He had to make the sign. Bill Lee, 43, had told Royals manager Ned Yost what would happen.
“At Spring Training I told Ned Yost we are going to the World Series,” his sign read.
Lee had bumped fists with Yost in Arizona and swears the skipper responded, “Yes, we are.”
On Tuesday he showed up at Kauffman Stadium with his wannabe-prophetic sign.
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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.
Royals fans were mostly adoring. About the speedy center fielder. “2/3 of the Earth is covered by water. The rest is covered by Lorenzo Cain.” About catcher Salvador Perez, known to wear perfume during games: “Hey Salvy, You Smell Pretty.”
About simply being there: “Tickets 230. Parking 25. Born 4 This One: Priceless.”
Sure, maybe bunches of people make them to get on TV. But for some, a sign is just that — a statement, a message, a Royals baseball devotional, a declaration to the baseball gods and faithful.
Some seemed to write themselves. Some go as viral as a puppy video — witness the Wild Card Game winner at Kauffman that prodded her boyfriend to pony up for a pooch after a TV cameo and Internet blitz.
Some get inspired midgame. Others are all about the forethought.
“Royals McFly. I’m sending you Back 2 the Future.”
It had occurred to Sandee Schneider of Raymore that “Back to the Future” was the top movie of 1985, the last year the Royals enjoyed a postseason. (Marty McFly was the time-traveling Michael J. Fox character.)
“I was 18 then,” Schneider said. “It’s just great to be back here cheering them on again.”
She was far from alone Tuesday.
It isn’t enough just to buy a pricey playoff game ticket or to don your team’s jersey. Increasingly, sports fans lug artwork to their seats, with the most inventive placards capable of leaving an image that lasts beyond a between-innings crowd shot.
If anyone objects to the trend — and the Royals club says few do — it might be the fan whose view to the field is occasionally blocked by those placards.
“Please, please get her to sit down,” pleaded Kirk Anderson of Kansas City from his otherwise prime seats about 75 feet from home plate.
A few rows up, someone kept waving a sign asking left fielder Alex Gordon to marry her.
“We’re thrilled with the signs,” he said, “but, my God, hold them up between innings.”
The signs seem to be getting more personal than they used to be, said Eric Simons, author of “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans.”
Investing yourself in sports fandom “does become an expression of personal identity,” Simons said in an interview. “When that team is out there playing, a lot of fans are thinking, that’s me. … If you’ve got a personal sign at a game, you’re confirming you’re with this team.”
The Royals’ rules on fan-held signage are spelled out at Royals.com: “Banners may be displayed … provided the banner/sign does not block the view of others,” feature advertising, present a safety problem “or contain political or obscene material.” No signs on sticks. Can’t cover existing stadium signage.
Ushers can remove signs that create an unwarranted stir. Said club spokesman Toby Cook: “It doesn’t happen a lot.”
Who, besides pun-hating curmudgeons, could object to: “You’ve got to be kitten me” or “Strike ’em out right meow.”
The grown men in the kitty cat unitards in left-center field are Paul Long, 33, of Lenexa, a motivational speaker, and John Stoner, 34, of Drexel, Mo., a health care consultant.
Stoner, spinning his rally towel and hooting at the moon, is the one with the beard dyed blue and who, at 4 p.m., was already popping beers in the Lot A parking lot.
“We’re the cat suit guys,” Long said. “Or the rally cats.”
Hey, TV people. Over here!
Way up in Section 435, upper deck, Melissa Ostmeyer, 34, and her emergency care physician husband, Jeremiah, 35, came from Salina, Kan., with a sign made by their 6-year-old daughter, Grace. It was simple, clean, no puns or anything glib: just a yellow crown on a scribbled blue background.
“She said I wouldn’t get on TV,” Melissa Ostmeyer said, “without a sign.”
Give it to the Baltimore fans, too.
Connie Keys, a native of Baltimore now living 550 miles away in Quanah, Texas, came up with her sons, and her husband, Ronnie, 42. On her feet, orange and black sign held high: “We won’t stop.”
Judging a great sign isn’t always easy. But Steve Bernstein, president of Kansas City-based Bernstein-Rein advertising agency recommends brevity to capture TV time.
“You have to be a quick read,” he said. “You’re going to be on less time than someone has to see a billboard.”
“Be big, be bold, be bright” and capable of standing out in a sea of blue and white, Bernstein said.