The Kansas City Royals are hoping that their milestone season can be a surprising one, too.
This year, the Royals will be participating in their 50th season as an organization. Predicted to be in a rebuilding year, the players and their fans are hopeful that the team can shock some people.
“I think they’re going to be much better than people predict,” Kansas City native and die-hard fan Vickie Garrett said. “I think these young people are going to step up and play baseball and I think we’re underestimating what they can do.”
After winning the World Series three seasons ago and losing three of their top players this offseason, the assumption has been that the team will take a major step back. The low expectations for this season have not hampered the Royals’ start to spring training. With the amount of Royals fans showing up to support them in Arizona, the team’s leaders have taken notice and were undefeated in their first six Cactus League games.
“Spring training is a different animal,” ace Danny Duffy said. “A lot more accessibility, but only the real, locked-in fans on our team, which there’s quite a few of them, the locked-in fans of the Royals get out here and it’s cool to see these people and interact with them on such a personal level.”
Left fielder Alex Gordon is equally impressed with the support of the fan base, many of whom travel the more-than-1,200-mile journey from Kansas City to the Valley.
“They’re always supportive, anywhere we go,” Gordon said. “Whether we’re playing well or we’re playing great they’re always there cheering us on and the love and support that we get from them is far above, I think, any other organization, so we can’t thank them enough in all that they’ve meant to us over the last few years has been amazing.”
For the past 50 years, Royals faithful have been showing up to games and supporting their hometown team. Gordon, a Nebraska native and lifelong Royals fan, used to attend games at Kauffman Stadium when he was growing up. Now the longest-tenured player and the leader of his favorite team, Gordon knows what it means to be the most experienced player on the roster.
“It means I’m kind of old,” Gordon said, smiling. “A lot of young guys in here and I’ve been around for a while so I’m kind of the veteran, so just speaking of that, hopefully I can lead the best way I can as far as experience and guide these young players on what to do and what not to do and stuff like that. Just being that veteran presence.”
In honor of the organization’s 50th season, the two-time World Series champions are currently counting down the Top 50 players in Royals history. The countdown will continue until Opening Day against the Chicago White Sox on March 29. With 27 players left to be announced, Duffy already has come in at 38th; Gordon has yet to be selected.
“I’m just glad I wasn’t No. 51,” Gordon said. “There’s a lot of great players, especially the last few years. So it should be interesting to see where everyone comes in, but anybody that’s on that list has meant something to the Royals organization and means a lot to the fans.”
Those fans will be following the team in this special anniversary season whether the wins are coming in bunches or not.
“Following the ups and downs, that’s what we consider to be a true fan,” said Vickie Garrett’s husband, David. “We’re not just in this year and out next year.”
After finishing under .500 last season for the first time since 2012, the Royals and their faithful fans are hoping to turn their potential rebuilding season into a breakout season built around their young stars.