Indomitable Royals win first championship in 30 years

By and large, professional athletes are completely detached from the realities of today’s general public.

The 2015 world champion Kansas City Royals – let that sink in – are a refreshing representative to the contrary. That will forever be their legacy.

They’re a bunch of guys playing the game the way it’s intended to be played, representing a franchise they’ve collectively been married to from the beginning. These Royals have more grit than flash and more heart than skill. Kansas City has proven to be ahead of the curve when it comes to competing in today’s Major League Baseball landscape, but only reached this point through years of painful rebuilding and restructuring.

No cut corners. No bought players. No quick fixes.

Their stars humbly grinded their way through the minor league system together. Alex Gordon. Eric Hosmer. Mike Moustakas. Salvador Perez. It wasn’t easy, and they paid their dues often through trial and error. Adversity and dark days are still a part of their fabric.

The same can be said for the Royals’ organization in general. Seventeen losing seasons in 18 years between 1995 and 2012, including 12 with 90 or more setbacks. For all intents and purposes, they served as the sport’s punchline for the better part of two decades.

This team trailed Houston by four runs with six outs left in their playoff lives during the American League Divisional Series. They were behind heading into the eighth inning four times in the five World Series games, yet lost only once.

Forty runs in the eighth inning or later during the 2015 postseason. No other team scored more than five. An astounding 51-11 run advantage over the opposition from the seventh inning on.

The Royals weren’t just lucky late in games. It wasn’t talent simply taking over, either. They succeeded in clutch moments and found a way to persevere together, because time and time again, they’d failed in clutch moments and had no choice but to persevere together.

Kansas City’s ”every man” personality isn’t only about having the most paltry payroll of a World Series winner since 2003, or the approachable demeanor the team seems to embrace. Those qualities certainly make the Royals more likeable, but not necessarily transcendent.

They were pushed around, knocked down, counted out, even written off. They stunk, then got better, then got good, then came close – only to have their hearts broken.

And then this happened. A title, scars and all.

When conventional wisdom told them to pull the plug, they kept plugging away. So the fans remained steadfast, both passionate enough in their loyalty and intrigued by exactly where this would end.

Today, they’re celebrating together. And we should celebrate both with them and for them, because their story embraces one of life’s truest lessons: success is almost always going to be a combination of patience, timing, sacrifice and commitment.

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 sports@messengernews.net