Enjoying that Royals ride

It?s likely no secret to regular Free Press readers that I am a Royals baseball fan. Have been since the George Brett era in the 1970s.

Though I welcome those who are new to the bandwagon, I consider myself a true follower of the Kansas City team. Here?s why I believe the glory days for KC fans are here to stay.

First, these guys are fun to watch. Before last year?s team came out of nowhere to ascend all the way to the seventh game of the World Series, the players who donned the powder blue uniforms were improving year by year.

Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, super sub Jerrod Dyson and Salvador Perez were toiling away in relative obscurity. There were occasional flashes of what might be ahead for them, but the hitting was at times anemic and the pitching was erratic.

Then, Dayton Moore, who had taken over as general manager in 2006, began to dream big. He built a strong pitching staff around a core of Greg Holland, Yordano Ventura, Kelvin Herrera, Danny Duffy, Luke Hoche?var, Jeremy Guthrie, Wade Davis and James Shields.

Shields has moved on, but Moore grabbed Edinson Volquez, who has been a steadfast force on the mound. He also picked up Kris Medlen and Ryan Madson, and most recently, all-star hurler Johnny Cueto.

Last year, the Royals were at the bottom of the heap in terms of home runs, so Moore went out and secured Kendrys Morales, who is an RBI leader at his designated hitter spot. Ben Zobrist has also been a stellar addition on both offense and defense. Alex Rios, Paulo Orlando and Drew Butera have also been added.

All that talent is great for a team, but other, less successful, squads have great players. The Royals, however, lead the major leagues in ?watchability.? It is no fluke that KC has fans everywhere, not just in Kansas and Missouri.

At times it seems the boys in blue have as many fans in the stands at away games as the home team. These guys are flat fun to watch, and they play baseball the way the game was meant to be played. They hustle on the base paths; they run down balls on defense they have no business catching. And they do it all with a refreshing humility.

Most importantly, they look like they are having fun. Any player interviewed after a win can expect to be doused with water by Perez, who appears to be just a big kid at heart. And, they don?t mind the treatment.

Watch how these guys carry themselves on the field and in the dugout. They genuinely like each other. As a result, they have built historic stats. Last Friday, they eclipsed the mark of 30 games above .500 to take a 13-game lead over the next team in the American League Central division.

Obviously, the Royals are no flash in the pan. Last year?s success was only a preview of things to come.

While I have been a fan as long as I can remember, I haven?t had this much fun following my team in many, many years. Baseball is back, and those of you who may have given up on the sport during the era of labor strife and steroid abuse need to come on back.

And, if you are looking to support a small-market team taking it to the boys from the big cities, there has never been a better time to be Royal.

Bob Woelk teaches English at Hillsboro High School. He can be reached at woelk@embarqmail.com.

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