Over the past couple weeks, “team of destiny” has practically become the official Royals’ hashtag on Twitter.
For many fans, the Boys in Blue punching their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday was all but inevitable long before lights-out closer Greg Holland took the mound in the ninth inning.
“Without a doubt,” Scottie Rhoads, 36, had said in the parking lot nearly three hours before game time. “They’ve got a walk about them.”
As predicted by the faithful, the inevitable victory party began as the Orioles made their final out at 6:04 p.m.
The crowd at Kauffman Stadium roared so loud that you couldn’t hear a note when the Beatles came on the PA system singing “Kansas City.”
The joyous blur of blue waved rally towels and pumped brooms to mark the second series sweep of this improbable postseason.
For the next half-hour, everyone who could kept standing, and almost no one left. Those who tried met a wall of blue humanity on the stairways.
“I’m still shaking inside,” Spencer Schere, 64, of Mission Hills, would say 15 minutes into the celebration from behind the home plate net on the first base side.
A few miles to the south, all 50 customers of the Daily Double Lounge in Raytown raised their arms, shouting. Owner Kathy Ramey, 66, poured blue Kamikaze shots for the house.
“We’re going to the World Series,” Michael Henderson, 52, bellowed.
Downtown, at the Power & Light District, people danced and gyrated. They lit cigars as the speakers blared Lorde’s anthem “Royals,” a song inspired by a photo of Hall of Famer George Brett, one of the heroes of the last Royals squad to go to the World Series.
From his perch on the outdoor patio of Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge, Bob Kuchar of Brookside looked for anybody and everybody to share the moment with.
“No one’s getting by here without a high-five,” he proclaimed, then made good on that promise, thrusting his outstretched arm in front of person after person, all of whom were happy to oblige.
Giddy, beaming strangers were high-fiving at the stadium, too. On the field, Royals owner David Glass hoisted the American League trophy to cheers from a crowd that had no intention of leaving anytime soon, and he gave them his salute.
“We dedicate this trophy to these fans,” he said.
Among the faithful: comedian Paul Rudd, who along with family members and friends of the Royals lingered on the infield after the team had gone off for its fourth champagne shower of the season so far.
“I wore a path in the floorboard in front of my TV watching the first few games of these playoffs,” said Rudd, who grew up in the Kansas City area and as a kid attended some of the 1985 World Series games.
“It seems everything that’s good about baseball is going for this team. How could you not root for them?”
And this team continues to root for its fans. Some 90 minutes after the game was over, catcher Salvador Perez threw his shirt into the crowd and galloped around the outfield holding a broom over his head.
First baseman Eric Hosmer weaved through the first row of box seats high-fiving. Nori Aoki waved a small Royals flag in center field.
Later Wednesday night, Hosmer and several of his teammates again took their celebration to McFadden’s in the Power & Light District, where last week they partied with fans and bought many of them drinks.
At and around McFadden’s, the crowd of fans built steadily in anticipation after the game. Inside, plastic covering the TV screens and a heavy police presence signaled that the VIPs were expected soon.
“Hosmer is a great friend of ours,” said McFadden’s general manager Mike Ferger. “He said, ‘Have the champagne on ice for us.’ So we did. I never cease to be impressed with the way the players are so loyal to the fans, and the fans are so loyal to these players.”
Players started arriving after 10 p.m. to a standing-room-only crowd chanting “Let’s go, Royals.” Hosmer was joined by James Shields, Wade Davis, Brandon Finnegan, Aaron Crow, Salvador Perez, Jarrod Dyson, Terrance Gore, Scott Downs and Johnny Giavotella.
Champagne sprayed across the room, drenching players and fans alike. No one would be spared the dousing, but no one seemed to mind, either.
For a while, Shields took over as head cheerleader, conducting the fans in a raucous round of “Now we go. Now we go. To the World Series!” With each pump of his fist, the crowd’s fervor grew.
For Hosmer, seeing the fans and players celebrating together was precisely the way the night should end.
“Anybody who’s been at the stadium during these playoff games, they’ve seen the atmosphere,” he said. “We appreciate the love.”
A cold beer sounded good to Chris Nichols of Osborn, Mo., after the Royals’ win, not that he minded going thirsty as he waited for his 13-year-old daughter, Sydney, to arrive for a fast pitch softball lesson at Mac-N-Seitz Baseball in Martin City.
“After that game and that series, this is where I want to be,” Nichols said. “I want to be with her. Our whole family loves the Royals, and this is a big night.”
More than an hour after the game, car horns still blared in Westport. A sedan flying a pair of Royals flags eased down Westport Road with its windows down, drawing more horns and the occasional high-five from pedestrians.
Back at the stadium, hundreds lined up outside the souvenir shops at The K when they finally broke free of the stands. Proclaiming that he was first in line, Mark Kitchen of Raytown was already decked out in new postseason gear as soon as it went on sale.
“That’s what we do in Kansas City,” he said. “That’s absolutely what we do.”
Thousands of fans made laps around the park chanting “Let’s Go Royals” and relishing every bit of the latest playoff victory.
At times during recent days, fans spoke of a mood change that’s come over the city.
At the first pitch of the Wild Card Game, there was that giddy “we’re-just-happy-to-be-here” feeling.
Three decades without a berth in the postseason had left them with low expectations.
An early exit seemed all but inevitable when, behind by four runs, their Boys in Blue battled back.
Then, with each run scored and game won in all the anxious and jubilant innings that came after that, confidence built not only in the Royals’ clubhouse but in the stadium and across the city.
“Once we came back in the eighth inning of that game … I knew that was a team of destiny,” Jim Stanley said as he ate grilled steak in the parking lot outside the stadium Wednesday.
It had gotten to the point that, win or lose, Royals fans greeted Game 4 of the American League Championship Series with a certainty that Kansas City would play host next Tuesday to its third World Series.
“It is inevitable,” Andrew Stonestreet, 52, said as he stood in Lot A before the game wearing the Royals cap his dad bought him when they attended all four home games of the 1985 World Series.
Magic. That's how Tim Cottrell, 37, describes this postseason. “Like there’s something in the air. It’s destiny.”
Felt that way after the game even more so.
At Car Wash 103 on 103rd Street in south Kansas City, shift manager Andrew Feierabend desperately wanted to high-five someone ... anyone.
“We’re going to the World Series, finally!” Feierabend said, slapping hands with a stranger.
Things were sort of dead at KC Brake and Auto Service on McGee Street in the Crossroads area, but owner Dave Wilhm didn’t mind a bit. Beautiful day, big door open and there was Wilhm sitting back with his feet on a lift.
“I’m eating pizza and drinking PBR,” said Wilhm. “This is a fine way to celebrate. Everyone else left. But I still can’t believe it. Not only did they win, they swept.
The Star’s Dugan Arnett, Joe Robertson, Scott Canon and Don Bradley also contributed to this report.
To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 12-page special section includes an Alex Gordon poster, a Mike Moustakas Paper Royal and much more coverage of Wednesday’s AL Championship Series game. | BB1