Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Baseball Friends

I've never been to Kansas City. I've never even been reasonably close to the city. I've spent a couple weeks in Memphis, Tennessee, but even that is 451 miles from where the Royals play baseball. At best I think a former coworker had been to Kansas City a few times, but essentially I have no connections to the greater metropolitan Kansas City area, nor do I really have a reason to.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to get to Kansas City some day as part of my dream of seeing every Major League team play in their home stadium. And while that means the Royals are on the list, I can't really say they're high on the list. Giving it very little thought, I'd say they're somewhere between 25th and 29th on the list (I'd be ok if I never made it to Philadelphia for a game, though if I'd been to each of the other 29, I'd find a way to make it to Philly.)

So about a year ago when I was goofing off on Twitter, I managed to gain a follower who was a Kansas City Royals fan. We tweeted back and forth a few times, I started following him and we developed a friendship over baseball. Soon, a couple of his friends (maybe from Twitter, maybe offline friends, I honestly don't know) started following me and we also developed a baseball-centric friendship.

Then this year happened. You may have heard that the Royals, expected to be a slightly above average team, were, in fact, a slightly above average team. They won 89 games which was good enough to get them in to the one-game wildcard round of the playoffs. Win that game and they'd play a best-of-five series against the team with the best record in the American League. Win that series and they'd play a best-of-seven series against the second-best team in the American League. The odds were not in their favor.

Despite that, it was the first playoff appearance for the Royals in 29 years. Sure they were only guaranteed one game, but come on, after almost three decades, you'll take what you can get. I mean, when there are songs written about looking back at 1985 in a nostalgic way, you know it's been a while.

And it looked like the Royals return to the playoffs was going to be a brief one. Trailing by 4 late in the game, I'd already written an "I"m sorry" tweet to send to the group of Royals fans I'd befriended. I saved it in my drafts and was all set to send my condolences but to remember the joy the previous six months of baseball had delivered along the way as soon as the game was over.

But I never needed to send it because the Royals started scoring and pulled out a 12th inning win. And then they kept winning. Sweeping the Angels and the Orioles to get to the World Series. And after losing Game 1, Kansas City took games Two and Three and suddenly the downtrodden Royals were having legitimate visions of World Series parades dancing in their heads. And me, a guy in south Georgia with no real connection to the team, was getting to follow along with some diehard Royals fans who, though the wonder of the Internet, allowed me to follow along the highs and lows.

Living vicariously through their joy and taking the unexpected ride to the World Series with them has been a fantastic experience. One that, with the Royals now down three games to two, may come to an end tonight. With a little luck, it'll go to a Game 7 tomorrow. Win or lose, it's been so much fun to get to follow along with a group of strangers who welcomed me into their little twitter world and let me go from casual fan watching the games because I enjoy baseball to someone who is actively rooting for his friends to get to experience the ultimate joy in baseball fandom.

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