Thursday, October 30, 2014

There's No Crying In Baseball

You guys. Seriously. I don't cry over sporting events. Rarely do I have enough invested in a team to care enough to have an emotional response to wins or losses. Even when my own kids are playing, I can usually shrug things off with an "It's just a game" attitude.

As Tom Hanks so famously said it in "A League of Their Own," "There's no crying in baseball!" But this year, I have cried over the Kansas City Royals more than once. How could I not?

I grew up here in Kansas. And yes, the Royals are technically from Missouri, but no one here cares about that. The Royals are our team. I was just a kid in 1985, when they won it all, and I grew up with George Brett and Bret Saberhagen as my heroes. For a while, I had a dream of becoming the first girl to catch for the team. Considering that I won't even catch for my 11 year old son now, there is no way I would have ever been able to make that happen, but every kid growing up has a dream and wearing the blue and white was one of mine.

My dad watched the games and he even took me to my first MLB game. I was somewhere around 10 years old. We had cheap seats, high above left field. The Royals played the Yankees. I don't remember who won or lost that day, but I do remember looking out across the stadium at the flags and seeing the World Series Champs 1985 flag proudly flying.

I haven't been to a lot of games in my life. We're a couple hours from KC and growing up, my family didn't spend a lot of money on such frivolous things as attending Major League Baseball games. But if you asked us, we were Royals fans. We wore George Brett jerseys and had his autograph on our gloves. He was our favorite because he was great, but also because he was loyal. He spent his entire career in Kansas City and the love he had for the team and for the town were evident. For what it's worth, seeing him be excited about the Boys in Blue this year was a total bonus.

One day, in the fall of my senior year of high school, my dad spontaneously picked me, my sister and my friend, Laurie, up from school. He drove us the two hours to Kaufman Stadium and bought us tickets to George's final home game. Watching one of my childhood heroes round the bases a final time (in a golf cart, no less) is one of the best memories I have with my dad.

A few years later, I married into a big sports family. Unlike me, they're not native Kansans, but since he's been here for most of his life, Vance faithfully cheers for Kansas City sports teams.

We gave up cable over a decade ago but Vance has faithfully listened to the Royals on AM radio for years. This year he was able to live stream the playoff series for just $10. Like most KC fans, he can't stand the TV announcers, so he mutes them and still listens to the radio. Because of this, we don't watch together. I can't stand that high pitched hum that comes with AM radio but he doesn't even seem to hear it. So this year, I "watched" the games on my phone, via the MLB Live Update. I always knew when to check the score, as I could hear Vance screaming, "Yes!" on the good plays and "NOOOOOO!" on the bad. For the first time in a long time, there were more yeses than nos. More often than not, those games lasted way past bedtime and my poor husband went to work tired but happy.

My husband loves sports, but 2014 was a big year for my oldest son, too. This year, he decided that baseball is his sport and for the first time, was a part of a competitive traveling team. The confidence it built in him was phenomenal. He also played in our local rec league, which was another great experience for him. This summer, after playing for six years, my son fell in love with baseball. In July, he attended his first two MLB games on back to back nights at The K. It was perfect. That first night, the Royals took the lead in the division. They won again the next day, and E was there to see it. Those games solidified his love for baseball and he'll be a Royals fan for life.

For the last two weeks, my kids and I have walked around the house, the park and the supermarket singing the Matthew West version of "Royals." If you haven't seen it yet, you need to.

Did you see that catch Moose made where he literally fell into the stands? He says he never touched the ground. The Royals fans weren't about to let that happen.

And then there's Salvy Perez, who started an amazing 158 games this year. As catcher. There's no quit in that boy. (I say boy because he's like 24 years old. I'm almost 40, so that makes him practically a preschooler in my eyes. That's how it goes when you get old.)

There are a thousand more reasons to love the 2014 Royals. Try this link for some of them. I don't think you can read it and walk away anything but a fan.

So, while I didn't even think of crying when they lost, I did shed a couple of tears watching highlight reels. This is the team we've waited decades for. These are tears of joy and pride. Thank you, Kansas City Royals. You were worth the wait.