Sunday morning started out pretty good. When I arrived at Kauffman Stadium, I was informed the press box dining room had five cheesecakes left over and, because this was the last day of the season, the dining staff was hoping the reporters would finish them.
I said I would do my part.
With my future caloric intake secure, I took the elevator down to the Royals clubhouse and started talking to people.
Because teams play late on Saturday nights, not much happens early on Sunday mornings, especially if it’s the last game of the season. Players are caught halfway between prepping for the game and packing to go home.
After a few conversations about plays from the night before, it was time to head back to the press box, eat some cheesecake and watch the last game of the season.
Hosmer’s home run
Everybody knew this game was going to be different: it might be the last game Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain would ever play in a Royals uniform.
32,277 fans showed up to say goodbye.
In the first inning Hosmer came to the plate and the crowd went off. The ovation continued and Hosmer turned, looked at the stands, took his helmet off with one hand, then with the hand holding the bat, tapped his heart.
Then Hosmer stepped in the box and got down to business.
Two pitches later he was 0-2 and I was thinking isn’t this just like baseball, you get a standing ovation and then strike out. I take notes for questions I want to ask after games and here’s the one I took at that point: “Hard to hit after ovation?”
On the next pitch Eric Hosmer hit a home run.
Mike Moustakas was on deck and got choked up. Once again his pal rose to the occasion. Once again Eric Hosmer created a moment for Royals fans to remember and cherish. According to Ned Yost, after Hosmer circled the bases, Moustakas told him: “You’re what legends are made of.”
Moustakas then went to the plate and hit a ground ball that ended the inning. Mike would later say it’s hard to hit with tears in your eyes.
They came together and left together
Saturday night Ned Yost pulled the four players from the game one-by-one and I expected something similar on Sunday. Each player would leave the field by himself and get his ovation.
But on Sunday, Ned had something special in mind.
With one out in the fifth inning Ned pulled all four players from the game at the same time. The four players who came together in 2011 would leave together in 017.
Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar waited for their buddy Lorenzo Cain to arrive from the outfield, shared a group hug, then left the field smiling and tipping their caps.
At that point, none of the players were crying, but tears would come later.
Eric Hosmer’s composure
Eric Hosmer made his debut on May 6, 2011. The Royals were playing the Oakland A’s that night and, in his first plate appearance, Hosmer walked on a 3-2 fastball just outside the zone.
Afterwards, Jason Kendall said Hosmer’s walk was one of the most impressive things he’d ever seen in the big leagues. I didn’t understand why and said so.
Jason said for a rookie to stay calm enough to take a 3-2 pitch just outside the zone in his first big-league plate appearance meant the kid had “it,” the rare ability to stay composed under pressure.
And for the next seven years we saw Hosmer’s composure. He was the guy who came up big in clutch situations and said the right thing to the media afterwards.
And prior to Sunday’s game Hosmer stayed cool as always. When he shook my hand to say goodbye he said one way or another we’d run into each other down the road — no worries.
But after Sunday’s game ended, the Royals gathered in the middle of the diamond to watch a video of their highlights over the years and when the video showed Yordano Ventura, Eric Hosmer started crying.
Afterwards, Eric would say when he saw Yordano up on the scoreboard it brought back the day he heard his friend had died in a car wreck. On that day, calls between Royals players flew back and forth and Hosmer realized just how much his teammates had become a family.
Being reminded of his friend and the Royals family he might be leaving got to him; after all these years of being Mr. Cool, Eric Hosmer lost his composure.
And when that happened, watching from the press box, a strange thing happened: my eyes began to burn and water. The media is supposed to keep some emotional distance from the athletes they cover so I’m pretty sure shedding tears in the press box is bad form.
But there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation: I must be allergic to cheesecake.