Taking the Crown: The Press Conference

November 11, 2015

The press room was small. Big, expensive-looking cameras lined the back wall. In the back corner, fellow staff writer junior Mitchell Paul and I reviewed our notes and took in the surroundings. The room soon filled as reporters and members of the Royals front office trickled in and took their places. Once everyone was settled GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost arrived.

The two took their place behind the microphones at the table set up in the front of the room. Behind them, two TV’s displayed the Royals World Series Champions logo, and in front of them, for the first time in thirty years, sat the World Series Trophy itself.

Two microphones were passed among the reporters and for half an hour they lobbed questions at Moore and Yost.IMG_2389

“Do you know your budget for next year?”

“How will Omar Infante’s contract affect negotiations with Ben Zobrist?”

“What’s the difference between a lame deer and a lame duck?” (This coming after Yost, an avid hunter,  referenced himself as a “lame deer”.)

Moore and Yost were careful not to give away any specifics this early in the off-season although Yost did respond that a lame deer was bigger than a lame duck . Overall, the pair emphasized their intentions to continue to run their organization as they always have despite winning the World Series.

Once all the reporters left, Moore took the time to sit down with Paul and me to answer a few questions. For Moore, winning the World Series was the culmination of years’ development and planning that started back in 2006 when he accepted the position of GM

Moore began the process of building a winning team by focusing on the leadership of the organization, knowing how important these leaders would be in creating a successful Royals team.

“You’re leaders shape your culture. We didn’t get rid of a lot of people, but we brought in new leaders and re-assigned people to different roles because we understood that the leaders are the ones shaping the culture,” Moore said.

Having not had a playoff berth since 1985, the task of turning around the Royals would be a difficult one.

“We made sure that everyone understood the challenge before us, maybe the most difficult challenge in all of sports, and we wanted a group of people who were really committed to doing something special,” Moore said.

While Moore certainly hoped to bring home a second World Series Trophy to Kansas City his goal for the organization was much broader than that.

“Our vision was to build a model organization where people wanted to work, where people had a chance to grow and to be able to create an organization that represents the game of baseball the right way,” Moore said.

This idea of “representing baseball the right way” was evident in Moore’s development and pursuit of not just good players but players of character. Throughout the season the Royals team was praised for their character by sports commentators, and this character often shined in their many come-from-behind victories. Moore looked for players who were willing to work and particularly valued those who put their teammates desires before their own.

“You’re not going to win over 162 games unless you have a group of players who are committed to one another,” Moore said. “We try to make sure that we were signing and developing players who understood that the most important thing was to be a great teammate.”

“It was extremely rewarding to see a group of people and collection of players reach their ultimate goal, and that was to win a World Championship. Immediately you reflect and think about all the hard work it took to get to that moment and then you realize you won the World Series and it’s a dream come true.”

With the interview over, Moore walked Paul and me back to the elevator and made sure we knew what floor to get off on. As the elevator doors closed Moore rushed off to attend other business. Kansas City may have won the the World Series, but Moore was still a busy man. The process is still not over. There is still more work to do.

 

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Taking the Crown: Next Season

The Kansas City Royals just completed one of the most dominating season in their franchise’s history. Kansas City destroyed the American League Central and entered the playoffs with its best record since 1980. After a tight World Series duel in 2014, the Royals redeemed themselves this past season. Kansas City took home its first crown in 30 years. With two American League pennants and a World Series victory in the last two years, many are wondering if this Kansas City ball club could become a dynasty.

The Royals organization has some major decisions to make this offseason. Three key players from the 2015 WS team—Alex Gordon, Ben Zobrist, and Johnny Cueto—are free agents this winter. Many fans fear that we will be unable to re-sign these important players. Some might say that losing big-time players like Ben Zobrist or Alex Gordon could be the downfall of this championship team. The organization thinks a little differently.

“We have several key free agents that helped the success of this team,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said. “I don’t anticipate them to all return. But, we have great, young players with the right attitudes, in the right spots, ready to play.”

Which pending free agent are the Royals most likely to re-sign?

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One of the things the Royals have done very well is developing their home-grown players. Players such as Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez have been with the club through several years of losing. Their patience and perseverance over the past several years has set them apart from other players and allowed them to win a World Series, turning them into hometown heroes. Several players who are growing up in the Royals organization, such as Raul Mondesi, the first player to make his debut in a WS game, are going to be expected to step up in the coming years, refilling the spots of these possible free agents to be.

The Royals are also looking at dabbling in the free-agency arena. The club had their highest payroll in team history last year and it will only get higher with the WS win this past year. With key players possibly leaving, the team’s ownership is looking to pursue some talented, smart players to fit in with the new winning culture of KC. Dayton Moore has had success in bringing in free agents in the time he has been here. There is no reason that he should change his methods, especially after winning the World Series.

Royals fans really don’t have much to worry about. Whether the organization decides to sign new players, re-sign the current players, or bring up some young talent, the team will still be playing on opening day. Moore and his staff will do what they think is best for this team to make another World Series run in 2016. We all know anything can happen. That is what this Royals team, that we know and love, has proven to us. No matter the circumstances, they will come through. And that is what I expect from our Royals in 2016.

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Taking the Crown: Greatest Moments

Royals Rally In Game Four of the American League Division Series

This moment is one that fans will look to for years to come as one of the most significant in the Kansas City Royals World Series win. The Royals were down by four runs in the eighth inning of Game Four of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros. If they lost that game, their season would have been over. Many loyal Royals fans lost hope. That proved to be a mistake as the Royals struck for five runs after scoring two runs from hitting five straight singles from right-fielder Alex Rios, shortstop Alcides Escobar, second-baseman Ben Zobrist, center-fielder Lorenzo Cain, and first-baseman Eric Hosmer; they then scored two more on an error by Mets’ pitcher Tony Sipp, and another on an RBI groundout to second base by Alex Gordon. This rally led to a win that forced another game in the series. The Royals went on to win that game and advanced to play the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Conference Series. Without their rally, this would not have been possible.

Freshman Caleb Tywater recalled what he was doing at this moment.

“We were going crazy in Mr. Conkling’s room,” Tywater said. “We had a little mosh pit going.”

Junior James Kucera also said what he was thinking at the time.

“I told myself before the inning started that we don’t quit,” Kucera said. “We came back in the Wild Card game last year, so I knew we could do it. I started getting really confident once the bases were loaded.”

Mental Error by the Blue Jays Leads to a Game-Winning Rally

In Game Two of the American League Conference Series, the Royals were down by three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Blue Jays’ pitcher David Price had pitched seven perfect innings after Alcides Escobar’s leadoff single, and it looked like the Royals were about to lose the game. Then disaster struck the Blue Jays. A routine fly ball off the bat of Ben Zobrist dropped between second baseman Ryan Goins and right-fielder Jose Bautista, which allowed Zobrist to reach first base. It seemed like a harmless play, but the Royals went on to rally for five runs in that inning and win the game, taking a 2-0 lead in the series.

Tywater had an interesting reaction to this play.

“I was yelling at Jose Bautista through the TV,” Tywater said. “You’re a loser because nobodhisy likes you, especially me!”

Lorenzo Cain Scores from First Base on Eric Hosmer’s Line Drive to Right Field

The Royals and the Blue Jays were in a battle during Game Six of the American League Conference Series. The game was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning with Lorenzo Cain on base and Eric Hosmer up to bat. Hosmer hit a line drive toward the line in right field to Jose Bautista. Cain, running on contact, was able to run all the way from first to home in 10.47 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 20.7 mph. This gave the Royals a 4-3 lead that closer Wade Davis held to win the game and advance to the World Series.

Sophomore Jamie Fogel couldn’t quite comprehend what had happened.

“I was listening to the game on the radio,” Fogel said. “It was very hectic because the announcers didn’t describe the play well. I knew that it was a good play for us because I could hear the fans celebrating, but I didn’t get a good picture of it until later.”

Tywater laughed as he recalled his reaction to the play.

“I was so excited that I threw my brother into a giant bean bag,” Tywater said.

Hosmer Scores Tying Run in Game Five of the World Series

The Royals were down by one run in Game Five of the World Series with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Eric Hosmer was standing on third base after hitting an RBI double in his previous at-bat. Catcher Salvador Perez broke his bat hitting a ground ball to third base. Mets’ third-baseman David Wright fielded it, looked at Hosmer and threw to Mets’ first-baseman Lucas Duda to get Perez out. That is when Hosmer took off. He aggressively decided to run home when, if he was thrown out, the Royals would have lost the game. Luckily for the Royals, Duda made an errant throw and Hosmer scored, tying the game.

Junior Wyatt Palmer had a memorable experience after the play.

“A bunch of the junior boys were at Nate Streeter’s house,” Palmer said. “We startled talking each other and I think I tackled Nate.”

Fogel had a very different reaction.

“I was angry because I didn’t think that he was going to make it,” Fogel said. “I was yelling at my TV ‘Go back!'”

Christian Colon’s Clutch Hit Wins the World Series

The Royals were tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game Five of the World Series. Infielder Christian Colon came up to bat, pinch-hitting for his first at-bat in the post-season. He quickly got himself into a hole, going down to a 0-2 count, but after taking a ball and fouling off another pitch, he was able to get a base hit to left-center field, driving outfielder Jarrod Dyson in for the eventual game winning run that would win the World Series.

Fogel couldn’t believe what Colon had just done.

“That was definitely unreal,” Fogel said. “I had to watch it again a couple of times because I couldn’t believe it.”

Tywater, on the other hand, immediately reacted with joy.

“I was so happy that I threw my phone across the room,” Tywater said.

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Taking the Crown: Experiencing the Parade

Functioning on less than four hours of sleep after a night out celebrating our day off, I embarked toward the parade. The streets along my route were lined with blue as fans anticipated the shuttle bus’ arrival carrying them to an assembly of approximately 800,000 people– possibly one of the most populous gatherings our humble streets of Kansas City has ever experienced.

I departed for the parade around 9 a.m., which still proved not early enough. A few blocks away from Crown Center, I joined the people. It was truly a sensational experience. I had never seen such a great mass of people, and wondered if maybe living in New York reflected this experience day-to-day.

People around me clamored for a better view. Children climbed up trees. Teens scaled up the ledges of buildings. Some people clung to streetlight poles just to catch a glimpse of our homecoming heroes.

Once I had finally fought my way through the chaos, I found a relatively clear space. I hoped that perhaps I’d have a partially unimpeded view. I had never felt such acute claustrophobia. People were constantly pushing and shoving me in attempt to advance forward, but their efforts were futile. Hundreds locked in creating a barricade for everyone behind them. Children sat on their father’s shoulders making the barrier even taller.

Once the parade came to my area, the skies filled with thousands of smartphones, and selfie sticks sprinkled in here and there. It disappointed me; everyone was so concerned with recording videos that they missed seeing the parade through their own eyes. I wondered why they would trouble themselves attending the parade and viewing it from their pint-sized screen when they could conveniently watch it on a more substantial screen at home.

After a while, the fights began. Arguments disrupted the cheers; who deserved which spot, who had been there longer, who was being more disagreeable. The amount of selfishness I witnessed was dispiriting; they had forgotten the reason why they came.

Near the end, some people started filing out, so my friends and I ventured forward to get a better view. At this point, I had only seen the tip of a trolley, part of an inflatable baseball, the end of Moustakas’ antlers, and explosions of blue and white confetti.

Then, things took a turn for the worse.

I proceeded to a spot where standing on my tiptoes, I could get a somewhat clear view, I heard a string of swear words erupt behind me.

“Who do you think you are little girl?! You just think you can sneak in here when I’ve been waiting all day?!” a woman behind me yelled, with many swear words added in.

As someone who is easily upset by yelling, my eyes nearly started watering.

All I said to the Monster Woman, the name I referred to her as in my mind,  was, “Ma’am, I’m very sorry. I didn’t realize I was blocking your way. I’m only 5’2, and I’d really just like to see a little bit of the parade.”

The Monster Woman replied, “Oh yeah? Well so is my daughter.” (Followed by another string of swear words.)

The woman proceeded telling her daughter, who was definitely NOT 5’2, to stand in front of me.

A few moments later, The Monster Woman’s daughter revealed a can of Silly String, which had become more of a shaving cream consistency due to the sun, and sprayed it all over me and in my hair.

At that point I was fairly upset; I had simply desired to attend a parade that may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I tried putting a positive spin on the events, but Monster Woman prevented me from any feelings of optimism.

I believe she realized she had overreacted a bit, because a few minutes later I heard, “HEY LITTLE GIRL! LITTLE GIRL. HELLO. THERE’S A SPOT RIGHT HERE.”

While it wasn’t necessarily a warm interaction, I realized it was her way of apologizing. I advanced and finally could catch the end of the parade.

All in all, I am glad I went. Being a part of the enormous crowd of 800,000 was amazing, as well as seeing such great pride in the city I love so much. While it wasn’t the experience I had anticipated, I know it was one I’ll never forget.

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