For the Kansas City Royals, 2014 was as magical as it gets. From a broken 29-year playoff drought to a stunning walk-off Wild Card win to the AL Pennant to 90 feet from a world championship at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals' season was extraordinarily memorable.
In this weekly series, I will interview a fan, writer, or member of the Kansas City community about their thoughts regarding the Royals' 2014 and their place in it.
Today's interviewee is Korean superfan Sung Woo,
Sung Woo graciously accepted to do this interview in his non-native tongue of English, so please be understanding. Regardless, his personality, optimism, and sincerity shines brightly.
How did you become specifically a Royals fan as opposed to another team? Did you intend to become a fan of Major League Baseball or did it just happen accidentally?
AGAIN??? Again explain how to become a Royals fan myself??? ;-P
Alright... Once apon a time, long long time ago...
When I was a middle school student, I started to watch AFN (American Forces Network) in Korea for my English. But TV programs were too difficult for me to understand, even a Sesame street!!
Since Korean pro baseball league started in 1982, so Baseball games were relatively easy and funny for me at that young age. When I got back home after school, it was around 6PM, I watched CNN/ESPN sports news every night 30-minutes with supper.
That made me very familiar with American sports like NBA, NFL too.
Then... why, how, what made me a Royals fan??
Not sure, it's quite a long time ago. Not born & raised as a Royals fan like you fans... Maybe sympathy? I felt such pity for those poor struggling team Royals. I'm a big underdog lover. (Frankly I had no idea about revenue disparity in MLB, though) Big market teams like Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers with well established star players were also great to see. But I was much much much more thrilled with weak teams stunning upset wins. So punchbag Royals gradually drew some attention from me, I got some curiosity & interest on losing team Royals, players, team's history... One day I watched sports news highlight as Royals won that day with Jeff King's homer, fireworks in the outfield.. that scene also caught my eyes too.
Later I went to College, I bought my personal computer in 1995.. that was a catalyst for me to follow Royals / MLB intensively.
With world-wide web & computer game "Hardball5" was my main dream field, where Royals could beat any teams ;-)
It was so pitiful that Royals had been struggling once after a competitive-minded great owner Mr.Kauffman passed away.
The more I was getting know of Royals, the more fell in love with Royals. They were not just a weak losing team... if they could find a new/good ownership, they would be better... at least could be a contending team again. That's worth to follow & watch I thought. (Of course, I had never imagined it would take almost 3 decades though)
Until 2005, I had my own Korean translated Royals webpage... it was the exact copy of old Royals pages (of course, no permission from Royals) with every current players page & decent Royals HOF painting and introduce. So sorry I didn't keep doing it up to date, but couldn't do it with all my hands tied up with work....
With limited information on Royals from here in Korea, I did join Royals fan forum on scout.com & enjoyed some chats on Royals gameday thread, but later it got blocked as a non-business site from company, with time difference between KOR & US, most of Royals weekday night games are held 9AM at work...
So I moved into Royals twitter world with my first smartphone, it's been a whole new excitement for me to get information from news reporters twits in real time & communicate with KC local fans immediately.
I am NOT that guy who want to be stand-out, get attention from others... but anyway anyhow I got some interest from local KC fans as a weird(?) long distance oversea fan.
Of course, now I have much much more love & care from Kansas City Royals fans, which I just take it, enjoy it & thank for it.
What was being a fan like for you during the 29 year playoff drought?
First of all, so happy to see Royals end notorious long playoff drought this past year and advanced to World series... And Kansas City fans brought me back to see Royals World Series games in person with you fans at Kauffman stadium.
Thank you all of fans, ESPN 30 for 30 team & MLB to make it happen #BringBackSungWoo.
Still it's like a dream... can't forget this special lifetime memory.
While I've been following Royals, I got used to Royals losing. A loss after losses was not a big news for me during that loooooong tortured Royals dark age.
Like "Baseball is American pastime", I just watched sports news via AFN daily basis to get out of all stress after school and work.
Almost 20 years, even far far away from KC and never been there before, fortunately I have a good company to discuss Royals all the time along with me...
That's my 1-yr younger brother!!
I feel terribly so sorry for my brother, who also much deserves to share all those love from Kansas City though... he couldn't make it to KC, while taking care of hospitalized dad who suffered with lung cancer & pneumonia in August.
For me & brother, It's like good old post "Rob & Rany on Royals",
I was a bit optimistic like Dr.Rany & my brother was very realistic like Neyer. (Don't get me wrong, we are not that expert or stathead at all. Never!)
With my brother, many talks & discussion, I did not lose any one bit of interest on Royals even during those 29-year playoff drought.
With extremely limited access to Royals information, check out & read KC Star, Royals.com is my daily routine... What a pleasure to read Flannagan, Posnanski, Passan, Mellinger, Dutton, Andy and others.
So much amped up when I read Posnanski's new season's special features, so loved cynical Dutton....
From South Korea 6000+ miles away from KC, my brother and I we're rare fans of Royals. From school days to these days at work, we always get serious questions from people, "What? What is the name of team you follow?" "Is it a MLB team?" "What made you became a Royals fan?" "Why don't you like the team Korean MLB players playing for?"
People messed up with where Kansas City is and with name among Kentucky, Kansas, KFC... Some spoke ill of Royals, the copy of Dodgers blah blah... Some cocky friends made me sarcastic like compared me to being a stranger who follow Korean baseball team from unknown continent from nowhere... They wondered even Kansas City & Royals notice they have a fan of me from far away S.Korea or not. If there would some people notice me, just a few sympathetic listeners for me. They told me it's enough. They didn't understand what it's worthy to be a fan of Royals.
But fortunately I had much more good friends & co-workers who said good words on my pure passion & loyalty. Then many paid attention to MLB along with ChanHo Park, ShinSoo Choo... my deep knowledge on MLB only helped me out as good ice breaking topic for me with people.
Whether Royals lost or not, my brother and I have been doing the same thing like you as a fan.... we did follow the team as routine.
Nowaday many people praise it is not just a pastime hobby but a major commitment from me & my brother... but I'm pretty sure it could not be the same if it was any kind of goal, or dreamed of any reward.
I'm just so happy to be a part of unbelievable, magical 2014 Royals season with sharing all those time in Kansas City with people as being a Royals fan for past years.
What did the AL pennant and World Series appearance mean to you?
2014 Royals Success is the results of everybody's efforts, especially my proud Royals players, they won all those games on the field... and Yost with coaches... and GMDM & his staffs along with owner Glass family.
So much grateful for everything they achieved this past 2014 season, also so glad for them to get paid for their hardwork and I can't be happier with long long suffered Kansas City Royals fans. You great Kansas City people deserves it!!
And 2014 AL Champ Royals saved my face in Korea finally.
It may sound a little bit greedy, but hope it's just beginning for another splendid glorious Royals dynasty from now on.
How do you describe the Royals, their fanbase, and the MLB to friends and families who don't follow American sports?
Underdog team you have to watch out, who will pay for your pure loyal support with dramatic way, when their potential finally come out.... My team Royals are so close... it's due... it's gonna be #OurTime for years to come.
Regarding Kansas City & people, I praise Kansas City people is the best people I've ever met. Not like big crowded cities like Seoul, KCitians are so good, pure and ingenuous. "Mid West Hospitality" is the most used word for me once I learned from KC ;-P
Another can't-miss pride & joy of Kansas City is food and beer... frankly speaking, BBQ was a littel bit greasy for me though I like that tender meat & grilled flavor. And I fell in love with Boulevard Beer as soon as I had!! In Korea, larger beer is mainly consumed, it's very fresh and well matched with Korean seasoning, maninated spicy, vegetable food.... but I REAAAALLY LIKE Boulevard beer!!! A whole new variety of Ale, Pale Ale & India Pale Ale beers with different flavor from hop & mixed ingredients... My favorite is Tank 7... and 80 Acre.. and Hibiscus was good too... Oh, sweet ginger-lemon was unforgettable... one more, coffee ale.
DANG... sorry... my talking is far off the topic... but whenever I meet people here in Korea, I keep saying it about great KC people and food, beer.
Regarding MLB, I speak highly of their support in #BringBackSungWoo campaign. Too much excitement at that time, I didn't do well exchange names & shake hands, so sorry about that, so I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of the MLB, media & Royals people who contributed for my journey back to Kansas City for World Series.
Which player did you enjoy watching most on the 2014 AL Champion Kansas City Royals?
With an excessive red carpet treatment more than I deserved from Kansas City, Royals and MLB, I was so excited to see Royals plays in person.
Every player is so proud, precious for me.. but the most exciting player I have to pick is... Lorenzo Cain. He garnered ALCS MVP and also a lot of attention from MLB fans in Korea too with his wide range of defense & his energy.
Along with Cain, Finnegan was a quite surprise.... Step up performance from Hos & Moose... What speed do from Dyson & Gore... so happy to see all those actions at The K.
Do you think the Royals can sustain this energy going into 2015?
Wish they can keep carrying this magical 2014 season energy into 2015 & beyond. I will do my routine like past 20 years as a sincere fan.
Can't wait till 2015 new Royals season begins!!!