2011 got off to a great start for the Royals, playing well against two talented, high-profile, high-payroll teams. Bottom line: fans were actually a little disappointed at a 4-2 start against the Angels and White Sox! The first weekend of the season also meant a glimpse into what promises to be a promising future.
On Opening Day, one of the greatest guys and ballplayers to ever wear Royal Blue had the honor of throwing out the first pitch. Here Mike Sweeney walks off the field arm-in-arm with the man who caught his first pitch, George Brett. Sweeney had signed a one-day contract days earlier so that he could retire as a Royal, the team with which he spent the vast majority of his outstanding career. The sellout crowd loved it. They had a great time, despite temperatures in the 40′s, and despite falling to the visiting Angels. The days ahead would soften that disappointment.
On the first Saturday of the 2011 season, following a second straight victory over the Angels, Royals fans got a glimpse into what promises to be a bright future. Appropriately enough, it was called The Futures Game, and it featured many of the organizations top minor league prospects. The newly renamed AAA Omaha Storm Chasers battled the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals on a big league field in front of a fan base anxious to see them come to Kansas City permanently. It was a fun event and it gave fans the chance to see “live” many of the men whose names they’ve heard, but whose talents they’ve never witnessed in person. It was great to see so many fans stick around for the minor league portion of the twin bill.
One of the players the fans were anxious to see was Eric Hosmer, the slick-fielding, all-fields hitting first baseman who has quickly advanced through the Royals farm system since they made him the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. With the giant Crown Vision in centerfield, it gave these young men a thrill to see their images on a larger-than-life scale, and gave the fans a chance to see what their future Royals look like. Fans also got to see lefty Mike Montgomery pitch for Omaha and dominate the hitters he faced. Mike Moustakous had fans who had never seen him play before chanting “MOOOSE.”
The Royals had an amazing run of late success during the season-opening homestand. I spent a lot of those late (and extra) innings in the camera well, just beyond the Royals dugout, waiting to interview whichever Royal turned out to be that days hero. With games going 13 and 12 innings, that was a lot of standing. But it was worth it! It’s a great view.
If it was a lot of standing around and waiting for me, imagine what it was like for Slugger! Nobody loves Royals baseball more than he does, but after all those extra inning games, even he go5 a little tired. Well…good things (usually) come to those who wait, and good news eventually came to the Royals popular mascot…
Another walk-off win! As Yankee voice John Sterling used to say “The Melk-man delivers!” Melky Cabrera with the game winning hit in the bottom of the 13th inning. There are few regular season moments in baseball better than a walk-off win. Melky signed with the Royals this winter hoping to re-ignite his career. He came to camp in great shape, and started hitting from day one…and he carried that success into the first week of the season as well. Four straight wins in their last at bat!