Although I certainly enjoy other teams (including the nearby Colorado Rockies, who I always watched on TV after we moved to New Mexico from Missouri), my favorite baseball team is the Kansas City Royals. A couple of weeks ago, Brian wondered how anyone could enjoy being a Kansas City Royals fan. Earlier this month, ESPN.com had an article about the failure dynasties, a list of five baseball teams that has earned a recent reputation for failure. Given that the Royals haven’t been to the playoffs since I started following them (I was four the last time they were in the playoffs, the year they won it all), why should I be interested in a team that hasn’t put up big numbers or employed superstars? Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to just find a favorite player and follow him through his career, or adopt some new team who has more recent success stories?
It’s hard to explain why I like the Royals, but it all started when I was a kid. While I was growing up in Missouri, something about baseball struck a chord with me. We played baseball a lot with our neighbors in the field across the street from our house, and even though there were only four or five of us playing it was one of my favorite things to do. Tyler was a Cubs fan (probably because you could see so many of their games on WGN), Ray was a Cardinals fan, and I was a Royals fan. I chose the Royals because I liked their players and they were fairly close to where we lived so we could see some of their games on TV during the year. The sports section of the Joplin Globe often included stories about the Royals, and I read every one of them.
When we lived in Missouri I became more and more interested in baseball. The Royals were the third best team in baseball in 1989, just missing the playoffs. One of my favorite Christmas presents ever was the video game RBI Baseball 2 for the Nintendo. I collected a lot of baseball cards when I was a kid, memorized the statistics, and kept track of the players, but I kept my Royals cards in a separate binder, with all the George Brett cards at the front. In fourth grade we had to do a large research project for school, and I chose the Royals as my topic. My mom saw a note in the newspaper saying that two of the Royals players were going to visit a local bank, and they would be signing autographs! I thought this would be the perfect highlight to my Royals report, but unfortunately the players weren’t able to make it. I was disappointed, but they did send some autographed photos to hand out to the fans who showed up, which I promptly added to the cover of my Royals baseball card binder.
The Royals remind me of being a kid again. My family went to two Royals games when I was a kid, and I won’t forget how fun that was. My dad took us back once since we moved away, and I had just as much fun as I did when I was a kid. I loved Little League when I was little, and I was fascinated by the fact that Mickey Mantle played in the same town that I did when he was a minor leaguer for the Yankees. I continued playing baseball even until high school, and I loved every bit of it.
So fast forward to now. My favorite players from when I was a kid have all gone, but I’m still with the Royals. It’s been a while since they were very good, but that doesn’t stop me from following their team. I cheered with them through all their 100-loss seasons. Recently it’s been much easier because the Royals have some young talent that seems to be getting better all the time. I don’t only enjoy it because they win. Following a winning team isn’t what being a sports fan is about, it’s about being a kid again. It doesn’t take a playoff berth or a World Series banner for me to get excited about a team, although I don’t discount how exciting that can be for their fans. In my book baseball means fun from March to October. There are highs and lows for sure, but I’ll take a sweep of the Tigers any day over an over-hyped, over-paid team.