When a team clinches a spot in the playoffs, wins a championship or a postseason series, the media goes down to their clubhouse to cover the celebration.
We wait outside until we have permission to enter.
Reporters prepare by pulling on rain slickers; cameramen wrap their equipment in plastic.
We get the word it’s OK to go in and shuffle through the clubhouse door; the unwelcome ants arriving at a picnic.
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By this time the team is usually gathered in a circle and somebody makes a speech. When that’s over, champagne corks pop and beers are opened and the players start spraying each other with bubbly or suds.
The media tends to stand back and record the scene like professional photographers paid to cover a particularly unruly 5-year-old’s birthday party. If the players know you and have decided you aren’t a complete waste of time, they might spray you too.
Or maybe they do it because they don’t like you and this is a chance to get back at you. (I prefer to think my glass—and shirt—is half full of champagne.)
Dealing with champagne; the sprayed kind
Just in case you don’t know — and I can’t imagine you don’t, but that isn’t going to stop me — players have now taken to wearing ski goggles for their celebrations because when you get champagne in your eyes, it burns.
Wearing ski goggles also looks kind of snazzy — all the cool kids are doing it — which is why you see players wearing them even when people aren’t spraying Dom Perignon around the room.
I was standing at one end of the clubhouse talking with a couple of Royals coaches when we got sprayed with champagne. Here’s another thing you might not know: that stuff is cold. It’s been on ice for a while, and now it’s on you.
One player asked me how I was doing and I said I’d be doing a lot better if I had one of those beers he was holding. The player (who will remain nameless) opened a bottle of beer with his teeth and handed it to me.
I expressed amazement about two things: one, he could open a bottle of beer with his teeth and, two, that he did it to a bottle of beer with a twist-off cap. The player informed me he could also open a bottle of beer with his eye socket and his nose.
I don’t know how drunk you have to be to find that out, but I’m guessing it’s not something you try cold sober.
“Let’s go see the people”
At some point a player will yell that they should all leave the clubhouse and go out to visit the fans that have stuck around.
On Wednesday night some player yelled: “Let’s go see the people” and the Royals headed out to the field.
The players’ families are also on the field by this time and there’s a lot of milling around and hugging. If you didn’t get soaked with sprayed champagne in the clubhouse, you’ll be soaked after a few ballplayers hug you. Those championship T-shirts they hand out to the players are soon soaked with champagne and beer.
Even though none of it is for you, it’s still cool to stand in the middle of a big-league baseball diamond and hear people cheer.
At one point Mike Moustakas stood at home plate wearing ski goggles and a champagne-soaked T-shirt and screamed at no one in particular: “I LOVE WINNING!”
Hey, who doesn’t?
I walked over and Moose gave me a hug that made me wetter than I already was. I then looked down and realized where Mike and I were standing and said that this was the first time I’d ever stood at home plate.
Moose said: “Don’t get used to it.”
As a joke I started doing that thing some baseball fans do: “Y’know, I was a pretty good ballplayer in high school.” (Actually, I wasn’t. I played football not baseball, but that’s another story.) Mike laughed and said: “It’s a jungle out here, Lee, you don’t want any part of it” and then wandered off to find more people to hug.
Eric Hosmer walked by and asked if I had my passport. I do.
Luke Hochevar and I talked about the bad old days — when the Royals were losing and Luke was getting booed — and how awesome it was to see the team turn around and bring a city together.
I asked Lorenzo Cain if he’d found the bat yet; Lorenzo hasn’t been satisfied with his game bat for some time and has been looking for one he likes.
Lorenzo said no, but the bat he used on Wednesday had “found the triangle.” The LoCain Triangle is behind the second baseman and between the right and centerfielders. Lorenzo dumps a bunch of softly-hit balls in there and that keeps his average up.
We then agreed if the bat was lucky, it didn’t have to be a great bat. You just keep using it as long as you’re lucky with it.
Later I met Rusty Kuntz’s wife and during the conversation she mentioned that she was the one that cuts Rusty’s hair, and he needs a haircut but won’t get one while the team is winning.
And that brings us to you, the fans.
For God’s sake, don’t jinx them
According to baseball superstition, whenever you’re going good you don’t change anything.
You don’t know why you’re going good — it might be a new bat, your haircut or what you ate for lunch — and since you don’t know what is working, you keep doing everything the same.
When the Royals had that amazing eighth-inning rally on Monday, I was watching the game with other Star employees. Some people started to get up to leave and I told them to sit back down; the Royals had a rally going and you don’t screw around with a rally.
When I told that story to Hochevar he nodded approvingly. He liked that I was doing what I could to help the Royals win.
So now it’s on you: the Kansas City Royals fans.
Whatever you did on Wednesday — the way you drove to work, what you ate for lunch, the shirt you decided to wear — you have to do again on Friday. If you don’t, you might jinx the team. I don’t know for sure you’d jinx the team, but why take the chance?
If you’re a real Royals fan you do everything the same; do not deviate from Wednesday’s pattern.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a wet golf shirt to put on.