In what might be considered both a sacred trust and fringe benefit to his job as director of the Royals Hall of Fame, Curt Nelson relishes chaperoning the Commissioner’s Trophy —- the formal name of the ornate hardware the Royals earned by winning the 2015 World Series.
So when he turned a corner Friday in the Hall of Fame at Kauffman Stadium and beheld the glass-encased, 30-inch trophy composed of 200 troy ounces of sterling silver and adorned by 30 gold-plated flags, Nelson declared its presence as a point of reverence.
“So,” he said, “there she is.”
Gazing at it a second, he describes the energy it radiates, a force capable of taking you back to the moment and the meaning it will convey forever.
Never miss a local story.
That’s part of why when he transports the trophy he dons white cotton gloves for proper handling.
And why he makes sure you know he knows it’s smudged up, largely with champagne stains, but soon to be picked up by Tiffany & Co. for a proper polishing and personalized engraving.
Even if he’ll let it go reluctantly.
“As long as I’m handing it over to somebody in security, I suppose it makes me a feel a little bit better,” he said. “But it will make me a little bit nervous.”
To be sure, his protectiveness is partially because of the physical makeup of the trophy, which after all isn’t the sturdier, more versatile Stanley Cup — which has infinite tales to tell of its alternative uses by temporary handlers.
“You don’t want a whole bunch of people handling it,” Nelson said. “It’s delicate. It’s not so fragile (that) if you touch it will break, but it’s a delicate, important object.”
As he considers the responsibility of preserving it properly, he thinks of statues that have been touched and touched and touched and over time ultimately lose their patina.
Not that he won’t allow anyone to touch it.
Much as he’d get a kick out of seeing, say, general manager Dayton Moore or manager Ned Yost put on gloves to hold it, he smiles and says, “They may handle the trophy sans gloves.”
But the really precious thing about the trophy, of course, is its symbolic meaning.
And to Nelson and about anyone in the Royals’ organization, the very best thing about that is its meaning to fans.
“It’s really Kansas City’s trophy,” he said.
That’s perhaps particularly meaningful to a generation-plus who could be forgiven if they had come to think of the Royals’ ancient past successes as mere mythology.
That audience could only appreciate so much in Nelson’s past efforts to educate them about the Royals’ glory days.
“Sometimes it was a figurative eye roll, sometimes it was literal: ‘You’re talking about that again?’” he said. “‘Yeah, yeah, ’85 again?’”
So if Nelson could have his way, he’d love every Royals fan, from near and far, to have a moment with the trophy. They plan to have it touring about for months to come, with plans still being sorted out for more regional exposure.
It’s not just happenstance that the photo behind it in the temporary display case is an already-iconic photo of the crowd at Union Station at the end of the championship parade.
Of all the background photos Nelson and the Royals considered, including ones of players celebrating, that was the one Nelson said “really hit” because, well, “it was just one of the greatest days you’ll ever be around.”
That day, of course, was enabled by clinching the World Series less than 48 hours before in New York, where MLB commissioner Rob Manfred started the dizzying journey of the trophy by handing it to Royals owner David Glass after the game.
As champagne bottles popped, it was navigated around the raucous clubhouse at Citi Field.
Then someone started yelling to take the celebration outside, and next thing you know, Jarrod Dyson and Eric Hosmer were holding it up on the dugout steps toward hundreds of Royals fans there.
Hosmer yelled, “This is going back to Kansas City, baby!”
It’s hardly sat still since.
Until the wee hours on the field, you could see it being passed around from player to player.
Then it showed up in the middle of a spontaneous team photo, and who knows where else it strayed before it cuddled up with Royals’ vice president Mike Swanson at night’s end?
Then it enjoyed a seat in the cockpit for the team’s flight back, and Yost bounded off the plane at Kansas City International holding it aloft.
After the parade, back to New York it went in its own seat next to Sal Perez’s World Series MVP trophy on NBC’s private jet.
(For “Seinfeld” fans: It’s unclear whether it was The Ted Danson Jet.)
Since its appearance with Perez and Hosmer on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” though, the trophy has been in the Kansas City area, where Nelson takes it out for an adventurous spin almost daily after carefully placing it in its rolling case.
“I feel like a roadie when I’m going out,” said Nelson, who at times finds himself in traffic thinking, “ ‘Little do (you) know, you are about 3 feet away from the World Series trophy.’ ”
In fact, Nelson can hardly keep track of all the appearances he’s ushered it to.
But every group has some common denominators at the sight of the trophy, which MLB only has officially distributed since 1967 and has been of this model since 2000.
Mostly, he hears “oohs” and “ahhs” at the sense of marvel the trophy evokes.
That was especially so the other night at Union Station, where Nelson took it for an event with Royals’ sponsors only to also surprise a group of caroling children with it.
It was no less eagerly greeted on Thursday at City Hall, where hundreds who work for the city lined up to pose individually with the trophy as a thank-you gesture for their work with the parade and otherwise.
“I did my happy dance behind it,” said Denise Dillard, who works in the city manager’s office.
It was magic, too, to Tamela Handie from the finance department and Daynon Arrington and Darlene Freeman in general services and dozens and dozens of others who beamed as they walked away.
The moment, Arrington and Freeman agreed, made them feel like kids again.
Meanwhile, now the kids get to know a feeling no one had known around here since 1985.
They have all their own magical memories, Nelson figures, so many that they’ll wear out their own audiences about it all someday.
“All encapsulated in that little piece of metal,” Nelson said.