In retrospect, I probably should have stuck close to home and supported the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Baseball Championship game at TD Ameritrade Park.
But, in my defense, the Kansas City Royals remained unbeaten with me in attendance Sunday afternoon. That's right, Ned Yost's club is a perfect 1-0 since Jan. 15, 1990 — my birthdate — with me in the cheap seats.
Whit Merrifield provided the walk-off single that bounced over the New York Yankees' third baseman's head and into left field during the 10th inning. Billy Hamilton, after stealing second base, scored from that bag, holding onto his helmet as he rounded third. Whit casually waited for the celebration at first as Billy scored the game-ender, 8-7.
It really was a good contest to see from Section 419 at Kauffman Stadium. Martin Maldonado (who, let's pretend, is related to Blair soccer coach Emanuel Maldonado), Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler and Ryan O'Hearn all hit Kansas City homers as my Royals built a 7-1 lead they nearly blew, as they, typically, do.
Maldonado — Martin, not Emanuel — and O'Hearn both started the day with sub-.200 batting averages, by the way.
So, I got to say, it all worked out for this Royals fan who'd never seen a Royals game in person. I'm one of those spoiled KC fans that didn't have to wait 30 years in-between World Series wins. When Yost's team won it all in 2015, I'd been a fan less than five years.
It all started when I was answering phones at the Omaha World-Herald as a part-timer. At that time, I'd also whip-up the occasional Omaha Storm Chasers story when the team was on the road. It was simple, by-the-numbers stuff, but I started to get invested in the careers of those future Royals I'd soon be watching win titles.
Basically, I cheated. I jumped on the Kansas City bandwagon just as things were getting good.
But here we are, it's 2019 and the Royals are back to the MLB basement. And, yet, I couldn't have had a better game day experience Sunday.
I've only been to four MLB parks — Wrigley, Fenway and Coors Field included — and Kauffman is my favorite. The scoreboard, the fountains and the views were all outstanding. Two Yankee fans I spoke with were similarly impressed, noting that the stadium is a commercial ballpark, but baseball-focused all the same — a great combo.
I also loved the Hall of Fame exhibit in left field. Old baseballs, jerseys, video clips and cut-out newspaper pages — which, obviously, scored bonus points with me.
This job makes it so I don't get to go to as many sporting events as I would like, which seems like a weird sentence, but I'm sure you get what I mean. So, any chance I can go and sit in the stands like a fan is “amazing” and, I promise, I picked that word because I meant it.
I spent nearly $20 on a helmet full of BBQ pork nachos and sunburned my knees because I'm not used to actually sitting down at a ballgame for three hours, but it still ruled. Thanks Royals. I was up high at Kauffman, but I felt as close to the action as I do with a camera in my hands.
Sports, man. They're cool.