Waking up to news that two Kansas City firefighters died and two more were injured Monday while battling an inferno in the 2600 block of Independence Avenue, was jarring for Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Growing up in Miami, Hosmer’s father worked for the Miami-Dade Fire Department in the Liberty City neighborhood.
“For me personally, it hits really close to home having a father (Mike) being a firefighter for 29 years,” Hosmer said.
Larry J. Leggio, 43, a 17-year veteran with the Kansas City Fire Department, and John V. Mesh, 39, a 13-year department veteran died when a wall of the burning structure, which included apartments, collapsed. Two others were injured in the three-story blaze.
“On behalf of the Kansas City Royals and myself included, we just want to let everybody know our thoughts and prayers are with the Kansas City Fire Department,” Hosmer said.
Sports teams often have a special relationship with civil servants and military. The Royals are no exception.
“We’ve got such a close relationship with the Kansas City police and sheriff and the fire department people, I think we all woke up with heavy hearts today,” manager Ned Yost said.
Hosmer was among a half-dozen Royals players who donned KCFD shirts and hats Tuesday during a voluntary workout at Kauffman Stadium, where the American League Division Series with the Astros will be decided at 7:07 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s terrible to wake up and see the news, especially around this time of year with a lot of exciting stuff going on in Kansas City,” said Hosmer, who would have become a firefighter if he hadn’t played baseball. “That was the reason we all wore the shirts today and we all wore our hats, just to let everybody know we’re behind them 100 percent and we’re going to try to get through this as a city, as a community all together.”
Third baseman Mike Moustakas, catcher Drew Butera, pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and outfielder Alex Gordon also were spotted in fire-department gear.
The Royals received a half-dozen hats and T-shirts from friends of the fire department. More were expected to arrive before Game 5 on Wednesday.
The Kansas City Fire Department was having Royals hats embroidered with “KCFD” on the side for the players and coaches to wear during the elimination game.
A Royals spokesman also said the club planned a moment of silence before the game as part of a tribute to the fallen firefighters. Further details were still being ironed out.
Kansas City Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Grote said the department appreciated the support from the Royals and the wider community.
“For something like this to happen at a time when the whole city is already united behind one of our sports teams, as they have been really all summer, it’s very fitting,” Grote said. “Not to sound too cheesy, but it’s very Royal. … We really appreciate it. It’s very emotional.”