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Up To Date

A Fan's Notes: Are You Ready For Some . . . Baseball?

Royals.jpg
Beth Lipoff
/
KCUR

Labor Day, envisioned as a national tribute to America’s workers, has really come to mean one thing: “Get back to work. Summer’s over.” There’s a parade, a picnic, a telethon, and then the focus turns to fall. Swimming pools close. Any schools that didn’t start class weeks ago are finally in session. And, of course, no more wearing white.

Usually, there’s one more sign around here: Come September, all talk of baseball stops—if it hadn’t already—as a singular refrain resounds around the Kansas City sports scene: Are you ready for some football? It’s always been a rhetorical question. But, this year…

You see, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Kansas City Royals are in first place—the latest they’ve held the division lead in any year since 1985. This week, it was the Royals playing to a national TV audience on Monday Night Baseball, and K.C. will be celebrated again this Sunday in ESPN’s marquee game of the week, the first time that’s happened in nearly 20 years. And all of it on the heels of a Sports Illustrated cover that hasn’t jinxed the team one bit. (Excuse me while I knock on wood.)

So, sure, college football is underway, and next week the NFL games start to count. It’s not like that’s not exciting. But right now, the real question is, are we ready…for September baseball?

Probably not, in the sense that we fans have got some cramming to do, pondering matters that haven’t been relevant here in a generation: How does the expanded roster work? Who will the September call-ups be? What’s our “magic number?”

I mean, it’s been fun. Over the past several weeks, with all the bad news coming in from across the state and around the world, these Royals have provided a respite. They’ve become a national story, even an international one. Sung Woo Lee was the best thing to happen to Royals fans since George Brett—and even Brett was dying to meet him. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just Google “South Korean superfan.”

But now, a feel-good story turns into a real drama. To strain a sports metaphor, a baseball season may be a marathon, not a sprint—but a pennant race is just that, a mad dash to the finish line that happens to take a month. From here on out, there will be a meaningful game almost every day.

The statisticians at Baseball Prospectus give the Royals an eighty percent chance of making the playoffs and, as the cliché goes, they control their own destiny. But, of course, that’s not how destiny works. As good as they’ve been, they haven’t clinched anything yet. So if you’re like me, get ready to plan your schedule around every game, and hang on every pitch. Get ready to second-guess every sac bunt, pinch hitter, pitching change, and intentional walk.

Go. Enjoy your weekend. But don’t think for a second that summer is over. We still have some 90-degree days ahead, and Arrowhead Stadium isn’t the only one about to get a lot louder after Labor Day. It’s September, and a real playoff contender is taking the home field. Yes, those are your Kansas City Royals.

They’re the ones still wearing white.

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Up To Date A Fan's Notes
Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.