The Royals returned to Kansas City fresh off a 10-game win streak, which vaulted them into first place and coaxed a sellout crowd of 38,475 through the turnstiles Friday at Kauffman Stadium.
Driving to the game, Charley and Michele Hamilton from Blue Springs marveled at the evening ahead.
“You know what’s crazy? This place is going to be sold out, and it’s not opening day,” Charley said. “It’s not against the Cardinals, and it’s not against the Yankees. It’s just the Royals.”
Michele added, “The whole stadium is going to be blue for the Royals. That’s awesome.”
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Longtime Royals fans, who were coming to games during the franchise’s glory years that included seven AL West championships from 1976 to 1985, will tell you that crowds like Friday’s raucous sellout once were normal at the stadium.
“This reminds me of back in the heyday when we were coming and it was sold out like this every Friday and Saturday night,” said Bob Eslinger of Grain Valley, who has been a season-ticket holder since the Kansas City A’s days.
The season isn’t even halfway finished, for a long-suffering fan base — one that hasn’t witnessed the playoffs since game seven of the 1985 World Series and hadn’t enjoyed a 10-game win streak in two decades before Wednesday — sitting in first place on June 20 qualifies as high times.
“Every game I usually go to, (the Royals) haven’t been very good,” said Eddie Blankenship, 16, who will be a sophomore at Fort Osage in the fall. “Right now, it feels like they’re unstoppable. My grandpa (Joe Cretel) told me how awesome it used to be. How you couldn’t talk, because you couldn’t hear people over the roar. It’s awesome to be part of that now.”
Blankenship caught Mike Moustakas’ 405-foot home run, which cleared the visitors’ bullpen in the fifth inning and reignited a crowd that went quiet after the Mariners grabbed an early 5-0 lead.
Obviously, having the Big Slick Celebrity Classic at The Little K in addition to Buck Night and Friday Fireworks helped ensure a strong turnout, but the Hamiltons believe the chance to see a first-place team was the biggest draw.
“It’s huge, because those other factors have been in place for a long time,” Michele said. “Three days ago, you could get tickets, but when I came out today and bought our tickets it was standing-room only. That’s all you could get.”
The Royals sold the last 2,300 tickets for Friday’s game by 4:30 p.m. and have sold roughly 20,000 tickets for the final two games of the Mariners’ series.
“It’s great to see the stadium packed again and everybody fired up for the Royals,” said Lori Stier, an Independence native and Overland Park resident. “Everybody in Kansas City loves the Royals. It’s still a baseball town, and they’ve waited a long time for them to come back.”