After Kansas City rallied for the third time to beat the Athletics in the 12th inning of Tuesday's American League wild-card game, Royals announcer Ryan Lefebvre needed to thread his way through the impassioned crowd for a postgame spot near the outfield corner. The celebrating fans he passed along the way were so excited, so deliriously happy, that some simply opened their arms and implored Lefebvre, "Give me a hug!"
Well, that's the way it is when you've waited nearly three decades for a postseason game, longer than any other city has ever waited during the division era. You want to embrace the moment and hold it tight. And with Kansas City now needing just one more victory over the Angels to advance to the American League Champions Series, Royals fans might be even more excited -- if that's possible -- when the division series resumes Sunday in Kansas City with ace James Shields taking the mound against the Angels' C.J. Wilson.
And as great as Sunday's game might be for fans and the players, it will be even better for the scalpers. According to online ticket aggregator TiqIQ, the most expensive tickets for the division series selling on the secondary market are in Kansas City, where Royals ducats were averaging $338 on Friday. That's the highest average price for division series games since the company started tracking it in 2010.
The average price for Game 3 is even higher at $440, or well more than double the next-highest price tag for a team's opening home game ($181 for the Giants).
The average price for division series tickets across Missouri, in St. Louis, meanwhile, was roughly $90, the lowest tab among the postseason teams, according to TiqIQ. Which is understandable. The Cardinals have been to the postseason 11 times since 2000 and the World Series four times in that span, so their fans are used to this sort of thing. The Royals are playing in October for the first time since 1985, making these tickets precious.
"Fans haven't been to a playoff game in 29 years, that's what I make of it," Hall of Famer George Brett said Friday. "People who are 29 years and younger have never been to a playoff game there.''
Back in 1985, Brett said, Kansas City fans were accustomed to October baseball, just as St. Louis fans are now. The Royals went to the postseason seven times from 1976-85, including two World Series. And then came the drought. Three decades of mostly losing baseball and not a single postseason game.
"The team was owned by a trust for 10 years when Ewing Kauffman died in 1993, and the trust's instructions were, 'Don't lose any money.' They didn't,'' Brett said. "It was frustrating. Every spring training, I would say, 'We're going to surprise a lot of people.' I was really optimistic. And then by July, it would be, 'Well, maybe next year.''
Next year is this year, though, and the fans have returned. Kansas City still ranked among the lower average attendances in baseball in late summer, so low that even though they were in first place, the Royals were outdrawn by the (gulp!) Astros on Aug. 26 (17,345 to 13,847). That crowd was so sparse that even manager Ned Yost commented on it.
That's what three decades of losing does to a fan base, though.
The fans are excited now, however, packing Kauffman Stadium for the final homestand of the regular season and again for the wild-card game. "That Oakland game, we're down 7-3 and not one person left the stadium,'' Eric Hosmer said. "They were with us the whole way. And as they got going, we got going."
And after watching their Royals win three consecutive postseason games in extra innings -- the only team ever to do so -- the fans will be there in full force again for Game 3.
"I'm anticipating the same crowd we had [Tuesday]," Kansas City outfield Jarrod Dyson said. "They were on their feet in a packed house, and I'm looking forward to the same thing, man. If we get a win there in front of the home crowd, it will be huge for us. And huge for them. We're doing all this for them. We're trying to bring the excitement back to the city."
Oh, don't worry about that. Kansas City has been very excited this week.
"The atmosphere at the wild-card game was just like it was Monday night for the Chiefs game across the parking lot,'' Brett said. "And just like it will be at NASCAR [at Kansas Speedway] this weekend. And just like it will be this weekend at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, where 100,000 people will be down there partying and eating ribs from 800 different teams. It's been a big week in Kansas City. Chiefs, Royals, American world barbecue, NASCAR.
"The mayor of Kansas City is a very happy man right now.''
Well, he deserves to be. He and everyone else in Kansas City has certainly waited long enough.