The adventures (and non-adventures) of a marginally seasoned attorney.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Becoming Royal

The story of how everyone's favorite Royals' fan, SungWoo Lee, became a fan of the team is pretty amazing. But learning his story made me curious as to how other people - not just people who grew up in the Kansas City metro - became fans. I posed the question to twitter: "How did you become a Royals fan?" Several folks were kind enough to send me their stories.


There’s the easy biographical answers for the three times I became a Royals fan. I was born to it: a son of Royals fans in Albuquerque, coming home from the hospital in a handstitched KC cap in the fall of ’85. I chose it: a seven-year-old, drawing Mark Gubicza in my first pack of baseball cards. And it saved me: a homesick student abroad, rediscovering the Royals to connect myself with a sense of home.

As loyal as I am to the club, I could insert any other baseball team into that biography and the story would read the same. Hell, I cheered for plenty of teams in other sports as a kid—I had to, without any professional sports less than seven hours away—and none of them stuck.

But I never stopped wearing a KC cap. I wore out that first homemade number and a progression of kiddie-sized versions. Once my skull stopped growing, I invested in a fitted cap. I kept wearing it even when I stopped paying attention to baseball, oh, right about when I discovered that women have awesome lady-parts. And it’s still alive only because I wash it by hand every few years to uncover the remaining blue dye.

I’ve tried a couple newfangled Royals lids whose attitudes don’t fit right. The wool fashion is old-school these days, which suits me fine. My old cap and I stick together, and not just because the gnarly sweat stains are tacky as glue.

It’s easy to root for a pristine ballclub, as easy as it is to buy a new cap. But hanging tight through the grime and the muck adds emotion to the ride. When the Royals triumph in the World Series, the tears will taste sweeter. But I’m not just sitting around hoping for a championship. I’m a Royals fan every day, because life is grungy and love shouldn’t be easy. Besides, I’ve put too much sweat into this cap to switch teams now.


I was born and raised in Garden City, KS, way down in southwest Kansas where baseball is more of a secondary sport to football and basketball. At least in high school, anyway. But it's still prevalent for the younger kids to som extent. I digress.
I played T-ball when I was really young, and I would've been 2 when the Royals won the World Series, so it's plausible that any interest I had in the game from the start was the result of their only real success, ever. But beyond that, it's hard to place how I became a fan. I remember having hundreds of baseball cards, and when Bo Jackson got released from the Royals (which I thought was the most insane thing they could've done at the time). I did T-ball for a few years when I was around 6 or 7, but that's all. I never did organized baseball or softball after that, and haven't since.
I didn't pay much attention to MLB during the 90s, but at the end of high school, I started getting a small interest back in the Royals after a friend took me to my first game sometime around 1997 or 98. When I graduated and went to college, it started to get a little "serious" (if you will), and after going to another game or two around 2004/05, I finally called myself a Roys fan.
I left college in 2009, and after I moved home in early 2010, I started watching the games on a routine basis with plans to move to KC later that year. My girlfriend and I moved in together that year, and it's pretty much turned into me fully assimilating everything about Kansas City culture there is in as much time since. My now fiancĂ©  is a lifelong Cubs fan, so I think she gets it to some extent.


Despite living in southwest Missouri, some three hours away from the closest major league city, I initially became a Kansas City Royals fan in large part because, well, it was the closest major league city.
As a 5-year-old with an avid softball-playing father, I naturally asked him one day what baseball team he rooted for. I knew he was a huge Chiefs fan, but he never really expressed his baseball love.
"Well, I always liked watching the Royals because they're close to where we live," he said. "They won the World Series the year you were born, you know."
Suddenly, I needed to learn more about this team ... our team. Around this time, about 1990, I began collecting baseball cards. Mom and dad would buy me wax packs from Walmart and I'd rip them in the car looking for players I'd heard of on the local news. We didn't have cable or internet, of course, so rarely did I ever have a chance to watch baseball games. So when I found a card of a Royals player, I'd memorize his stats on the back. Like that, I became a "fan."
I finally got to attend my first game when I was nine. A kid I played all-stars with scored free tickets for the entire team through his grandma, who worked for the Royals.
I'll never forget that game. Sept. 5, 1995 against the Toronto Blue Jays. My favorite Royals player, Wally Joyner, whom I had tons of cards, started at first base and hit a booming homer onto the grass berm in center. Mark Gubicza, another highly collectible guy, started on the mound.
I saw homers from Joe Carter and a young Carlos Delgado that night, but the Joyner homer and walk-off shot by Bob Hamelin in extras sent me home a winner and a definite Royals fan forever.
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, so obviously my first sport obsession was college football. However, as a tall, but lanky and terribly skinny kid, football was much more fun for me to watch than play. Enter baseball into my life. Baseball I loved playing. And watching. And reading about. As I lived about 3 hours from Kansas City, the Royals were our de facto professional baseball home team. I remember seeing highlights from their games on the local news from a very early age. (At least, back then, there were a decent number of highlights. Most of my life, the lights haven’t been so high.) The games were almost all carried on local radio, so most evenings during childhood I would drift off to sleep listening to games. The radio station would even do contests, giving away gift certificates to local restaurants if you were the 10th caller after a Royals home run, so I’d listen intently until I couldn't stay awake any longer. My fondest Royals memory was probably having my dad wake me up waaay too early one morning so we could meet Bret Saberhagen and Tom Gordon during a promotional stop in town. I still have their autographed baseball cards among the hundred or so George Brett cards I've collected over the years. I keep holding out hope for another Royals postseason appearance since now I’m old enough to appreciate it more than the last one.


Memory can be flexible, so this is probably not how the story actually went, but it's how I remember it, so it's how it went.

It was fall of 1985. The World Series was on TV. I knew my letters by then, so when the R H E of the score came on going to a commercial, I asked my dad what they meant. He provided a basic explanation of things and that was how I first encountered baseball.

The Royals went on to win the World Series of course, and growing up in Kansas, having "Kansas" anything getting mentioned on the news was cool to me. Even if it was "Kansas" City. That's how I first learned about the Royals and names like George Brett.

So when a kid asked me at school a couple of years later who my favorite baseball player was, the only name that came to mind was George Brett. I didn't have a George Brett baseball card, though, but I did have other players. I probably got ripped off on the trade, but he offered me one Brett card for six A's cards. I agreed, dug through and found some A's cards, and we made the exchange at school the next day. I was the proud owner of one George Brett 1986 Topps card that looked like it had been wadded up into a pocket and put into the wash. And it was my favorite thing. I still have that card.

After that, I started looking at the backs of baseball cards more and learned more about the numbers and got a better sense of who was actually good. Then, by 1988, I recognized some of the names on a Royals caravan. My uncle came into town and took me along to the Mall. On a stage sat Paul Splittorff, John Mayberry, and Jerry Don Gleaton. The next day, my uncle took me to a baseball card shop and we got a photo of George Brett and Bo Jackson standing together. As I remember it, that was the year that our area started to get Royals road game TV broadcasts, so I could see the games and players I was learning about.

Back then, the Rockies weren't around, and the Rangers were way too far. I grew up four hours from Kansas City but it was the closest baseball destination. I'd been to a Royals game once before, but I was only three years old, so I don't remember it other than what's in photos. In 1989, we made it back. It was scheduled to be Picture Day on the field. We got lost. I never made it to the picture part of the pregame. Worse? George Brett had the day off. But the Royals won.

By 1989, I'd also discovered what station broadcast the Royals on radio, which covered the home games that TV wouldn't cover.

And there was no turning back from there.


My story is probably a little different than most.  I was born in Southern California in 1988, so just a few years removed from the World Series win.  Both of my parents were originally from Kansas City where they both lived all their lives until my dad became an officer in the Marine Corps.  We moved around a lot so I lived in CA, VA, back to CA, actually to London, England for a few years during High School, and then to St. Louis, MO where I finished high school and went to Mizzou.  Growing up my brother and I were raised as Chiefs and Royals fans.  I always remember watching Chiefs games on Sunday with my dad when they would be on tv, but watching Royals games didn't happen much since they  were sooooo bad during the 90s.  I was always a fan of the Royals, but didn't follow them that much until I lived in London when I was older(8-10th grade), I would say my interest really peeked when I had moved back America to St. Louis.  I never had any problem with the Cardinals, I really only ever hated the Yankees.  However it only took a few months for my hatred for them and mainly their fans to grow and I really started to rep the Royals. People would always ask me why or how I was a Royals fan.  I would explain how my parents and entire family is from there, but there was more to that.  My brother and I thought about it once when talking with some friends.  We didn't really chose to root for the KC felt more like they chose us.  Something about it just felt right, so we've always been a part of the KC area in that aspect.
 Last year was a really special year for me, because it was the first time I actually remembered a winning season.  I remember 2003 and how they won the first 11 games, but I was in London at the time and I didn't think it really counted.  I could actually watch the games last year ( we get my dad the MLB at bat app since my parents actually live in Italy now so he can watch the games, and I can use it too since I'm in STL).

So that's pretty much my story.  Don't think I could pin it down to one exact moment, but more of something that was spread over 2 decades.


I was born in central Florida in 83 and have spent my whole life here, for the most part.
I became a Royals fan because my dad is one. He was born in KC, mom was born in Leavenworth. Would say 95% of my relatives still live in the area. Parents moved to Winter Haven, FL back in the 70s and I’ve grabbed onto the sports teams from the area (Royals, Chiefs, Jayhawks), even though the only local team my parents follow is the Royals.
I love the Royals, watch almost every game through and talk about them with my dad everyday. If we ever win the World Series, I’ll probably cry tears of joy and call my dad.
And finally, my story:
I always write about baseball somewhat romantically, but that's because I'm genuinely a baseball romantic. I grew up in a small town in Arkansas that's equidistant to Kansas City and St. Louis, and for whatever reason, my parents decided that the Royals would be the team I would grow up watching. I lived in Cardinals country, and my dad grew up a Cardinals fan, but starting in 1988 or 1989, my parents took me to my first Royals game. The Royals became my team from that game forward. I latched onto them, and it never even occurred to me that I could be a fan of another team.
My earliest memory of the Royals was of Bo Jackson breaking his bat at a game. Three times in one game, to be exact (or, at least that's how I remembered it), and I told everyone I knew about it, including at church. I was young enough that the most fascinating things at Kauffman were the scoreboard lights and the various treats, but I loved Bo. When I grew older (but still itty bitty), I put Bo in the prayer requests at church when he got hurt. I was confused when he was no longer a Royal. To me, Bo Jackson was the Kansas City Royals, but the team had to move on, and so did I.
I really didn't have a true appreciation of the game until junior high. Damon, Beltran, and Dye were dominating the lineup - as much as any Royal could at that time - and that's when I decided I wanted to know everything I could about the game. I became obsessed with baseball. These were still the days before high speed internet, so I read the newspaper every day for game summaries. I could tell you the stats of every Royal. I started watching Baseball Tonight, and every morning during baseball season in high school when I woke up, I'd roll over, grab the remote before I'd even opened my eyes, and turn the TV on (it was always on ESPN) to see Royals highlights.
I continued my fandom throughout college - although I spent less time on it, because college is time consuming, y'all. Because the University of Arkansas wasn't exactly a haven for Royals fans, any Royals fan I met became my instant friend. I met my friend Andy my freshman year when I was walking around the dorm and saw someone had a George Brett poster in his room. I walked into his room and told him I loved his poster. Andy and I are good friends to this day.
In law school, my fandom evolved. I genuinely loved the game, but because of this new fancy thing called twitter, I was able to enjoy the community of Royals baseball starting my 2L year. The Royals team and Royals twitter became a great comfort for me, especially while I was preparing for the bar exam. I would quit studying each night when the Royals game came on TV, which meant that I'd be studying longer when the team was on the west coast. I'd still study a little bit when Davies was pitching. I didn't dare study when Greinke was pitching. I loved the chatter on twitter surrounding the game, and I always had a couple of cents to post.
I've been fortunate to meet many in the Royals community after becoming a lawyer, and I love that I can go to any game now on a whim (a four-hour drive whim, mind you) and know that I'll have friends there. I love this team, and being a part of a community has added to my experience tremendously.
I can't imagine supporting any other baseball team. Being a Royals fan is part of my identity.

No comments: