Maybe it’s because I downloaded the Timehop app, but I’ve been having a lot of “one year ago this day” moments recently. On September 11, it was one year since my wife Laura was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Then on September 30, one year since her surgery and the wild card game. And of course the whole 2015 Royals playoff run has been a distinct reminder of the 2014 playoff magic. Between last year’s ALCS and World Series, I wrote about the strange brew of my wife’s major health scare and the euphoria in Royals-land I’d been experiencing. I wrote that piece when a surprising turn of events had me getting ready to go to Kauffman for Game One of the World Series. It was all thanks to my wife’s recovery going smoothly and the generosity of my parents and hers. Friends, family, e-migos, and readers of this site responded so warmly to that post, and another wave of love and support, rushing in regularly since Laura’s diagnosis, crested.
The evening and night before the game, I made the solo, seven-hour drive from my Minneapolis-area house to my hometown of KC exhausted, grateful, and full of anticipation. I got to my parents house late, and by the time I was up the next day, family and friends were at work. It was a little strange to be alone but I welcomed a day to immerse myself in the city I’d grown so attached to and have a hard time being away from. I headed first to The Bunker in Westport in hopes of getting a Charlie Hustle KC heart t-shirt for Laura. A tornado of blue t-shirt-starved citizens had long beaten me to the punch. From there I strolled down Broadway for a bit. I of course had on Royals apparel, and a fellow pedestrian struck up a conversation. “Tonight’s the night!” he said. Turned out he would be in attendance too thanks to his daughter winning two tickets and a limousine ride to the game through a radio station. Neither one of us could believe our luck.
Next I meandered through the Nelson sculpture garden before getting a cup of the best coffee I know of at The Roasterie in Brookside. Then a long walk up the Trolley Trail, a familiar jogging path in my previous life. All day I’d felt the electric Royals buzz that I’d been sensing 500 miles away in Minnesota for a while. An unfamiliar nervous excitement built up as game time was getting closer. I felt nerves as if I was going to be playing in the game.
I grabbed our dinner at LC’s and met my brother and dad to carpool to the park. Barbecue and Boulevard taste pretty sweet in the Kauffman lot before a World Series game. We found our upper deck seats behind the plate and soaked it all in. The Royals in the World Series! I couldn’t wait to be a small part of the crowd roar that had been overwhelming my TV speakers all month.
But the game went off script. The Giants immediately scored three runs, and the crowd never got to take off. We tried to force it when Sal homered in the seventh, but it was too little, too late. The team that had waited for me to leave town before getting good broke their eight game playoff victory streak when I came back.
I tweeted after the game, “A bad World Series game in KC is still a World Series game in KC. Great night.” And I meant it. But after I sped back home the next morning, I spent a lot of time trying, and only half succeeding, to convince myself that the important thing was that I’d gotten to a game and that it was beside the point that the game itself had been a dud. I hung on every pitch of Games Two through Six from my couch.
On the morning of Game Seven, I couldn’t stand it. I tried hard to convince myself that it was OK not to be there, or that it was too late anyway. It didn’t work. I scoured Stub Hub for tickets, and, around 9:30, decided with Laura that I could splurge on a ticket if I could find one for $500 or less. Refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh, refresh…10:30…two tickets, $499 a piece! I called my dad as fast as I could and he was in. The printer is out of ink! I don’t have time to go buy ink! Maybe I can download them to my phone…yup, that works. Um, clothes, toothbrush, goodbye, I love you! On the road at 11:15. What is going on! I am not a spontaneous person! Are we going to make it by first pitch? Eat in the car, no water allowed, drive, drive, drive, this is really happening! Made great time. Don’t think I sped that much? In our seats, second to last row in the upper deck, in plenty of time. Did I really just do that?
I had the same nerves as if I was playing, along with a new giddiness. I could not be still, knees and toes bouncing non-stop. The atmosphere was insane. The whole stadium stood for most of the game and held its collective breath on every pitch. I’m pretty sure the stadium lifted off and reached orbit after the Royals tied the score in the bottom of the second. The tension was sweetly agonizing all night. After Alex reached in the 9th, I realized I’d been jumping up and down during his entire run to third. (Alex continuing to home on the play didn’t even cross my mind, but my dad immediately said they should have sent him since Bumgarner seemed invincible.) Too much magic had brought the Royals to that point for it to end with Alex at third. What was one more slice of magic after the month they were having?
But Sal popped up. The roar silenced immediately and my hands covered my blue hat. After a few beats of disbelief, I heard a faint “let’s go Royals” chant start up. Perfect. I joined right in. Of course I was disappointed, but I wasn’t crushed. I didn’t have to try to convince myself that this had been a great night. I got to experience a level of energy, fun, and passion around baseball in Kansas City that, for me, had up to that point only existed in historical accounts.
And now, one year later, we get to do it again.