Oct. 27, 2015. Game 1 of the 2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets.
Most of us know the story by heart. Kansas City was on the rise with infectious city pride because of the Royals. After a heartbreaking loss to the Giants in Game seven of the 2014 World Series, the team carved a destructive path of dominance to the next Series. This time they claimed it.
2015 was the year the Royals became champions for the first time in 30 years and redeemed themselves. The city was on fire. Royals shirts, hats and posters were everywhere. People knew players by name and followed the team closely after their hearts had been captured by the scrappy, love-able underdogs of 2014. 2015 was the deserved denouement of a thrilling story with a climax in October 2014.
This was not how I got to experience this story.
My family is made up of hard-core baseball people – Royals baseball people, specifically. I grew up going to games every summer, expecting losses. The team was not good. I was young near the end of the Mike Sweeney-era of the Royals and grew up during the long “rebuilding period
It changed once I was a little older. Players started to stay longer. We have favorites. By the time I was in high school, we had some recognizable, encouraging faces and the team is actually decent. In the summer before my sophomore year, it looked like we’d have a chance at the playoffs.
Even then, it seemed pretty far-fetched to a grass-roots fan and cynic, like me. I knew the bad times. I knew that it was a long shot. I loved some of our boys but I still was skeptical.
In the midst of this slow but steady rise, I left for a semester abroad. I didn’t have access to the internet or any kind of technology, besides a payphone. I started getting letters from my family saying how close the team was to reaching the playoffs.
Then a letter came describing how we clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 1985.
Somehow, the team made it to the wildcard game. Somehow, they won. I woke up the morning after that game to find out from a teacher that it was an insane one. Then I got the play-by-play of the game from my brother’s next letter. I hear my family’s ecstatic retelling of the game, of where they were and how they heard of it. They sent me the paper from the next day so I could read about it.
They relayed more and more news of the postseason as the days pass. My team – for the first time – was a team to watch. I heard of my city rallying and claiming my team as its own. I got to watch none of it. Before I knew it, I got a phone call after Game seven. My family somehow got themselves tickets to see it. I heard of the heartbreak, the betrayal and the tears.
I was hooked on the story, but I was very much on the outside of it. I was shocked when I got home to see a new city. A city, and a team, in renaissance. I was determined to be a part of it.
The 2015 season flew by. The Royals knew want they wanted and they went for it. Dayton Moore, Royals general manager, crafted a playoff worthy team. I still felt a bit on the outside. I questioned some trades – I have to admit I wasn’t so sure about Cueto when he came. I questioned some heroes of 2014 – it pains me to say I was unconvinced by the late, great and gone too soon Yordano Ventura.
But throughout the season, I started to catch the fever everyone else got the year before. Our boys were going to do it this time. In such a pure Kansas City way, our heroes led the way.
Not going to lie, I was on edge. The season itself had been trying. The city had seen tragedy. Players had lost family. The Royals family held it all together. Then, the Astros and Blue Jays tried to stop us in the ALDS and ALCS, respectively. But in the end, it was time for the kings to earn their crown.
It was suddenly Game 1 of the World Series. This time, I got to go. My brother, sister, mom and I bundled up for the chilly weather, packed snacks and prepared for what was sure to be an epic battle after an emotional season.
The game started mundanely enough in the top of the first inning. I decided to start eating my snacks. I was chowing down on an apple when Alcides Escobar took his first pitch and turned it into an inside-the-park homerun. Simultaneously choking and cheering, I felt the culmination of the year of buildup and prepared for one of the best games I’ve ever seen.
14 innings long. Extras triggered by the man, the hero himself – Alex Gordon – hitting a homer off the supposedly dominant closer Familia. The hours fly by. No one dared to leave before this game was over. Records were set in this game. It was truly a beauty of a game.
It ends in a quintessentially Royals way. A sac-fly – we won. The precedent was set for the Series.
The rest is history.