Don't Kill The Mellinger

Pride and chills and an incredible night of baseball

I may or may not be breaking some outdated rule in my business. I just got home from one of the most amazing games I’ve ever seen in a lucky life full of great games. I’m too wired, still, to go to sleep so I opened a beer and can’t think of anything to do but tell you how proud I am.

Proud for Royals fans, who deserve this, and proud for Kansas City, which definitely deserves it. Just getting to the playoffs, after 29 years, was accomplishment enough. Winning the Wild Card game, in any fashion, would have been plenty. But to do, well, that, was an amazing thing to be part of. I wrote this column, and it’s the best that I could do in the time given, but it’s one of those games you are absolutely sure cannot be done justice.

I’ve had chills watching games before. David Freese in St. Louis in game six of the 2011 World Series. Feeling Fenway Park sway in the playoffs. LeBron James through traffic. Allen Fieldhouse during a comeback. A NFL playoff game in Seattle. There are these incredible moments in sports all the time, which is part of why sports are so often better than real life.

But my favorite game was different. It’s different when it’s personal.

Before what I didn’t know at the time would be one of the best games I’ve ever seen in a lucky life full of great games, I walked around the Kauffman Stadium concourse.

This was about two hours before first pitch. My wife and her brother got tickets, and I went down to meet them. We walked out to right field, listened to some music. She had a beer, and when she went back to the concession stand and told the smiling vendor she was taking a break, just water please, the vendor took my wife’s cup and starting filling it with beer and chanted LET’S GO ROYALS!

We met my friend and new hero Tim Grimes. He took a limo to the game with some friends, and said he knew something good would happen because he could just feel the right kind of energy. I walked back through the crowd to the press box and ran into two old friends. They wouldn’t even tell me what they paid for their tickets, but said they wouldn’t forgive themselves for missing it.

I saw more friends on the video board throughout the game. An old neighbor. A guy I used to play basketball with. The ex-girlfriend of a guy I used to drink beer with in those strange years right out of college. I think they even showed Rockhurst High football coach Tony Severino during the hair cam thing, but I’m not certain.

My phone was buzzing the entire game. Around the fourth inning, I turned it silent. By the end of the game, there were 500-and-some text messages, most of them in three different threads involving three different groups of friends immersed in the same experience.

“Hero,” one of them wrote at exactly 11:53.

At some point in that game, you started to realize that no matter how it ended, the 40,000 or so people there understood they were part of that rare sporting event that lives up to enormous expectation. That game had everything. I remember around the seventh or eighth inning, a third out is recorded and there were streams of people leaving their seats and walking up the aisle. I was baffled.

“The hell?” I asked the guy next to me. “These people aren’t leaving, are they?”

“They probably need to go to the bathroom,” he said, and of course he’s right. This was that kind of game that kept you in your seat until you really might pee yourself.

I have no real purpose for writing any of this. I hope I didn’t just waste your time. I wish I had a better conclusion, something more profound to say. But I’m sitting here in my favorite chair, that beer is almost done now, and I just wanted to say that I am proud to have seen that game.

Proud that Royals fans, after all that time, got to have a night like mine.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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