In some ways, the joy of baseball fandom is reserved for kids. As an adult, it's appropriate to discuss trades, wear your team colors, and talk game, but the "fun" things - getting autographs, keeping the foul ball, colorful celebrations - are viewed as childhood indulgences that we're supposed to grow out of as we get older.
This last week, however, Kansas City - host of this year's MLB All-Star Game - turned into a baseball playground, and I was nine again. All of Kansas City, from the bright blue fountain water to the baseball statues to the baseball exhibits throughout town, transformed into a grand homage to baseball. Accordingly, I thought it was appropriate to indulge in childish things and ooo and ahhh at the marvels throughout the city.
I wasn't the only one. The transformation from adulthood to a lively childhood for people throughout the city was apparent, particularly at FanFest. People of all ages stood in line to take their picture with cardboard cutouts of major league legends. Crowds waited for hours to get a signature from Bo Jackson, my childhood hero. Everyone marveled at the memorabilia surrounding us - Harmon Killebrew's possessions, Jackie Robinson's Negro Leagues baseball uniform, baseball legends' awards, you name it. It was the innocence of childhood coupled with an appreciation for the history of it all.
And everyone there had a story to tell from their younger days. You could overhear people talking about how electric it was to watch Royals baseball when George Brett was a part of the team and how that for at least this week, this electricity was alive and well in Kansas City. As we were waiting for autographs, several us chatted about what a beast Bo Jackson was when he played. And though my father was an adult when the Royals came to be, his eyes lit up when he talked about how fun it was to watch lanky Bret Saberhagen pitch back in the day. We were all giddy, and not only was it okay - it was expected.
Part of the joy of being a child is that it doesn't matter that your team is losing. For those of us who have been lifelong Royals fans, though, our relationship with baseball has been characterized by loyalty moreso than happiness. The game can be fun for us, but there's always a hint of reservation. We'll enjoy the good times as much as any fan of any team, but we know that our momentary success will likely be just that - momentary.
For one week in Kansas City, though, we got to step back from the here and now and enjoy baseball in its greater context. Enjoy the successes of Royals teams past. Enjoy the silly things that we should have all grown out of but never really wanted to.
And for one week, we held on to the hope that perhaps the Royals can return to greatness, and perhaps everyone will then see that Kansas City is the great baseball city that we know it to be.
I'll hold on to that hope for now. Perhaps it's childish to put hope in such things, but I was never one to grow up unnecessarily.