On Wednesday Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost took to the local talk radio airwaves and ended up making a grievance about fans not showing up for the games. Here’s the quote:
“I mean, what, 13,000 people got to see a great game? . . . We’re in a pennant race, yeah. We’ve been working on trying to build this team for the last three or four years to put ourselves in a position where we can contend for a championship. And not only the division, but we want to contend for a world championship. It’s really, really important we have our fans behind us at the stadium . . . I know there’s different things you can do. You can watch it on the Internet. You can watch it on TV. But there’s a real need for our fans to be a part of this. We had a great crowd last night, and I was kind of hoping we’d have another great crowd tonight, and we really didn’t.”
I think the unanimous response from Kansas City went like this: “Shut the hell up Ned Yost, you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.” Do you want to convince the Royals front office to make going to a game affordable for the average person? Do you not understand that you work for a soulless business with the sole design of raking in fat stacks of cash? This isn’t your grandpappy’s baseball, Mr. Yost, where 25 cents bought you admission to the greatest show on earth, peanuts, a cool beverage with enough leftover for the trolley ride back home. A nosebleed seat in the upper deck behind the infield costs $18, which isn’t so bad but then you have to factor in the fees. Kaufman Stadium is located outside of the city, which means you pretty much have to drive out there and pay $11 to park at the Truman Sports Complex. So that plus gas is a nice sized chunk of change if you’re broke and going to a game all on your lonesome and who does that? A garbage hotdog will set you back $4. A coke $6. A beer? Let’s not even bother.
For reference, here is what it would cost for my brother and I to go see the Royals play the lowly Twins tonight (nosebleed seats edition):
The thing Yost doesn’t get is that it’s not chump change, and while I also find it frustrating when I see the stands empty when I’m watching the games on TV, I’m frustrated because I’d gladly go to a game if I could it. The Royals would rather make money by charging an arm and a leg for seats (decent field level seats run $40-60 a piece) than putting butts in them. The Royals do not care about their fans, they care about money. Just like every other sports franchise on the planet. It’s not new. It’s not even wrong. It just is.
The other side of this is that Kansas City hasn’t had a baseball team worth rooting for in 29 years. When the Royals won the World Series in 1985—also the last time they made the playoffs—was the year I was born. I wasn’t even alive to see it, but I like to think I was there in spirit in my mother’s belly. Since then it’s been a shifting state of hopelessness. And still, we loved our team. I was obsessed with baseball as a kid and I was fortunate enough to see George Brett play in the twilight of his career, but there are drawbacks to rooting for a team that never, ever wins. Especially as a kid. I was flipping through a shoebox of old photographs at my parents’ house last week and was amazed at how many photos there were of me sporting Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins gear. Those teams were added to the MLB in 1993, and to me they represented a fresh start. There was something pure and untainted about those teams to my eight-year-old brain.
In 1994 the strike happened and that pretty ended my love affair with professional baseball. The Royals were doing the best they’d ever done since I’d been born and then the season was shut down. I kept playing little league for a couple more years but my team had divided into two factions: the kids who loved the game and the douchebags who wanted to call me a fat piece of shit. Our last game ended with a brawl in our own dugout. One of those memories that will never leave me is standing outside the dugout, watching these kids fight, and telling my dad that I was done with baseball. After that, I got into music (really shitty music, but music nonetheless) and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and that was the end of it.
I started watching baseball again in 2011 when I joined my little brother’s Fantasy Baseball league. All of that deep seeded passion for the game welled up and I was obsessed. I drank in everything I had missed, and though the Royals had a typically Royals season (71-91, 24 games out of first place in the division), it was nice to see the team nurturing its young talent instead of selling them off as soon as they got good (see: And other reasons it was painful to be a Royals fan for years and years). In 2012 I was in Minnesota but watched as many games as I could via MLB.TV and for once, they had a shot at the playoffs! It was a dream! A long shot, but more hope than any Kansas Citian had dared to foster in 25 years. We moved back to Kansas in September of 2013 and as we were driving into Kansas City I caught the tail end of their last home game of the season on the radio. The Royals were down, bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded. Justin Maxwell came to the plate and hit a grand slam. I started to cry. They were out of the playoffs run by then, but it felt so, so good to be home.
This season has been the absolute best. All the cynicism for the game I developed when I realized the harsh realities of the money game via the strike in 1994 melted away and I just enjoyed a young team that was there to compete. Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, Nori Aoki, Omar Infante, Moose, Greg Holland, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, even the once and former garbage fire Wade Davis! These are my guys. When the season started, I would listen to the games on the radio via my phone at the lowest volume pressed to my ear whilst holding my infant daughter as she slept. I tried hard not to jostle her too much when they won. Midseason my father in law sprung for the KC sports package via Dish Network and there’s something wonderful about coming home from work and turning on the game and watching the Kansas City Royals play absolutely fantastic baseball.
This year, the Royals are gutting it out. Their young pitchers are coming into their own, their veterans are holding steady and leading the team, Greg Holland is the greatest shut down closer in the game, and even though I worry that Alex Gordon is putting his season at risk diving for fly balls and running into walls, my heart jumps every time he catches one of those harrowing flies. I love this team, and the fact that they are 17 games over .500 is almost too much to handle. Even if they blow the rest of the season, this is more hope than I’ve ever had for the Royals. Honestly, my hope caps out at them making the playoffs. I can’t even think about them getting to the World Series. I honestly can’t fathom the situation. I can see them making the AL Championship Series. Winning the pennant would be the greatest thing I had ever seen as a sports fan. It would be a dream.
I don’t think Ned Yost understands what it’s like to be let down for decades. This quick turnaround from worst to first has left folks a little gun shy. We’ve been duped before, why is this time any different? It’s promising, but you can’t expect folks to go out in droves to the games. The stadium is still out in the boonies and games are expensive, and while I wish I had been there the other night to see Alex Gordon’s walk-off homer, I can’t afford it. But I’ve been trying to find a game me and my brother can attend. I’m willing to put tickets on the credit card to be a part of this glorious run.