At the moment about 40,000 fans erupted at Kauffman Stadium after a long and tense Friday afternoon, the dining room at Bryan Cave law firm downtown was empty.
Earlier, tables had been filled with dozens of lawyers and staffers who spent part of their work afternoon juggling job duties and game-monitoring like countless other Kansas Citians.
Just as the Royals finally took a lead in the seventh inning, all but one of the game watchers had left to head home.
Lawyer Steve Becker turned off the big-screen set relieved.
“Whadya know?” he said before clicking off the TV to be home before 6 p.m.
With family waiting, he didn’t need to stay at work just to watch the rest of the game.
He left that to the fans at the stadium, who already were on their feet at the top of the ninth inning when Royals closer Wade Davis stepped to the mound with the Royals leading 5-4.
Three batters up. Three down. And hope returned after hours filled with tension and worry through a must-win playoff game.
Fireworks exploded, music played and relief filled the stadium, with spectators filing out, slapping high-fives on the way.
“The Royals will always win!” 11-year-old Ella Field exclaimed from her seat just beyond the right-field bullpen.
The sun had broken through the skies above.
Before the game, gray clouds hovered as a blimp en route to the ballpark floated past the windows that ring the 33rd-floor dining room at Bryan Cave.
Employees in an email were encouraged to wear Royals gear Friday (if they weren’t scheduled to be in court) and to come by the dining room to “catch an inning or two.”
It started out grim. The Astros jumped to a 3-0 lead.
Administrative services supervisor Sarah Cramer helped rustle up the peanuts, caramel corn and beer for the watch party. A lifelong Royals fan who was 1 when they last won the World Series, she conceded in the second inning she was worried whether the team could meet widespread expectations of winning it all.
“We built this amazing fan base, and if we disappoint, who’ll stay around through next year?” she said.
So some 2015 rooters will quit, Cramer shrugged. The come-lately fans don’t know the cruel ways of baseball.
Some in the room looked away from the dreary innings and checked work emails on their phones. Tina Mateski had brought a stack of papers to get some event planning in.
Lawyer Terry Thun planned to head back to his desk after the second inning. But Salvador Perez homered, prompting a spontaeous “Let’s go Royals” chant, and Thun stuck around a little longer. He left after an Astros homer, thinking the game might be over, only to find it tied when he dropped back in an hour later.
The day at the stadium also brought an odd mix of nerves and optimism.
Ella Field of Kansas City entered for Game 2 with more hope than some of the fans around her.
Sure, the Royals had lost game one to Houston. But what is faith and fandom if it withers after one defeat?
“I’m positive. I’m 100 percent positive,” she said, predicting a Royals victory.
And then the game began.
By the top of third inning, with the Astros up 4-1, her certainty waned, if just a bit.
“I’m 99.9 percent positive,” she said.
Few would argue that the difference between the Royals’ postseason run last year, which started with bright moments of unexpected magic, and their run this year, starting with a loss, stress and tension, could not be more different.
But such is the price of high expectations, suggested Dan Liston, 57, of Overland Park, who attended all but one of the Royals’ postseason home games last year. This year with his daughter, Emily, 27, he sat only a few feet away from Ella.
“Last year, it was just a gift,” he said, “kind of hoping they’d win the Wild Card Game, hoping they’d get to the playoffs.”
Then came that miraculous sweep, seven games straight, into the World Series.
“It’s a bit stressful.” Liston said midgame.
By the bottom of the sixth inning, the sun shone bright. The Royals had tied the game.
“I’m back up to 100 percent-plus!” Ella said.