julia, and I were watching a Royals vs. Yankees game last season, talking about how Royals fans need all the support they can get. One of us said, "We should go out there and cheer for the Royals." It was probably a joke, but somehow it turned into reality. It turned into flying to Kansas City, buying some Royals shirts, and for one weekend becoming passionate Royals fans. It probably seemed a little silly to our friends and family who all gave us the same "Come again?" look when we told them. And maybe it was. But it was also one of the most fun weekends of my life.
For one thing, for the first time in my friendship with Julia, we were on the same side. She's a Yankee fan and I'm an Orioles fan. We've each spent years jokingly trying to convince the other to switch allegiances, both knowing full well neither of us will ever change. But there is a camaraderie in being fans of the same team that you can't get in other ways, and this weekend was the first time I ever got to share that with her. We traded in our orange and navy blue for royal blue and joined together with the rest of the Royals fans to cheer on the boys and jeer the out of town White Sox fans.
I love Royals fans. The way I view them is, I'd imagine, the way other people might view Orioles fans. We've both been down on our luck for more years than we care to remember and both teams are bit of a joke nationally. It's hard out there for a Royals/Orioles fan, so I immediately felt the fans at The K and I were kindred spirits.
Friday night we sat in the club level and didn't have much to cheer for as the Royals lost to the White Sox 4-2. The post game fireworks and light up fountains were fun, though. Kauffman Stadium is undergoing major renovations but is still quite lovely.
Saturday was possibly the hottest day in the history of Kansas City. We had great seats on the first base side about 15 rows back, but the heat of the direct sunlight was so unbearable that we had to move back under the overhang. Eventually we moved over to the third base side to almost identical seats as our original tickets, just on the opposite side. An usher asked to see our tickets and when we showed
her our stubs and said we had to move out of the sun, she just thanked us and told us to enjoy the shade. Now THAT'S an awesome usher!
We enjoyed the rest of the game from those seats, including at the end of the 6th inning when a camera man asked if we'd like to be on camera singing Friends In Low Places on the big screen. Yup, that's how great we were at being Royals fans!
The Royals took an 8-3 lead into the top of the 8th inning when it began to fall apart. It was positively Oriole-like and, just like in Camden Yards, you could feel the positive energy beginning to drain out of the previously thrilled fans, a "not again" look on everyone's face. When the comfortable lead dwindled to 1 run and with 1 out in the 8th inning, the Royals brought in Joakim Soria. Here is where the Orioles and the Royals appear to be different. Soria is awesome. As he ran onto the field to Welcome to the Jungle, the place went crazy. We, being the great Royals fans for a weekend that we were, also went crazy. No offense to our boy Georgie, but the Royals fans were saying to each other, "Game over, Joakim is in!" and suddenly all the positive energy was back. And they were right, it was game over. With him there actually isn't a doubt, it's not just some tag line to make the fans feel better about a shaky closer. Joakim shut down the White Sox and sent the Royals fans home happy.
It was a great weekend for baseball in Kansas City (unfortunately we missed the brawl on Sunday). Though I've put away my giveaway camouflage KC hat and I'm back to being a full time O's fan, it seems I now have a soft spot for Mike Aviles, David DeJesus, Alex Gordon, and all of the awesome Royals fans we met. Like the Orioles, the Royals don't get much national attention and it's easy to write them off as a non-entity. But like in Baltimore, baseball is alive in Kansas City with fans who deserve more than they get.