Checking out the scene at the ballpark

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Every World Series has a great pregame spirit, but it was hard to top Tuesday’s atmosphere outside Kauffman Stadium. For one thing, the weather was gorgeous -- sunny and mid-70s, the sort of weather we too rarely see at the World Series. For another, you had cheerful fans, in blue T-shirts (not winter coats and gloves), who have been waiting for this and enduring the misery of relentless losing seasons for nearly three decades. There was even a season-ticket holder driving a monster truck with moose antlers in honor of Mike Moustakas.

Most importantly, of course, you had great Kansas City barbecue.

"There are a lot of people who aren't even coming to the game," Mark Heflin said while savoring a meal of rib eye, grilled peppers and onions, twice-baked potatoes and stuffed Anaheim chili peppers with bacon wrap. "They're just here for the atmosphere."

With so many urban ballparks, there are limited opportunities for tailgating at baseball games. Among the best parks for tailgating are Milwaukee, Oakland and Kansas City. KC has an advantage over all the others, though, because this city knows its barbecue.

"Smoked meat [is the key]," Joe Rybnick said while working one of the many grills outside the stadium. "In some places, they just slather the barbecue sauce on it, and in Kansas City, we smoke it. So we've got ribs -- well, we had ribs, but they're gone. Ribs, pulled pork, Italian sausage from southeast Kansas."

He pointed to the pulled pork.

"Do want to try some of this?"

Do you really have to ask?

Among those enjoying the tailgating atmosphere were Josh Lawson and Chris Polsak. Lawson has waited nearly his entire life for the Royals' return to the World Series. Although just 5 years old at the time, he vividly remembers the 1985 World Series, which was when his family upgraded to what was then the height of media technology: a 27-inch color TV.

Lawson lives in South Carolina now, but he wasn't going to miss the Royals' return to the World Series, even though he had to fly and pay $850 for a ticket to the game.

"My wife told me, 'You're going. It's been 29 years. If you don't go, you're not coming home,'" he said. "So I said, I better roll."

Heflin grew up a Royals fan, with his childhood home just a couple miles from the stadium. But when the 1994 strike canceled the World Series, he went on strike against baseball.

"I said I would only go back if the Royals were in the World Series," he said. "My son comes up here and volunteers at games all the time. I wouldn't come. 'No, they took away my World Series. It's like apple pie!'"

Or worse, taking away Kansas City barbecue.

Said Rachel Van Zant: "The fans here have been through a lot."

But after 29 years, the World Series is back in Kansas City. And Royals fans are savoring it as much as slow-smoked meat in a sweet sauce.

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The Royals even have their own super fan, or as he bills himself, the Super Fan. SungWoo Lee is a South Korean man with a corporate job who somehow became obsessed with the Royals in the 1990s. He apparently visited Kansas City for the first time in August, and then the Royals went on a 9-1 streak, which led fans to believe he was a good luck charm for the club.

He was back for Game 1 of the World Series, which apparently had many fans convinced this World Series is already over. As fans waited outside the stadium for the gates to open three hours before the game, Lee was posing for photos. He even went on the local sports radio station, though his English is a little spotty. As he walked up to the radio booth, he paused to wave to the crowd and do a 360-degree turn as he took some selfies.

And he was on the field while the Royals took batting practice:

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There were scalpers looking to buy tickets to turn around and sell. There were fans looking to buy tickets. There were fans in George Brett jerseys and Salvador Perez T-shirts and "Take the Crown" paper hats. There were fans with pumpkins painted blue and mysterious, blue, liquid refreshments. They were all dressed in blue, except for the rare orange-clad Giants fan.

Then there was Anthony Warner wearing his local Knights of Columbus badge. He was trying to sell a 1985 Royals World Series satin jacket for $500.

"It's been in the family for a long time," he said.

We don't know if he was able to sell it, but if he did, it was certain to go to another family member: The Royals family.