In a darkened corner of Bartle Hall, fans walked quietly, reverently, around a makeshift pitcher’s mound built in tribute to Yordano Ventura, the Royals ace who died in a car accident last Sunday.
The loss of No. 30 was the pervasive theme at this weekend’s Royals FanFest — but it wasn’t the only theme.
A few steps away from the memorial, fans standing in a snaking line broke into whoops and applause. Third baseman Mike Moustakas had just stepped up to sign autographs. Score!
Down the way, kids sprinted as if they were rounding third base to get their picture taken with Sluggerrr, the huggable Royals mascot. Over on the other side, backup catcher Drew Butera cuddled a snuggly brown puppy named Cherry Cordial, where Wayside Waifs had set up a booth.
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“She’s looking for a home,” Butera reminded the awestruck fans.
Dave Webster, aka the “W” guy, talked Royals history and posed with his signature giant letter with any fan who asked. Kansas Citians Alesha Hillebert and Tiffany Bishop looked everywhere for Eric Hosmer and finally decided the next best thing was to strike a vampy pose with a wooden cutout of the first baseman.
Grief mingled with joy. Fans looked back with sadness and ahead with hope.