These have been strange days for all Royals fans, but I’ve had an extra ingredient or two poured into the intoxicating mix to make the last six weeks especially earth-shaking. I’ll start by reassuring you that there is a happy ending. But in mid-September I got quite a scare when a tumor was discovered in my wife’s head. We had one especially terrifying day after we saw MRI images of an obvious, large growth pushing on her brain before we were able to get a diagnosis that it was “just” an acoustic neuroma: a benign growth on one of the cranial nerves. Thankfully, it’s a pretty treatable thing, and surgery for removal was scheduled for September 30. Yes: Wild Card day. So as you can imagine, this baseball team that I’m usually obsessed with took a back seat right at the most exciting time for fans. But: They were also there for me as the perfect, fun distraction at times when I needed that more than ever. As I sat in waiting rooms for 14 hours on the day of surgery, articles, tweets, and thoughts on that night’s game were there to occupy some of that time. After the totally successful surgery, one of the first things my wife said was, “Has the game started yet?”
Safe with the belief that Laura was going to be okay, but still shaken and drained, I fired up the game on DVR at around 9:30 that night. I should have had enough perspective at that moment in time to not really care, but I was totally down and out when the A’s went up 7-3 in the sixth inning. Losing the Wild Card was not enough for me. I wanted a playoff series at the very least. I hit fast forward, dejected, ready to get it over with and collapse in bed. But then the eighth inning happened. And then the ninth. Then the 10th, 11th, 12th, and oh my god, of course on the day of my wife’s brain surgery the Royals play one of the most incredible and biggest games I’ve ever seen.
There was relief in the next few days as Laura recovered as expected with manageable pain and exhaustion, but still craziness with her at the hospital and two young kids to be running around. She wanted to listen to the ALDS games, so I loaded the MLB At Bat app on her phone and she drifted off to sleep listening to the first two games. She’s normally not a huge baseball fan, but later told me she could at least feel close to me with the games on. (She’s also gotten more and more excited about the Royals themselves as the run goes on.) I’m a little embarrassed to say I couldn’t stay awake for the ends of game one and two in Anaheim thanks to all the craziness going on in my real life, but I was on top of the world watching the conclusions the next mornings. Her ahead of schedule recovery rate had her back home before game three so we got to watch the beginning of that one together at least.
I could relax a bit thanks to her slowly feeling better, and as the Royals kept rolling, a familiar homesickness started to amplify. We left Kansas City for Laura’s native Minneapolis a year and a half ago, and I still miss it. A lot. I miss my favorite places, my friends, my family, and, yes, the Royals. I could feel the excitement and joy the Royals were building in KC all the way from here. It poured out of my computer and TV screens, slapped me in the face, and said, “Ha, ha, you’re not here to enjoy this with your hometown! You live far away!” Before Laura’s diagnosis, I had a realistic dream of being able to make it to KC for a playoff game, so long as they could make it. But by the time they clinched, I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave Laura and the kids as she recovered throughout the postseason. And that was OK. Small potatoes when you’re dealing with brain surgery. But it added a bittersweet twist to what should be a purely sweet run. Friends and family texted and Facebooked pictures of themselves at the K, my favorite place in the world, but now with an atmosphere I can only imagine. “Have a great time!” I replied. “And I hate you!”
But Laura just keeps getting better. And the Royals just keep winning. A friend told me, “If they make the World Series, you have to come down.” I just chuckled. “We’ll see.” But then they did make the World Series. And Laura started trying to think of ways to make it work for me to get to a game. She’s still not allowed to lift more than 10 lbs, so can’t put our two-year old in and out of bed. But she did get cleared to drive, and her wonderful mom suggested that Laura and the kids could stay with her for a couple of days if I go down. But then we saw what tickets are going for. Another roadblock. But after I called my dad to hear about his great day spent at the K watching the team win the pennant, I mentioned it might be possible for me to make it down for a game if the tickets weren’t so insane. The next morning, I got an early Christmas present. I’m going to game one with my dad and brother. I’m tempted to say it’s unbelievable, but my hero Buck O’Neil said, “Nothing is unbelievable.” So I’m going to believe it. Laura’s doing great. I believe it. And I’m going to Kansas City. To Kauffman Stadium. To watch the Royals in the World Series. I believe it.