Applause for the Royals’ American League Central Division title could be heard across the Truman Sports Complex parking lot, to the Chiefs practice fields.
“Congratulations to the Royals, skipper (Ned) Yost, phenomenal job, men,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Division champs and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Among the Chiefs players, offensive tackle Donald Stephenson and quarterback Chase Daniel might be the biggest Royals fans.
Stephenson, who played at Blue Springs High, attended games at Kauffman Stadium when he was growing up.
“They didn’t win a lot of games, but I always liked going out there with my dad,” said Stephenson, who counted Mike Sweeney among his favorite players. “Tickets were cheaper back then.”
Stephenson got to as many postseason games as he could last fall, and so did Daniel. Last year, when Daniel married Hillary Mullen of Lenexa, he joined a family of Royals fans.
“It was so cool to see them win the division,” Daniel said. “That’s an accomplishment.”
It’s a feat the Chiefs are chasing. In baseball, the Detroit Tigers had won the previous four AL Central titles. In the AFC West, the Denver Broncos have won four straight division championships and got a leg up on the Chiefs by winning at Arrowhead Stadium last week.
“The division is the first goal,” Daniel said. “You want home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and obviously you want to get to and win the Super Bowl. But you also want to be the best in your division. We feel like it’s our time, and we’ve got to get going.”
The Chiefs arrived in Kansas City in 1963 and have won seven division titles here. The Royals’ inaugural season was 1969 and this year’s division championship is their seventh. But the teams haven’t won a division — or appeared in the postseason — in the same season. The Chiefs qualified for the playoffs after the 2013 NFL season but missed the postseason in 2014, when the Royals advanced to the World Series.
“I didn’t know that,” Stephenson said. “They did their job, so the pressure’s on us. But that’s all right. Winning the division is always the goal.”
Kansas City AFL/NFL and MLB division titles
▪ Chiefs’ division titles: 1966, 1971, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2010
▪ Royals’ division titles: 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1985, 2015