You thought you were bummed about the Royals not making the playoffs? Imagine being a parent who has to explain to a 2 year old that there will be no World Series appearance by the Royals this year.
The talk is coming soon. Wesley Georgeson knows it. So does his wife, Kim.
Their daughter Stella is 2. Which means she loves Peppa Pig. Loves the doll house that showed up for her birthday. Loves grabbing a book and pretending to read to her baby brother, Whitley. Stella loves a lot of things, even the tiny powder-blue Royals dress her parents found. It’s perfect, of course, the white trim and the fashionable belt and the dozens of little KC crown logos, dotting the front and back.
Even at age 2, Stella has taken a liking to her parents’ favorite baseball team. It’s why the talk could be so painful. The Georgeson family is like a lot of Royals families. They watch 160 games a year. They plan trips around spring training. The kids — including baby Whit, named after a certain second baseman — help their dad put out the Royals flag before he goes to work.
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“They are working on memorizing the starting lineups,” Wesley Georgeson says.
But yes, the talk is coming soon. As October approaches, and the leaves change, and the baseball regular season comes to a close, Wesley is planning to sit Stella down for a little heart-to-heart. For the first time in her life, the Royals will not be going to the World Series.
“I think its going to be like in the movies when the parents sit down and tell their teenager they were adopted,” Wesley says. “I imagine us pulling her to the side and telling her ‘Stella, we think you should sit down, we have something to tell you.’
“I imagine tears … maybe a bit of confusion, and a lot of long sobbing hugs after the news is broke. I imagine she will take a while to trust the world again.”
Wesley is joking a little here, but only slightly. If there are tears, they will probably be his. But if Stella is confused, well, who can blame her? Such is life for a tiny sliver of Royals fans. You thought it was difficult going 29 years without a playoff appearance? How about being born in the months before the 2014 playoffs, living through the joy of two World Series runs, and then realizing: This doesn’t happen every year?
“After the last two years, it just feels like the team has always been the best in the AL,” says Wesley, a Kansas State grad who works in the insurance business in Kerrville, Texas. “Obviously, we know that isn’t always the case.”
All across Kansas City, Royals fans will grapple with a strange feeling this October. For 29 years, their team did not make the playoffs, creating the longest drought in North American professional sports. For most of those three decades, the idea of a Royals playoff berth seemed so far-fetched, so removed from reality, that it seemed weird to think they’d even win again. It is almost October. And now, it seems weird to have the month off.
“It’s kind of sad and tough to watch the postseason when you’re not in it,” Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson says.
Dyson says he won’t watch the playoffs. Well, maybe the World Series. Same goes for a clubhouse full of players. Maybe some fans, too.
Two years ago Friday, the Royals took the field at Kauffman Stadium against the Oakland A’s in the American League Wild Card game. It was the first postseason game in Kansas City since Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, and inside the stadium, along with 40,502 fans, sat Jeff and Brooke Kuntz.
The couple had left their daughter at home with a babysitter. Blair Kuntz had been born in the weeks after the 2013 season, and from there the winning began. These days, Jeff calls her his “good luck charm.” But on the night of the Wild Card game, the epic comeback that jolted a baseball town back into existence, Blair’s babysitter fell ill. So the parents left early. Missed the comeback. Yeah, Jeff says, he knows.
“I’ll probably hear from some friends over this,” Jeff says, “But it sure seemed like there were a lot of people walking out with us.”
From there, though, it was near perfection. They celebrated Blair’s first birthday during the American League Championship Series victory against Baltimore. They took her to the game last season when the Royals clinched the American League Central. Last fall, Blair enjoyed her second World Series in as many years. This year, she started recognizing specific players. Which means Jeff will soon have to break it to her: This year, no playoffs for Salvy Perez.
“We’ll absolutely have to sit her down,” Jeff Kuntz says. “And tell her you can’t take this for granted.”
Hey, these are hard lessons. All across town, toddlers are realizing that baseball actually can be quite cruel. In fact, it usually is. Most seasons end with pain. Sometimes, it lasts.
The last two years, Brad Mertel, a 31-year-old lifelong Royals fan, went to the first playoff games he can remember. He was a newborn in 1985, lucky enough to be in attendance at Game 7 of the World Series. Twenty-nine years later, Brad and his wife, Stephanie, had their first son, J.D., just weeks after the 2014 World Series. He was born after a pennant, and one year later, he saw a World Series championship. And now, nothing.
Yes, says Mertel, who works for Sporting Kansas City, it is going to take some time for J.D. to get used to this.
“I don’t know where I’m going to start,” Mertel says. “The Royals being in the playoffs is as much a part of his life as having applesauce for dinner. I don’t know how I’m gonna tell him that the Royals aren’t in it this year.”