Jeff Sutera got married this past Saturday. On Sunday, he was on a plane. That’s not an odd occurrence for a newlywed.
The odd thing is that his bride, Elaine, was not on that plane with him. Sutera was on the flight headed to Cincinnati with his friend Chris England, who was able to secure a couple of tickets to this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game a month ago.
“I stumbled on a couple of tickets, so I told him to let me know,” said England. “He said let me ask my (at the time) fiancée.”
Elaine signed off on the trip.
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“So, I’m on my ‘man-moon,’” said Sutera, playing off the traditional honeymoon. “That’s how you know she’s worth it.”
Sutera and England’s trip is just one example of the lengths Royals fans have gone to in their support of the team, which entered the All-Star break 18 games over .500 (52-34) and 4½ games in front of Minnesota for first place in the AL Central division. Kansas City fans were able to get four of their players voted into the original American League starting lineup with a virtual campaign that had many fans and media from the rest of the country crying foul.
As many as eight Royals were leading their respective position in fan voting as late as mid-June. It was a by-product of the excitement the team produced with last season’s run to the AL pennant and seven-game loss in the World Series against San Francisco.
No one is apologizing.
“We don’t really care,” said Ron Henry of Salina, Kansas, who traveled to Cincinnati for the All-Star festivities with his 17-year-old son Tyler Brett and 13-year-old daughter Gwynn. “We’ve been the tar on the road for so long, it’s time we were the tires.”
Left fielder Alex Gordon’s Grade-2 groin strain suffered last week has knocked him from the starting lineup but six Royals will be in uniform Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park along with manager Ned Yost. Catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Lorenzo Cain will be in the starting lineup, while third baseman Mike Moustakas and relief pitchers Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera are in reserve.
Moustakas earned his trip by winning the final five fan vote. The support from the fans on the computer, at home and on the road hasn’t gone unnoticed by the players, he said.
“There’s definitely a lot more Royals fans,” said Moustakas. “I think during the postseason last year a lot of people got a chance to see the way we play the game. We play with a lot of passion, we play hard and we all play for each other. I think a lot of people fell in love with the Kansas City Royals and the way we play the game, so you see a lot more blue; you see a lot more people cheering for the Royals
“You see Royals hats in places you never seen them before.”
There was a show of force on the north side of Chicago earlier this season.
“We were playing a game in Chicago, at Wrigley, and I swear there was more Royals fans than Cubs fans,” said Cain. “To see their faces and see them supporting us, backing us 100 percent, that’s why we play hard and why we want to get back to where we were last season, the postseason and hopefully to the World Series.”
Annalisa Kercher was six months old the first time her parents Kirk and Lisa took her to a MLB All-Star Game FanFest. The 13-year-old was in Cincinnati with her family for her 14th FanFest. It hasn’t always been an easy time being a Royals fan, especially since the Kerchers live outside of St. Louis in O’Fallon.
They found more Royals fans in Cincinnati, and few people giving them grief for how the voting went.
“It’s been positive,” said Kirk Kercher. “Two years ago it would have been ‘Oh, you guys stink. ... Are you ever going to make the playoffs again?’ and it was just such a downer. Now it’s a totally different vibe.”
Even those not associated with the Royals have noticed what the success the Royals have enjoyed on the field has meant for their fans.
“When I was coaching in Seattle in the early 2000s, Kansas City was a place where you’d get 45,000 on Opening Day and then the next three days or two days you’d get 10,000 to 12,000, and they had good young players like Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran,” said Cincinnati manager Bryan Price, whose team was swept in a two-game series at Kauffman Stadium in May.
“They had a number of good young players but they weren’t winning yet. To go back there this year after they’d went to the World Series and are in the lead in the Central division, (the fans) are all in.”