A Royal family
It surfaced in Alex Gordon’s total disregard for his own safety.
Or when ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain laid down an impromptu sacrifice bunt – the first of his career.
We saw it as Mike Moustakas literally tossed his body into the dugout to make a catch at all costs.
Or in the way James Shields celebrated with Kansas City diehards as if he was just one of the guys.
The Royal family has officially gone mainstream from the nation’s heartland, even if their demeanor is anything but aristocratic. They play for each other. They play for their city. They take pride in the little things, connect with their fanbase on a personal level, and gain notoriety through their gritty style of play rather than their gaudy contracts.
Yes, the 2014 Royals – 29 years removed from their last playoff appearance, which just so happened to end in a world championship – are a breath of fresh air for baseball purists. True throwbacks. Their flair for the dramatic is entertaining enough, but they also play the game like it’s supposed to be played: with intensity, passion and sheer enjoyment.
Kansas City beats opponents with the bunt, the sacrifice fly and the stolen base. The players don’t seem to mind. Heck, they have fun doing it. Call it making magic out of the mundane.
Ten Major League Baseball teams qualified for the playoffs this fall. The Royals rank eighth in overall payroll, spending more money than only Oakland and Pittsburgh. Of the Top 50 individual contracts in the game today, not a single Kansas City player is found. Just two players – Shields and Gordon – even rank in the Top 100.
The Royals desperately want to win both ballgames and the approval of their followers. After sweeping the Angels in the ALDS, players took to the streets. Eric Hosmer and some of his teammates treated patrons of a downtown Kansas City establishment to an open bar, taking pictures and signing autographs in a party that reached the wee hours of the morning. Hosmer and his buddies picked up the tab, which totaled over $15,000.
This group lulls teams to sleep with ”small-ball” tactics, then delivers a clutch extra-base hit when it matters most. Their defense is ubiquitous. Their bullpen, relentless.
Regardless of what happens in the World Series, Kansas City has already emerged from a perfect October storm. It’s a relatively young roster that could potentially be on the verge of something special.
Whatever the future may hold, one thing is certain: the Royals aren’t in it for the money, or the fame, or themselves. They’re trying to capture a championship for each other. And for you, the long-suffering yet forever-loyal true blue.
THE ARCHETYPE: Manson Northwest Webster graduate Andy Jepson was rightfully inducted into the Iowa Central Hall of Fame earlier this month.
Jepson arrived in the fall of 1996 as a highly-touted freshman quarterback and valedictorian of his high school graduating class at MNW. He became a cornerstone recruit for new head coach Kevin Twait, as the Tritons went from 5-5 in their first year together to 9-2 and bowl champions by the end of Jepson’s sophomore campaign.
Jepson played at the Div. I-AA level after leaving Iowa Central, finishing his collegiate football career at Cal Poly-SLO. He is now a vice president of mortgage servicing for Wells Fargo in downtown Des Moines, and an assistant football coach for defending NAIA national champion Grand View University.
For as important as Jepson was to Twait’s rebuilding process on the field, he represented everything a student-athlete should be in the classroom and community. Jepson shattered so many stereotypes by choosing Iowa Central, proving that intelligent, hard-working kids from the area had the means and resources to succeed right here in Fort Dodge.
Jepson used Iowa Central to continue his playing days and further his education. Iowa Central used Jepson to sell itself as a bona fide institution for serious students who also happened to be talented athletes. It was a perfect match that kicked off a new era of legitimacy at our local community college.
From a sports perspective, honoring Jepson made sense. He certainly had the resume to back up the Hall of Fame invitation.
The recognition was an absolute must, though, from an educational standpoint. Jepson stood for everything a teacher or coach could possibly ask for at Iowa Central. The institution is a better learning environment today thanks in large part to the commitment from people like him.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org