Proud Royals fans 'Rally' around hometown team
KANSAS CITY -- It began with fans forming a line at Kauffman Stadium's ticket window behind the home plate entrance that snaked around the entire left side of the stadium. A crowd of 5,000 filed into the ballpark to watch the Royals work out and take batting practice in the "Take the Crown Rally" event.
It was an unusual scene for a fan base that will experience postseason baseball for the first time in nearly three decades tonight when the Royals face the A's in the American League Wild Card Game.
The greatest joy for John and Kassie Kelley of Lee's Summit, Mo., is getting to experience this season with their children. John's burgeoning fandom of the team as a kid overlapped with some of the franchise's greatest years.
"I always wanted my kids to experience the same thing that I did and just follow a team that you grew to love, and up until the last couple of years, they didn't really have much interest in baseball, which is the sport that I loved as a kid," John Kelley said. "And it's been so cool for them to get into it now. They're young adults now, but it's still not too late to experience some of things I did when I was a kid."
A work function will force John to miss the showdown with the A's, but Kassie and their son plan on attending.
"There was always hope," John said. "Every year, you kind of come back the next year kind of hoping that they would somehow find the right players and the right talent level. It's been a long time coming, but it's been nice the last three or four years to kind of see that develop and to grow into an even better team."
John Tarpley of Overland Park, Kan., moved to Kansas City 10 years ago and instantly became hooked on the Royals. As he watched his beloved team take BP and listened to Alex Gordon thank the fans in attendance for their resiliency, Tarpley reflected on how difficult the previous nine years were, and how rewarding the 10th has been.
"Usually about August, you start thinking 'Well, OK, the Chiefs are going to start playing pretty soon' and they'd blow games and you'd sort of go 'Well, there they go'," Tarpley said. "And this year, you had that feeling that you wanted to say that, but then they kept winning and it just got really good."