© 2014 KansasCity.com
Copyright © 2014 by Ralph F. Couey
Written Content Only
"Faith may be able to move mountains, but it can't by itself move a man 90 feet."
I've always felt that the dawn, the bright herald of a new day, was the gift of a clean slate, with yesterday's sorrows completely erased. Whatever the previous night brought, all was made good and right with the dawn.
I guess it depends on the event.
The Kansas City Royals finished the 2014 baseball season with a soul-crushing 3-2 loss to the newly-crowned repeat champion San Francisco Giants. The game was close, and there was one toe-curling piece of hope and excitement right at the end. But as Salvador Perez's foul pop settled into the glove of the Panda, I felt the light inside me dim and go dark.
The excitement, the impossible wins, the incredible realization of the impossible which had driven Royals' fans for the past six months all ended with all the traumatic shock of a car accident. The season, with all its ups and downs, streaks and stops, wins and losses, was over. The World Series was lost.
But out of the silence that enveloped Kaufman Stadium, a chant began to grow.
"Let's Go Royals!"
The fans in attendance didn't forget the horses that had taken us on this incredible ride, saluting them one last time. For me, a thousand miles eastward, I watched the Giants celebrate with all the energy of a deflated balloon.
The next morning, I awoke, my mind filling with the have-to-dos of the new day, when I suddenly remembered what had transpired. I felt all the emotions any devoted fan would experience, sadness, regret, disappointment. But no matter how difficult the event, one has to put it in the rear view mirror and move on. There is still work to be done; still life left to live.
As I started my daily run in the pre-dawn darkness, I tried to put things in some kind of bearable perspective. I remembered the season, and the first three parts of the post-season, when the Royals truly looked to be a team of destiny. I remembered that I was not only a Royals fan, but also a baseball fan. Madison Bumgarner's performance during the Series was one for the ages. I'd never seen Walter Johnson, or Cy Young, or Christy Mathewson pitch when they were at their dominating best, but it must have been a lot like that. I had been witness to an event which would go down in baseball history, and that's never a bad thing.
I couldn't hate, or even dislike the Giants. Had the Royals not been in the Series, I probably would have rooted for them. The image of Hunter Pence, his pants hiked up past his knees, that short, choppy swing had itched my conscious memory. I had seen that same thing someplace before. Returning from my run, I went to my library and found Al Stump's incredible book. I hurriedly flipped the pages until my eyes fell on a picture of the great Ty Cobb.
And then there was this image...
That was why whenever Hunter came to the plate, he looked so familiar. He is the modern embodiment of Ty Cobb, every bit as dangerous and disruptive in a game. Without, thankfully, the raging sociopathy.
One of the other reasons I can't hate the Giants was how incredibly gracious and complimentary they were towards the Royals after the game. One of them even shouted, "Hey, let's do this again in 2015!"
Yes, my team lost. But it was an enormously entertaining seven games.
Next year will be different. The Royals will almost certainly lose a couple of key players to the business side of the game. But they will also add a couple, and there is a bumper crop of prospects in the farm system busily learning their trade. There's no way of knowing what the new season will produce. I am hopeful that this season wasn't a fluke, a one-hit-wonder, that it truly signals the end of the wandering in the baseball desert and the beginning of something wonderful; the Promised Land, if you will.
For now, I am left with a long winter, one in which I will think back and dream ahead. And hope.
The 2014 season was a terrific ride. It bodes fans well to take a moment and think back to the end of the last 10 seasons, and how empty we felt. We were fulfilled, right up to the last 90 feet of the season by a group of young men who taught us never to give up; that there was always hope. You could win, as long as you stayed in the ring and kept punching. In that respect, we not only were entertained, we were schooled.
The next day, some 15,000 fans gathered at the K, invited there to be thanked by the players. During the ceremony, the chant started again:
"Let's Go Royals!"
And then it turned into something new:
"Thank You Royals!"
In the cool winds of late autumn, spring came alive in everyone's hearts.
Kansas City, after a 29-year estrangement, has once again fallen in love with their Royals.