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A Tribute to the Royals

At dawn today, I took down the Royals window flags from our green vans.  I started to think about the reasons why this baseball season was special for me, my family, and our town.  The reasons took me on a rambling trip down memory lane.

We live in Overland Park, and my wife and I have called Johnson County our home for 17 years.  We moved from Sioux City, Iowa to an apartment complex across the street from Town Center in 1997, the year we were married.  In 1999, we bought our first home, a cozy 100 year-old bungalow in Westwood.  It was within walking distance from Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ.  That was my introduction to a love affair with Carolina-Style pulled pork sandwiches.  At the time, I worked for Gateway Computers and my wife was a social worker at Children’s Mercy.  Our lives changed dramatically during our four years in Westwood.  I changed jobs, moving to an outside sales rep position with a national technology company.  We had our first child in 2001, a daughter.  My wife “retired” from the workforce to stay home with her.  And we started a little business in 2003, picking up and delivering dry cleaning in southern Johnson County.

Then our lives changed even more.  In 2003, we moved from Westwood to a bigger home in Overland Park, near St. Thomas Aquinas High School.  Good thing, since we had our second child in February of 2004.  We still live in that house, which we love, and added two more kids to the mix, four in all!

During the last 10 years, Kansas City also became home to my extended family.  In 2005, my twin brother and his family moved to Kansas City from Orange County, California.  That same year, my younger sister and her husband settled in Overland Park from Ames, Iowa, after my brother-in-law graduated from Iowa State.  A couple years later, my parents migrated to Overland Park from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after my father retired.  Along with them, my beloved grandmother also moved to Overland Park.  Kari’s parents still live in northwest Iowa, but we are fortunate to see them regularly.

My first trip to Kansas City was in 1990.  I was a senior in high school, and our concert band played at Worlds of Fun.  A charter bus convoy transported about 200 students from Marshalltown, Iowa to Kansas City for a weekend at the amusement park, interrupted by a brief concert we performed.  That following summer, I was a freshly minted high school graduate, and traveled down to Kansas City with my best friend, Matt, who was a devoted Royals fan.  That was the first major league baseball I ever attended.   I still remember our seats, just past third base in the lower level.  We smoked a couple of Swisher Sweets (legal to do in the stadium at the time), enjoyed the major league atmosphere, and returned home to Marshalltown the next day.

When Kari and I moved to Kansas City, we settled on the Kansas side of the border, mostly because Kari was going to grad school at KU.  We were young (25 years old), and had more free time and discretionary income than we realized at the time.  Both of those factors allowed us the opportunity to go to quite a few Royals games.  We watched Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and Carlos Beltran light up the scoreboard.  We were there when Chili Davis hit two home runs in a game, one from the right side of the plate, and one from the left.  We were there for the brawl between the Royals and Cardinals, initiated by St. Louis.  Dye hit a home run (grand slam??), and Johnny Damon was the next batter.  He was immediately hit by a pitch –on his shoe.  I don’t think he even felt it, but he rushed the mound almost as soon as the ball left the pitcher’s hand.  In 1998, we were at the stadium and saw the Angels’ Jim Edmonds make the catch against the Royals that earned him an Espy award.  As I remember, he turned toward the fountains on a dead sprint and laid out to catch a quickly descending fly ball to end a Royals’ rally.  The crowd collectively gasped in awe, disappointment, and then an understanding that we saw something special.  We went to a game that featured a post-game concert by Alabama.  The next year, we went to a game with Randy Travis singing afterwards.   We have had seats in the upper deck, the lower deck, six rows behind home plate next to the radar guns, both baselines, and even in the suite directly behind home plate.  Even writing this, I can’t believe all the games we saw.  To tell you the truth, most of them were losses.  That didn’t matter; we were having a great time with great friends, on beautiful summer evenings, at a great stadium, in a great city.

Then we started our era of having kids.  Kari stayed at home, and I was running our fledgling business.  The discretionary time and money was not what it used to be.  Our trips to the K became pretty infrequent.   When we went, it was often with someone from our extended family, on either side.  We did not make it to the All-Star game a couple years ago.  But we did go to the parade at the Plaza.  During the All Star week, our oldest daughter remarked more than once, “I’m so proud to live in Kansas City.  This is OUR city!”  Exactly!!

After the all-star break this summer, we really began to track the Royals.  SungWoo Lee and the old-fashioned Mr. Mustache putting up the blue “W” were awesome.  We would put the kids to bed and watch the last three innings whenever we could.  My wife is a very knowledgeable sports fan, and a huge Royals fan.  By the way, what other city would embrace SungWoo Lee in a genuine, honest way like we did?  I can tell you:  nowhere.

This season was special because the Royals are special.  The Royals are special because Kansas City is special.  Owning a service business has allowed me to meet lots and lots of people in KC.  At least in this part of town, Kansas City is filled with immigrants. . . from Kansas, Missouri,  Nebraska, Iowa,  Arkansas and Oklahoma.  Even Kentucky (that’s for you Chip and Jo).  Also, immigrants from around the world are part of our town.  I personally know immigrants and first generation Kansans from Austria, Germany, Panama, India, Ukraine, South Korea, England, and Mexico.  People like us, drawn to Kansas City because of the opportunity to make a life in this great city.  We are Kansans by choice.  Many of my friends who were born and raised in Kansas City also trace their roots back to small towns in the Midwest.  Their parents or grandparents migrated to Kansas City for the very same reasons we did.

During football season, Kansas City is peppered with flags displaying our various regional heritages:  Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, OU, Pitt State, and of course K-State and Mizzou (KU fans understandably are subdued in fall).  But Kansas City Royals baseball is the common sports denominator for all of us.  None of these areas has a major league baseball team, so it’s easy to pledge allegiance to our hometown Royals.

Kansas City is not like St. Louis at all. St. Louis is like an “eastern city”.  Kansas City is not like Dallas or Denver either.  It’s a sensible, modest city with a confidence that would never be confused with conceit.  “No, Mrs. East Coast, we do not drive John Deere tractors on dirt roads.  But if we did drive tractors every day, that would be just fine.”  “No, Mr. West Coast, Kansas is not the flattest state in America.  That would be Florida.  Have a nice day, sir.”

I am not an “analyze every pitch, follow every trade, memorize every statistic, watch every inning” kind of fan.  Most Royals fans are like me, I think.  We like the Royals for reasons that go beyond baseball.  Our proud city doesn’t need the Royals to affirm our identity and value.   But it feels good to puff our chests out just a little bit, and stand a little taller –knowing that our Royals represented us well.  Great season Kansas City!

-Derek Anderson, owner.  The Green Van Dry Cleaning



Categories News | Tags: , , , , , , | Posted on October 31, 2014

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