We’ve heard a lot of fans say thank you. I want to take a moment to say thank for something much deeper.
What a magical ride! I woke up this past Sunday and said to myself, “The Kansas City Royals…MY Royals…are World Champions”. I imagine many of you felt the same way. Of course the Sunday prior to that there were cheers, tears, and every other emotion imaginable. Aside from the day my wife and I were married and the birth of our two children, this was the best day of my life. A life that has taken me through a tour in Iraq, personal career successes, among other things. This was it.
That’s why I felt that this, coupled with Veterans Day, was a good time to personally say thank you to an organization that has helped so many people without even meeting them.
My love for the Royals started around the time George Brett got his 3,000th hit. At least that’s the earliest memory I can recall. The first game I vividly remember was in 1993. Mike MacFarlane homered with Tom Gordon getting the win and Mark Gubicza getting the save in a 4-1 victory over the Mariners. I can also remember the 1994 work stoppage and how it felt like Royals fans were deprived of postseason baseball.
After that, it was just fun seeing if our one representative would play in the All-Star Game. 2000 was fun because the offense would score about 15 runs a game. The problem was the pitching would give up 16. However, I remember the excitement I had when two Royals made the All-Star Game and one of them would start. My Royals play with the best of the Yankees and Red Sox and getting elected to start? It was a fun time.
Really, though, I really felt the love for the team during the summer of 2003. I was 17 and had just joined the Army Reserves in November of 2002. I then received orders to attend Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Of course, the Royals got off to a 9-0 start and I would have to miss them during the summer. However, I was 17 years old and I had never been on my own before. Of course I was home sick and the first few nights sucked. However, once letters started coming in, I was alright. I remember receiving letters from my dad and in each one he would tell me how the Royals were doing and who was doing well. He told me how Mike Sweeney and Mike MacDougal both made the All-Star Game and how White Sox fans booed them when they were announced. It made me proud and it made the time go by quicker. During final inspection, Senior Drill Sergeant asked me who my favorite baseball team was. I proudly boasted “Kansas City Royals, Senior Drill Sergeant”. He shook his head and walked away. I just think he didn’t know Kansas City actually had a team.
I was also fortunate enough to sing the National Anthem with my chorus group in both 2003 and 2004. Then, in the summer of 2005, the Royals were giving out free tickets to games to members of the military with a valid ID. I spent 13 games at The K prior to the All-Star break with friends and family. They won 9 of the 13 games I went to. That may not seem like a big deal now, but, in 2005, it was considering they only won 56 games the whole year.
That July I was called up to active duty in preparation for my tour in Iraq. I watched “highlights” (again, 56-106, not much to be highlighted), but, I still wore my Royals gear with pride.
In November of 2005 I landed with my unit in Kuwait and was at Camp Q-West within two weeks. My wife (then fiancé) and I were trying to plan our two week leave together (she was stationed in Baghdad and I was stationed about 40 miles south of Mosul in Northern Iraq). However, it didn’t work out and so I planned my leave around Opening Day in 2006. I remember taking my brother to the second game of the season. I was wearing my Mark Teahan jersey when somebody came up behind me and said “I love that jersey”. It was Mark’s parents. They were incredibly nice people and talked to us for about 15-20 minutes.
My year in Iraq was stressful, but, I remember some days when the Royals were on Armed Forces Network. One of the times they played on AFN was against the Cardinals. Getting to see Teahan hit the game-winning home run in St. Louis was a great moment. I also decorated my CHU (Centralized Housing Unit) with my 1985 World Series Champions pennant and my Mark Grudzielanek jersey. When we had softball tournaments, I wore my Royals cap (though it broke regulation).
However, it was nice to get a small taste of home. While deployed I was on 92 combat logistics patrols while traveling through Mosul, Tal Afar, Tikrit, Samarra, Taji, and Baghdad. I experienced IED attacks and ambushes. However, any time I got to watch the Royals on AFN I got to get away from all that, even if it was only for a moment.
In 2007 I got to introduce my wife to the Royals and, in August, our daughter Chloe. I got to introduce my second daughter, Margaret, to them in 2014.
However, since I returned home from Iraq in 2006, I suffered from anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, etc. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress shortly thereafter. It was difficult to adjust to life.
You may be asking “How do the Royals help your PTSD”? It took me a long time to realize this, but, PTSD comes in waves. There are peaks and there are valleys. You work to make the peaks longer than the valleys. It’s just like baseball. A baseball season goes in streaks, both winning and losing. You work to make the winning streaks longer and more frequent than the losing streaks. If you lose in baseball, you have a game the next day. You can have a bad day, or two, or a slump, and yet you have to put it behind you or work hard to break out of your slump.
The same is true for those who suffer from PTSD. You’re going to have bad days and you may even experience a period of time where no matter what you do you can’t seem to come out of your slump. When that happens to me, I force myself to have fun, to open up more, to enjoy life knowing that my slump is only temporary and will pass. You take it one day at a time and look forward to tomorrow if you had a bad day.
The past two years especially have been wonderful. I witnessed a team that didn’t quit. No matter how great the odds were stacked against them they believed they would be okay. Often times, they were right. They were the comeback kids. The Royals lost Game 7 of the World Series in 2014 and, just like all of you, were hurting. However, they didn’t make any excuses and came right back and won the World Series this year.
As a veteran who lives with PTSD, I can appreciate that. It’s easy to quit, to give up, to just say you’ve been dealt a bad hand. However, I believe that no matter what happens to me, I’ll come out better for it.
The Royals style of baseball makes us joyful and provides us with excitement. Yet to many veterans, like myself, it provides so much more.
That’s why I want to take this time to say thank you for what you do. Without you guys doing what you do and supporting us, many of us veterans and active duty personnel couldn’t do what we do.
Thank you, Royals!
The Royals are one of the most successful expansion franchises in baseball and they had their share of postseason memories. From Game 1 of the 1976 ALCS to Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, they Royals have had many moments that left fans cheering. ... Read more