What it Means to be a Baseball Fan


Growing up in Kansas City, home of Royals baseball, I was always a hometeam fan. I have lived in many cities across this country, and as my husband and I have moved around -- from Texas to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, California and back to Kansas -- we have adopted and cheered on many NFL teams, but never another baseball team. In baseball, I have only ever, ever been a Royals fan.

And oh, the memories of this team that pepper my childhood. Growing up a KC Royals fan meant that on Halloween evenings after we had depleted all our neighbor’s candy bowls, my dad used to drive us over to team owner Ewing Kauffman’s mansion, with it’s red brick exterior and royal blue awnings, where there was always a line down the block as staffers handed out kid’s sized Royals gear - ponchos, seat cushions, miniature bats and batting helmet-shaped ice cream dishes. Cool Stuff.

Back in the day, we had Kansas City royalty like George Brett, we had Frank White, and in 1985, the Royals won the World Series with a 21-year-old, baby-faced pitcher named Brett Saberhagen.

A year or so later, I babysat for Brett Saberhagen. He and his wife lived not too far from my parent’s house, and through some mutual friends and a neighbor they asked me to babysit their toddler. (Wikipedia tells me his son’s name, which I’d long forgotten, is Drew William, which happens to be the first names of my two boys, and cue the Twilight Zone theme song.) My husband, ever the sports paraphernalia collector, still teases me that I cashed that check instead of keeping it for the signature of the World Series winning pitcher. It would be worth a fortune today! But these are just not things that occur to 14-year-old girls, fan or not.

My senior prom was held in the ballroom at Royals Stadium. It’s a recurring theme, you might notice.

I’m not the kind of fan who can spit out stats and name entire rosters. But I always support them, no matter how good or bad. I think I got it from my dad. My dad is the kind of guy who will watch whatever sports program is on, usually, but he always kept tabs on the Royals. He would listen to Royals baseball on the radio while watching some other sport game on the muted TV. He often took my brother and I to Royals games where we sat in general admission cheap seats, no shade to be found anywhere, with the plastic so hot it would sear the back of your legs and your thighs would sweat and chafe almost immediately, and everything smelled of cheap beer and steamed hotdogs and suntan lotion. (Now we call it sunscreen, and it's to block the sun, but in the 80's it was suntan lotion and it's goal was to MAKE you tan.) But you’d forget all of that at the crack of a bat and the roar of the crowd, as the ball went hurtling toward the fountains.

I’m still a fan today. I’m a fan even when -- no, especially -- I hear that all 27 players on the Royals roster together make a salary just over what A-Rod makes by himself. Actually, I’m proud of that. I’m proud to have a team that seems to be more even, where maybe the money isn’t all they are playing for. A team that plays for the love of baseball. I’m definitely a fan of that.

Because it's about the game. It's not about steriods or dollar signs and contracts, regardless of what the news says. It's about baseball. This is what I want my children to learn, as they become fans, too. My youngest is playing baseball now, and it's starting to look like that will be his sport of choice for the future, rather than soccer. He's much more interested in batting practice than he is kicking a ball around.

So at my house it's Royals T-shirts and ballcaps and Sluggr stuffed toys. The way it should be.

Of course, if my kid grows up to go pro and ends up on a different Major League Baseball team besides the Royals, then I may have a problem.

Credit Image: © James Allison/Southcreek Global/ZUMAPRESS.com

Jenny blogs at We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto.

Find me on Twitter.


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