By rob Ficiur
Darryl Sauer was one of the few Southern Albertans who has been a lifetime Kansas City Royals fan. Why would a teenager in southern Alberta begin cheering for the Kansas City Royals? At the time the Royals were the rivals of the New York Yankees. Led by third baseman George Brett and pitchers Brett Saberhagen and Dan Quissenberry, the Royals were perennial playoff contenders. Daryl was a Royals fan the last time the Royals made the playoffs (and won the 1985 World Series).
For 17 of the 18 years between1996 to 2012 the Royals had only one winning record. Ewing Kauffman, the owner of the Royals worried that, after his death, the Royals would not be able to stay competitive and remain in Kansas City. He came up with the succession plan and donated nearly $100 million to keep the Royals afloat after his death. The city owned /ran the team for a few years – which hurt the on field product – as they did not invest in the minor league prospects the way a baseball owner would.
Being a loyal Royals fan has been discouraging the last two and a half decades. Kansas City is a small market team; without the revenue to compete for the big dollar free agents. Darryl told me about one Royals fan got so disgusted with the team he sold all his sports memorabilia, which included game worn jerseys. (I bet this person became a Royals fan again once his (former) team got on their record tying 8 game playoff winning streak.)
The Royals dramatic 2014 playoff run was not a surprise to Dartyl. Kansas City had the best record in baseball after the 2013 All Star game. Going into the 2014 season, Daryl knew (hoped) that if pitching, batting and luck came together the Royals could be a playoff team.
From Day #1 of the playoffs the Royals were an action packed team. With stolen bases, great relief pitching and home run power they had not had all season, they won the one game Wild Card playoff in extra innings. They swept the favored Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles. For the first time since 1985 the Kansas City Royals were in the World Series.
Game #1 of the World Series was in Kansas City and Darryl was there. Fans had flown in from everywhere for the game. Darryl got to the game early to enjoy the atmosphere. He had attended his first Kansas City home games in 2013 – but this was the World Series.
While waiting out front for World Series souvenirs, a limousine pulled up to the stadium. The number of security guards that escorted the limo told the fans that the person in the limo must be someone important. Darryl and the other fans watched as the person got out. “Who is that?” the fans wondered out loud.
Darryl, the Canadian in the group, knew the answer and informed his American baseball fans, “That is your Vice President!” he informed them.
By the fifth inning, Madison Baumgartner had pitched a near perfect game; and the San Francisco Giants were up 5-0. The fans’ spirits were sagging. This game looked to be (and was) lost. Then fans would remember, “Hey this is the World Series, let’s cheer!” Good advice for a team that had been away from the fall classic for 29 years.
Darryl flew back to Calgary in time to see the Royals break a 2-2 tie and win Game #2. Could the Royals do the impossible and win the World Series? I talked to Darryl after the Royals lost Game #4. With the series tied 2-2 Darryl said it had been an amazing run no matter what happened. In the end the Royals lost Game #7 by a 3-2 count; the tying run was on third base…so close to for the Royals to make another amazing comeback.
Losing the World Series was disappointing because they were so close. Darryl has been a sports fan long enough to know that there is no guarantee that the Royals will be back in the World Series again in 2015. The 2014 Royals run was very similar to the 2004 Calgary Flames playoff run. The teams had been out of the playoffs for many years – and they came within a game of winning it all. In the Flames case the team has not won a playoff series again in nearly ten years.
However, Darryl is an optimistic Kansas City Royals fan. The key players in the 2014 Royals miracle playoff run are still under contract for 2015. These are young players who are learning and improving. There is no reason that these up and coming Royals can’t surpass the veteran Detroit Tigers in 2015 and win the Central Division regular season title. If the Royals can get into the 2015 playoffs, they will have experience and hunger on their side, they were so close.
Darryl and the Kansas City Royals fans (more of those Royals fans now than there was two months ago) are hoping / expecting a great 2015 baseball season…training camp starts in just two months.