At Kauffman Stadium Friday night, you had different kinds of fans.
There were the ones who could step up and be the play-by-play announcer with few missteps. They know the game. Love the game. Can rattle off statistics.
Yet last year created a whole new brand of fan. The ones who may not know the game, but they’ve gotten to know the players and their stories. Fans who just a year ago likely weren’t sure there was a difference between a slide or a slider, but could rattle off the correct spelling of Moustakas, as in Mike.
Take the Cassings, for instance.
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Ask Clint Cassing, 45, of Kansas City, what’s a hit and run? Like any true baseball fan, he’ll nail questions like that every time. (Hint, it has nothing to do with traffic or a car.)
Cassing has been coming to games for 40 years. His late dad, Cass Cassing, was a long-time Kansas City Lancer who sold season tickets. So this guy knows some baseball.
But throw a crazy question at him, like which Royals player taps each foot with his bat before a pitch is thrown at him, and Cassing’s a bit lost. But wife Aimee, who he turned into a diehard fan during their two year of marriage, knows.
(Hint, he’s our catcher.)
Aimee Cassing also knows a thing or two about others players’ quirks at the plate. “Moose wipes his face,” she said of her favorite player, Moustakas.
Some fans don’t necessarily love baseball. They love the Royals.
“Yeah, I’d say we’re more Royals fans, than baseball fans,” said Tori Traylor, 26, after she and her sister, Tristin, 22, wore out their selfie stick, going around the stands before game time snapping shots of themselves.
The Kansas City sisters grew up watching the Royals.
But as for the sport, they try to pay attention. Soooo... What’s a hit and run? “I feel like anything is a hit and run,” Tori Traylor said. “They hit it and they run.”
Then they get a question about one of the players. Who messes with his gloves constantly at the plate, one glove then the other? “I know,” Tristin blurts out. “Cain.”
That would be Lorenzo Cain, and it would be correct too.
Indeed, there are fans of baseball. And then there are fans of this team, the team of Alex and Eric, Salvador and Alcides.
Before the questions even come, Dana Harris, 33, of Topeka, motioned to her husband. He’s the baseball guy, grew up loving the game. She’s been watching since she was 10, but still, better talk to him.
This team, he said, doesn’t give up. They’re all heart. “I like how it seems they do it for the fans,” said Mark Harris, 34.
He’s going with Alex Gordon as his favorite player. “The guy has been through everything. He never gave up. Made it through the adversity.”
Dana Harris, who didn’t mind taking a question or two, opted for Salvador Perez. He’s fun. He’s about the fans. “He smiles, he waves,” she said. “And his water antics.”
She gets the first baseball question. What’s a slider? Dana Harris: “I’m just going to say a pitch. ... It’s a pitch that’s down and in.”
Husband Mark smiles. She wants to know, is she right?
“It’s a breaking ball or an off-speed pitch,” he says.
A Royals question goes to Mark Harris. Who has a dog named Gus? As he thought about it, Dana thinks she knows the answer. “I think it’s Mike Moustakas,” she says.
Sometimes, you come across a fan or two who loves the game, knows the plays and the rules. And whose love of the Royals only got more intense the past two years.
Two hours before Friday’s game, Vicki Estes and Andi Shahan sat outside the stadium at their tailgate with their husbands. Shahan, 39, of Olathe, grew up playing softball.
Andi Shahan’s a Nebraska girl, so she favors Alex Gordon. That, and he seems to be a great dad. Estes finds it harder to come up with a favorite player. But she goes with Perez, like the majority of people seemed to Friday night.
“He always seems up and positive and happy,” said Estes, 51, of Topeka.
Shahan gets the first question, one a true baseball fan could get: What and where is the Green Monster? “That’s the Red Sox,” she said, referring to the field in Boston.
Estes, not missing a step, threw a question back at the reporter: Do you know where the ivy is? She has to provide the answer: Wrigley Field.
Estes gets the win.