Royals fans find themselves on defensive

Some Royals fans defended their fan base after the recent Robinson Cano controversy. Kyle Rivas/MLB PhotosGetty Images

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Royals fans promise they’re not all like the fans who allegedly harrassed Robinson Cano’s family during the Home Run Derby.

“I think we tried to treat everybody the best we could in Kansas City for that game,” said Dave Rosewell, who arrived at Kauffman Stadium early Sunday morning to wait for autographs with his sons.

Rosewell then paused.

“But you always have one in a crowd.”

That one -- or perhaps several -- left Cano with a bad taste for Kansas City after last week’s All-Star Game festivities.

Cano was booed throughout All-Star festivities for leaving hometown favorite Billy Butler out of the Home Run Derby. But Cano is used to being booed; Yankees get booed almost everywhere they go.

The shots at Cano’s family crossed the line, he said.

“They were yelling stuff at my family, which I don’t see as the right thing,” Cano told reporters after the Derby. “If I get booed, I don’t really care. But when you start with your family, that’s over the line.”

Royals fans we spoke with before the end of the first series at Kauffman Stadium since the All-Star Game agreed.

“Just ridiculous, childish, something kids would do, you know,” James Hankins said.

“After saying he would select a Royals player for the Home Run Derby and then not, the booing him I understand. But going after the family isn’t too good for Kansas City fans,” added Keith Frazier, who was at the Derby.

Butler wasn’t available for comment on Sunday, and a Royals PR rep said Butler probably wouldn’t say much about Cano even if he were available.

When Royals manager Ned Yost was asked about the incident in his office before Sunday’s game, he said he’s focusing on the present.

“That was a week ago,” said Yost, seemingly tired of the subject. “We’re trying to look past that, aren’t we?”

Frazier and others say Kauffman is a family-friendly place … so long as you’re not a Cardinals fan.

“Cardinal fans are usually the only ones we give stuff to around here, but that’s an in-state rivalry,” Frazier said. “Other than that, we’re usually pretty good.”

Some people mocked Royals fans for booing Cano over such a trivial slight. One Royals fan attributes the sensitivity to the Kansas City’s uninspired play on the field since George Brett hung up his cleats in 1993.

"We haven’t had much to cheer for for a long time,” said lifelong Royals fan Alex Hontz. "We finally had something, and [Cano] took that away.”

Something Cano couldn’t take away: the growing popularity of Billy Butler in the City of Fountains.

Since last week’s Derby snub, Butler has gone from solid player to something of a folk hero in Kansas City. Fans wearing Butler T-shirts and jerseys, some bearing the All-Star Game patch, were a frequent sight at Kauffman Stadium this weekend.

So what is it about a career .297 hitter with 90 home runs in six seasons (through Sunday) that inspires so much passion?

“He’s been here for so long, and he’s been good for the whole time he’s been here,” said Hontz, wearing a navy blue Butler “shirsey.”

Even though he’s from Orange Park, Fla., Royals fans say Butler’s approach to his job has endeared him to Kansas City residents.

“The city loves him,” Frazier said. “He’s down-to-earth. He plays the game like he should. He hustles, he does the right things. He’s a leader for the team, so we rally around him so he can help everyone else.”