I didn’t like baseball as a kid. At least, when I was a very young kid. I was bookish and way into dinosaurs and Star Wars, and I really hated all sports because they were frivolous and because I happened to be terrible at them. My dad signed me up for coach-pitch baseball, and I was on the "Yankees", which meant nothing to me at the time other than my dad dragged me once a week to games to stand in right field where I would proceed to step on bumblebees, completely oblivious to the sports competition taking place in front of me.
My dad, a huge baseball fan who had attended Al Kaline youth camp, pitched in high school, and taken me to games at Tiger Stadium when I was an infant, gave up cajoling me to play baseball after that. When I was 7, the Royals were in the World Series, which was an event big enough in Kansas City that it even permeated my consciousness. I remember watching the series with my parents, who were still fairly new to the Kansas City area, but loved that the local baseball team was so competitive. The only thing I really remember about the series is the Cardinals player who did backflips when he ran onto the field, Ozzie Smith. He piqued my interest because his nickname was a reference to one of my favorite books - they called him "The Wizard of Oz."
At school, they asked us to draw a picture of our favorite Royals player, in honor of the champs. I had to ask the teacher who played right field for the Royals. "Darryl Motley," she replied. He was my favorite player because he played the same position I did - right field! How do you spell "Motley?"
I proceeded to draw a Caucasian fellow with curly-blonde hair and a mustache. Darryl Motley is definitely not a Caucasian fellow with curly-blonde hair. At the time though, I thought that’s what a "Darryl Motley" should look like. "It looks more like Bret Saberhagen", said Mrs. Swenson, my second-grade teacher. I’m pretty sure I had seen Saberhagen on "Good Morning America" that week, and that was my only reference for what a Royals player should look like. I didn’t like baseball.
Then J.D. moved in next to me, and boy did he like sports. He liked ‘em all - baseball, basketball, football, he even taught me who Wayne Gretsky was. He was a year older and cool (he had a girlfriend and he was only in sixth grade!) and whether it was because he needed an extra player for his pickup games, or he just wanted to befriend the bookish Korean kid next door, he took me under his wing and taught me about sports.
By the fall of 1987, we were watching the American League Championship Series on a black and white TV in his garage and there were the Detroit Tigers! My dad’s Detroit Tigers! I had a team to root for! I devoured all of the post-season - (the Twins had Metrodome Magic and knocked off the Cardinals) that year, and I was hooked on baseball for life.
The next spring I asked my dad if I could sign up for baseball again and he took me to the first baseball game at Royals Stadium I can remember. What I remember was how the seats were a sea of bright orange, odd since the team’s color scheme was blue. It was this game, in April of 1988. The Baltimore Orioles were off to a record losing-streak to begin the year - they were 0-16 going into this game, and the Royals were losing to them, at least after five frames. I learned about snark and sarcasm that afternoon, as fans snickered about how George Brett was washed up, how Dan Quisenberry should be put out to pasture, and how John Wathan was a dunce.
The Royals would tie it up in the sixth, then win it in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off single by Kurt Stillwell - the Orioles would lose 21 in a row to begin the year, en route to 107 losses. I’m not even sure if we stuck around to the end - knowing my dad, we left early to beat traffic. But it was the first of hundreds of Royals games I would attend, culminating in the game I brought my dad to, in late September of 2014, when Salvador Perez would poke a ball down the third base line right in front of my dad as we hugged each other and high-fived strangers in one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.
What is your first Royals memory? Your first baseball memory? Your first memory of Kauffman Stadium?