KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The jersey that Eric Hosmer wore in the decisive game of the World Series is headed to the Hall of Fame. So is the glove Salvador Perez used, the spikes Lorenzo Cain laced up and the bat that third baseman Mike Moustakas took to the plate.
Maybe they ought to ask for the goal posts from the University of Kansas.
Those were torn down inside Memorial Stadium in the wee hours Monday morning, shortly after the Royals beat the New York Mets to win their first championship in three decades. Thousands of fans shot off fireworks, stormed sporting goods to buy the latest apparel, and spent the night partying as if it was New Year’s Eve in downtown Kansas City.
“Our fan base and our team share a real special bond,” Hosmer said. “That’s grown throughout the whole entire world, I think, as the fans have watched us compete throughout this postseason.”
Indeed, the Royals made plenty of new fans with their scrappy, fight-to-the-last-out style.
President Barack Obama called manager Ned Yost on Monday and said the team was fun to watch and made Royals fans proud, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, a Kansas City native.
They won 95 games during the regular season and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But they never seemed to be the favorites — not against the plucky Astros, the powerful Blue Jays or against the hard-throwing Mets’ starting rotation.
“I think the resiliency of this team and the way we can come back and the way we just count ourselves in every single game, I think it makes for a fun team to watch,” Hosmer explained. “It’s definitely a fun team to play for.”
That resiliency was evident throughout their October ride.
In the Division Series, they trailed the Astros by four runs in a game that could have ended their season, then rallied to win the series. They kept fighting back when the Blue Jays kept pounding home runs, eventually winning their second straight AL championship.
It was in the World Series that they really shined, though.
The Royals trailed in all five games against the Mets, winning three times when they were down in the eighth inning or later — something no team had ever accomplished. In the decider, the Royals became the first team since the 1939 Yankees to trail by two runs in the ninth inning or later of a potential clinching game and somehow rally to victory.
All told, Kansas City trailed by at least two runs in seven of its 11 playoff wins.
“The way guys played all season,” Cain said, “the way guys stepped up even though we were down the entire game, it was a huge team effort.”
Now, that team that formed such a bond with its city the past two seasons will get to revel in a championship together. Their victory parade is Tuesday in downtown Kansas City, a route that will take the entire entourage about 2 miles to historic Union Station.
The victory rally at the base of the National World War I Memorial will begin when the parade arrives, and thousands of fans lining the parade route are expected to converge there.
“It’s a dream come true, not just for the players, but the staff, for the front office, for most importantly, the fans of Kansas City,” outfielder Jarrod Dyson said. “It’s been a long time since Kansas City raised a trophy like that and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Long time, indeed.
The Royals were once one of baseball’s model franchises, but the 1990s and 2000s were marked by historic ineptitude: Nine straight losing seasons (twice), three straight 100-loss years, token All-Stars chosen for the Midsummer Classic simply because every club needed to be represented.
Everything started to change when general manager Dayton Moore arrived, though. It picked up steam when Ned Yost took over as manager, and a core bunch of players — Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and others — finally made it to the big leagues. The final pieces were added at this year’s trade deadline, with the arrival of pitcher Johnny Cueto and the versatile Ben Zobrist.
All those years of losing were suddenly a distant memory. So was last season’s World Series heartbreak against San Francisco. The Royals and their fans believed that they could not only win the final game of their season, they almost seemed to expect it.
So when the final out was made at Citi Field, and the Royals streamed out of their dugout to celebrate a championship, it was hardly a surprise that their fans joined in the party.
Even the ones that decided to tear down some goal posts.
“We just believe. We believe in each other, you believe in the guy next to you,” Hosmer said, “and you realize you don’t have to do it all by yourself, you just do your part and we got a chance of winning ballgames. It’s something we’ve all believed in, it’s something we all bought into since day one and that’s why we’re world champions.”