Jeremy Guthrie’s fond memories of Kansas City can be summed up in one trip to Burger King.
Early one morning last year, Guthrie had a hankering for a Bacon Tendercrisp breakfast sandwhich. As he rolled to the window to pay for his food, he was met by a young woman, who was no older than 20.
“Congratulations on everything,” she said. “I’m a big fan, we love the Royals, we watch all the games.”
Guthrie marveled at the interaction during an interview last week.
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“(She) didn’t look like the type of girl that would even care about baseball or know about it,” Guthrie said. “But that kind of sums it up, that everybody in Kansas City, no matter where you were or whatever time you were (out) or how you were dressed or what circumstance you were in it, it seemed like everybody seemed to recognize the Royals. I think there was a real connection between the fans and the players that I had never seen anywhere else.
“I spent five years in Baltimore and lived in downtown. Every single day I rode my bike through people and walked to the field all the time. They would say an occasional hello, but it was never near the kind of recognition and outpouring of support and ‘we love you guys’ that I experienced in Kansas City. That’s probably one of the more unique and memorable things that I can sit back and think about.”
Guthrie recalled the moment at the Surprise Recreation Campus. He’s now on the other side of the complex, having signed a minor-league contract with the Texas Rangers. Before signing with the Rangers, Guthrie penned a farewell note that he posted on Instagram.
While he may no longer be a member of the Royals, the memories of his 3 1/2 years in Kansas City won’t be forgotten.
The Royals acquired Guthrie from the Colorado Rockies on July 20, 2012 for Jonathan Sanchez in a swap of struggling pitchers. Few could have imagined at the time that Guthrie would start Game 7 of the World Series against the Giants.
After struggling in 2015, Guthrie wasn’t part of the postseason roster, but he still led postgame celebrations and was a cheerleader for the team.
“Fortunately for me, I got two opportunities to play in the World Series,” Guthrie said. “One where I was very involved and that focus had to be there day in and day out for when my name was called to last year where I was just a supporter of the team so I could really soak in every moment and not have to prepare physically necessarily for any contribution to the team but just trying to be a positive influence and stay out of the way of the guys that were out there competing.
“I think that gives me a unique perspective where I can really feel and remember the moments that we went through. The comebacks early on in the playoffs seemed magnificent and by the end, they just became expected. I think each one of us sat in those dugouts or in the clubhouse or wherever you may be and just expected to win those games.
“It’s a good feeling when you have guys that are out there fighting and playing and you feel there is no quit and no there is no obstacle that they can’t overcome, and I think that’s kind of the mentality the fans have taken along, taken up alongside the team.”
Guthrie initially wasn’t sure how long he would be the with the Royals. After the trade with the Rockies, he pitched well, finishing with a 5-3 record and a 3.16 ERA. The Royals offered a three-year contract and it made for an easy decision for Guthrie and his wife, Jenny.
“When Kansas City offered the contract that they did, for us it was immediate, this is what we want to do,” he said. “We went to look for a place that we could live and try and involve ourselves in the community. It’s been nothing short of perfect for our family and for our kids and to be able to develop relationships and be a part of a great school district. We’re very grateful for their teachers and the administration that has been tremendous for them. And then sports teams and coaches, it’s just been a great experience all the way around.”
The fans probably feel the same way.
In the 2014 season, Guthrie was the starter when the Royals beat the White Sox 3-0 and clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 29 years. That was a particularly sweet moment for him.
Weeks later, he was the 74th man in the history of Major League Baseball to start Game 7 of a World Series.
While Guthrie’s ERA jumped to 5.95 last season, he said the fan support never wavered.
“We always appreciate the positive support,” Guthrie said. “As players we’re never perfect, we’re going to go through struggles. We have good times, we have bad times and I really appreciated that the fans always stayed positive, and I think that was kind of an attribute of the team that you always focused on the good and building off of that. You’re always going to have the inevitable failures, but they were always very positive with us and with other teammates I saw fans interact with us. ...
“I know there’s nowhere else in baseball like that.”