KC stars may not linger long

I never knew sports could make me so emotional. Yet here I am, at risk of melting into a puddle of tears each time I watch a Royals game or read a reflective piece on some of the best years in recent franchise history, as each game brings us one day closer to the impending free agency of all-stars Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.

This group helped Kansas City win a World Champion­ship for the first time since before I was born. It’s hard to imagine any of them wearing a visitors’ jersey the next time I see them play at Kauffman Stadium.

Hosmer and Moustakas have grown with the Royals. Both made their major league debuts here in 2011. Cain and Escobar came to Kansas City that year, too.

All four are all stars, with Hosmer claiming the 2016 All-Star MVP to add to his three Gold Glove awards. Cain was the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year and ALCS MVP. Moustakas, a two-time All-Star, set the Royals’ single-season home run record this year. Escobar earned a Gold Glove and was ALCS MVP in 2015.

More than their individual accolades, this core group helped to unite a fan base.

It began in 2014, when Kansas City secured its first postseason berth since 1985. There was the improbable, 12-inning comeback victory over the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card Game, then the eight-game win streak that carried the Royals through the ALDS and ALCS. But San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner loomed large in the World Series, and in Game 7, Kansas City stranded the tying run 90 feet from home plate.

With a display of resiliency, the Royals came back to win it all in 2015, defeating the Astros despite trailing the series, 2-1, then beating the Blue Jays.

With Kansas City battling the New York Mets in the World Series, Hosmer scored the tying run off Salvador Perez’s broken-bat grounder in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5, and the Royals eventually won in 12 innings, bringing the first World Championship to Kansas City in 30 years.

Exciting things followed. A parade. A rally. I was part of that sea of blue on my birthday that beautiful fall day in November. A city celebrated. A title had been won.

For a moment, people laid aside their differences and were simply Royals fans. The boys in blue had captured our hearts and given us something we all could cheer about.

Sports have a way of bringing people together like that.

I certainly cannot list all of the highlights in this space, nor will I attempt to. Other sports writers have done that. But I will list a handful of memories.

I’ll remember Hosmer, the endearing lefty and face of the franchise, for his mad dash home, his glove at first base and his equally impressive haircut.

Moustakas? I’ll remember “the catch” that sent him diving headfirst into the dugout suites during Game 3 of the 2014 ALCS and the “Moooose” calls from fans during his at-bats.

I’ll remember Cain for his smile and speed in centerfield. The man covers a lot of ground and fast.

And Esky? I’ll forever think of swinging at first pitches and stellar defense. He’s a master at turning double plays at short.

True, things don’t always have happy endings or turn out like we want them to. The last two years can attest to that. We’ve witnessed disappointment on the field, and tragedy off of it. I think all of us who call ourselves Royals fans would have liked to see one more postseason run with the core intact. But it’s not going to happen.

But sports also provide a model of coping when things get tough. You pick yourself up and move forward. You continue coming to the plate. You focus on the next pitch.

So even as we mourn what most likely will be the end of an era in Kansas City, perhaps it will be possible to look ahead with hope, realizing that sometimes it takes an ending to make new beginnings possible.

Janae Rempel is assistant editor for Christian Leader magazine. You can still read her coverage of Marion High sports and reach her at janae@hillsborofreepress.com.