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'Once-in-a-lifetime stuff' for Cain facing Royals

Brewers outfielder homers, receives huge ovation from fans
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy and @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain knew thoughts of the past would flood his mind upon his return to Kauffman Stadium. Royals fans and his old friends made sure of that in Tuesday night's 5-2 win in the series opener.

As Cain stepped onto the field for warmups, a huge cheer rose up from the stands. When he stepped into the batter's box to lead off, an even louder cheer greeted him.

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KANSAS CITY -- Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain knew thoughts of the past would flood his mind upon his return to Kauffman Stadium. Royals fans and his old friends made sure of that in Tuesday night's 5-2 win in the series opener.

As Cain stepped onto the field for warmups, a huge cheer rose up from the stands. When he stepped into the batter's box to lead off, an even louder cheer greeted him.

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After removing his batting helmet to salute the fans, Cain got a bro-hug from former teammate and playful social-media nemesis, Royals catcher Salvador Perez. And actually, Perez was back at his usual antics before the game, crashing Cain's pregame media conference. Cain finished an emotional night 2-for-3 with a homer and reached base four times.

"That's once-in-a-lifetime stuff," Cain said. "I enjoyed it."

Video: MIL@KC: Cain receives standing ovation in Kansas City

There were so many memories packed into his six years in Kansas City that Cain has trouble picking just one.

"You know how many good memories I had in K.C.?" Cain asks, leaning back in a black leather chair in his corner of the Brewers' clubhouse before the opener.

He ticks through some of them. Two World Series. Sweeping through the first three rounds of the playoffs in 2014 on the way to Kansas City's first Fall Classic berth in three decades. Scoring from first base on Eric Hosmer's single for the go-ahead run against the Blue Jays in the decisive Game 6 of the '15 American League Championship Series. His walk to spark a ninth-inning comeback against Matt Harvey and the Mets in Game 5 of the '15 World Series, a night that would end with the Royals popping champagne.

There are too many highlights, too many private moments with teammates, too many good memories with long-suffering Royals fans, to choose one, he says.

Then one flashes into his mind.

Video: MIL@KC: Cain on his homer, reception in Kansas City

"That parade," Cain said. "I've never seen so many people in one place in my life. Just blue everywhere. There were a lot of moments, but that parade was unreal."

*****

Cain doesn't have much to say about the way it ended. He knew "eventually, we were going to have to move on" in Kansas City.

"I can't wait to see LoLo," said Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said before the opener. "That's a brother, you know. That's a guy we miss and we love."

The Royals were headed in a different direction and let Cain go in free agency without making an offer. After Cain signed with the Brewers for five years and $80 million in January, he received a congratulatory text message from Royals general manager Dayton Moore. It was a reminder, Cain said in Spring Training, that baseball is business.

In Milwaukee, Cain returned to the organization that made him a 17th-round Draft pick in 2004, when he had played baseball for barely three years. Cain was focused on basketball until his sophomore year of high school in Florida.

In 2010, when he made it to the Major Leagues with the Brewers, he was still learning lessons.

Longtime Brewers coach Ed Sedar offered an example. One day in Houston -- it must have been Sept. 15, from the way Sedar tells the story -- he telephoned Cain's hotel room at about 10:30 a.m.

Sedar recalls the conversation like this:

Sedar: "Hey, 'Lo,' what you doing?"

Cain: "Hey, Eddie! I'm just sitting back, watching TV in bed. What are you doing?"

Sedar: "I'm watching the team stretch."

Cain: "We've got a day game?!? I've got to go, Eddie!"

Sedar has told that story a lot since Cain returned, and it always gets a laugh. Ryan Braun remembers it.

"And it still happens," Braun said over the weekend. "I guarantee you, he had no idea what time the game was tonight. How he made it this far is amazing."

Braun was kidding, of course. He knows how Cain got this far. Braun has watched Cain compile a .303/.400/.461 slash line in the first 90 plate appearances of his second stint with the Brewers while playing a terrific center field.

It was on that promise that the Royals acquired Cain, along with young shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi from the Brewers in December 2010 for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt.

The trade worked for both teams. The Brewers set a franchise record with 96 regular-season wins in 2011 and made it to the National League Championship Series. The Royals added Cain and Escobar to a core of developing players that would go even farther.

"We grew up playing in this organization together," Moustakas said. "I can't wait to see him. I'm excited for him. I'm excited for what he got in the offseason. To go back to where he was originally from was pretty cool. It's just an awesome thing to be able to come back here, for him."

"It will be good to see him," said Royals catcher Drew Butera. "He's a good friend to all of us. When he steps between the lines, we'll try to beat him any way we can. But it will be good to see him, of course."

Cain said he wanted Royals fans to know he is genuinely thankful for their patience in the tough seasons leading up to those World Series years, and that he is looking forward to seeing them again.

"I expect that they'll show me some love," he said. "It was a good six-year run over there. Those fans always supported us and poured their hearts out to us when we played. I'm just happy we were able to give it back by winning that World Series. Those were good times."

Now he wants the same for Milwaukee.

"That's why I came here," Cain said. "That's a feeling you always remember. I've felt that feeling and I have a World Series ring to prove it. I want to share that feeling with everybody here."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.

Milwaukee Brewers, Lorenzo Cain