Baseball more fun with skin in the game

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My Kansas City Royals are winning, again, in the postseason. What a concept.
As a lifelong Royals fan, I’m enjoying the heck out of the playoffs this year, reliving emotions and pitch-by-pitch reactions I haven’t felt for almost 30 years. It’s been a long, long time for my boys in blue.
What’s not to like about these Kansas City Royals? These guys are good. They are fast, fun to watch and there’s a hometown hero on the roster in former Husker Alex Gordon. That’s a bonus giving Husker fans something to cheer about six other days of the week this fall.
I was ecstatic after the dramatic 12th-inning wildcard win last week over Oakland, thinking they at least made the playoffs. All of September felt like the playoffs due to the wildcard format, which is good for the game, the players and especially the fans.
After sweeping the Angels and starting 2-0 against Baltimore, however, I’m starting to think this looks like a team that could go the distance. It’s good for professional sports when a small-market team does well, in my opinion, especially when it’s MY team!
My Royals roots go way, way back to my youth. Back in the Little League days I convinced my family to take a vacation to KC, where we took in my first Major League game. The Royals beat Baltimore that day, hopefully an omen to this year’s pennant race.
Years later in my first job out of college I worked as a reporter/editor at the Higginsville (Missouri) Advance, located in a small town on Interstate 70 just 35 miles east of Kansas City. That was just a routine single from Royals Stadium, so as a young, single guy who had access to a free press ticket every home game, I became a regular.
As luck would have it, that was 1985, the year George Brett, Bret Saberhagen and Co. won the I-70 World Series. I somehow snagged press credentials for Game 2 in KC and Game 5 in St. Louis, then sat in left field for the deciding Game 7. That’s about as good as it gets for a sports fan, following your team to the promised land.
More than just the action on the field, however, I’m reminded this postseason how much more intense baseball is when you have skin in the game. I knew the pitching rotation back in ‘85, had a hunch who Dick Howser would bring in from the pen, who would pinch hit, etc. Baseball is so much more fun to watch when you’re tuned in to those game-situation details.
Kansas City was electric then, as I’m sure it is this week, let alone if they take the next step to the World Series. You didn’t have to be a baseball fan to get caught up in the excitement, and if you were a fan the adrenaline was running 24/7. Our oldest daughter lives there now, so it’s been fun to hear her take on a team and a city that are united as one.
In the words of Yogi Bera, it feels like de ja vu all over again.
Go Blue!
KURT JOHNSON can be reached at kjohnson@ hamilton.net
 

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