The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
Over the next few weeks, we'll give each of the 30 teams a day in the spotlight, showcasing the icons and traditions that make each big-league hamlet special. Up next is our pal Ryan Wood, an expat Royals fan in San Diego who once wrote about the wonders of a 20-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. chocolate bar for Big League Stew.
1. Our history is simple: A handful of division titles. One World Series loss. One World Series victory. One Hall of Famer. We've experienced all the delight of being a winning baseball fan, but in small doses so we actually appreciate them rather than expect them.
The Yankees can take their 27 rings. They can't even remember how they got half of them. In fact, have we even double-checked that number to make sure it's right? The Royals, on the other hand, have one beautiful championship to forever cherish, a seven-game classic in 1985 won fairly and squarely without any controversy whatsoever. We will always remember, and never take it for granted.
2. Our stadium is a cougar: I mean, look at her. She's 39 years old and she is smoking hot. Every time she gets a face-lift, she looks even better. While all of the other cookie-cutter ballparks from Kauffman Stadium's era were run-down, terrible-looking pieces of waste that have been ditched for a younger beauty, our stadium is every bit as gorgeous as it was on the day that it opened.
Fountains, a giant crown scoreboard, the soothing hum of I-70 beyond center field. Yep, Kauffman Stadium is the Diane Lane of baseball parks. And we're proud of that.
3. George Brett: The story goes that in 1990, during a wretched losing streak, the younger players were stewing and pointing fingers in the clubhouse. Big John Mayberry, then a Royals coach, came storming in to shut them up.
"You guys have never won anything," he said. "What do you know about winning? Look at those flags in left field. A lot of great players helped hang those flags.
"You want to know about winning? Then shut up and ask No. 5 because he hung them all."
Brett is still adored in Kansas City to this day. Our franchise owes everything to him. He retired in 1993 and has lived in Kansas City ever since. He has helped us through this putrid 20-year stretch by being a face of the franchise, doing TV commercials, interviews, and assuring us that the glory days he led us through can be re-lived again with the young batch of talent coming in. We need that from him.
The Royals only won 75 games the year of Mayberry's rant. But Brett? He won his third and final batting title by hitting .329.
4. Our future is bright: Buy your high-priced free agents, Yankees. Pillage the poorer markets when their players just enter their primes, Red Sox. The Royals are going to get this done sometime in the next few years, do it with all home-grown players, and it's going to be so much more rewarding that way.
Royals GM Dayton Moore has tried to keep fans happy while his future stars seasoned in the minors. He signed Jose Guillen (thanks, Dayton) and other so-so players to bide the time. He asked us to "trust the process" and when the losing kept going, fans started mocking that slogan.
But after seeing flashes of Kansas City's future last season — Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Aaron Crow, Salvador Perez, Johnny Giavotella, Alex Gordon — we can't help but trust it. The next four or five years are going to be a blast.
5. Bo: Man, I love Bo Jackson. I was 8 years old in 1989 when he hit that 900-foot home run at the All-Star game in Anaheim. That day, I was infected with Bo Fever. It's been 23 years and I'm still sick.
What Bo gave the Royals in their post-playoff years was the spotlight. He was a folk hero. He was so big, so fast, so strong and, best of all, so charismatic. One game, I wasn't even watching the action. I was watching Bo in left field, twirling his glove on his finger like a basketball between pitches. I thought this was the coolest thing ever.
Bo was Kansas City's all-time biggest rock star, and even though his career was cut short, I hereby call on the Royals to put him in the team's Hall of Fame already.
6. T-shirt Tuesday: I'm not even sure how this started, or exactly what year it debuted. But once a month, the Royals have a Tuesday night T-Shirt giveaway. You should see the Royals T-Shirts I have piled high to the ceiling in my closet. A George Brett powder blue shirsey with pine tar stains on the shoulder. A Zack Greinke "Ace" T-Shirt that, without any good reason, I still wear. Even dumb ones like a "Ketchup" shirt promoting who I should root for in the video board's nightly Hot Dog race (Mustard and Relish can eat sand).
Thanks to this promotion, I don't have to fill out lame credit-card applications just to get a free Royals T-shirt.
7. "Good evening Royals fans": There's really nothing better as a sports fan than to have the same play-by-play announcer your entire life. It's a treat.
Every time I hear Denny Matthews call Royals games, the simpler days of my youth are closer than ever. Denny, while a bit less enthusiastic in recent years, is still sharp, still occasionally funny and still calls the action identically to how he did it in 1969 in the Royals' inaugural season. It's the same voice I heard long after I was supposed to be in bed during West Coast trips. The same voice I heard on my parents' boat at the Lake of the Ozarks every summer. The same voice I hear piping through the concourse speakers at Kauffman Stadium when I'm going to buy chili cheese fries.
I often wonder if iconic announcers realize just how much they mean to a fan base. Denny Matthews is Kansas City Royals baseball more than anyone else, and I hope he has 40 more years in him.
8. You know we're serious: It must be agonizing to be a true fan of the Boston Red Sox. If you are, you're surrounded by bandwagon clowns who want to be taken seriously. Some of those fans have never even been east of the Mississippi River, let alone attended a game at Fenway Park. I have sympathy for you, real Red Sox fans, because the fans I'm talking about show up at Kauffman Stadium for three annoying games every year.
But if you're a Royals fan, you're for real. Your devotion is never questioned. Our bandwagon pretty much empties after the opening day party. I'd guess every single Royals fan out there has a connection of some sort to Kansas City. Go to a Royals game on the road, as I often do, and you can pick up a conversation with anybody else wearing a KC hat and find out that they probably grew up right down the street from you. No pretenders here.
9. Tailgating: It's not as rampant as Milwaukee tailgating (which is pretty much brats and beer). But tailgating at the Truman Sports Complex is a fun way to kick off a night at the old ballpark.
Personally, my crew would either bring a grill or stop by a famous Kansas City barbecue joint and pick up some amazing food. Grab a six-pack of Boulevard to responsibly chug one after another. With weeknight crowds sparse, the parking lot is a wide-open playground. Take a football and go deep or grab a baseball and play long-toss. Your rotator cuff will hate you and might even rip to shreds, but whatever.
Big League Stew encourages you to join in the fun! Please share these lists with your fellow fans on Facebook and use the comment section below to tell us your favorite things about being a fan of the Kansas City Royals.