S o let me just start off by saying that we can’t afford to lose games right now.
You know that. I’m not breaking any news here.
And we get it.
We’ve got a lot of ground to make up in the standings.
But I’m not giving up. None of us is.
And you know what? Sometimes crazy things happen when you know there’s no margin for error — when a team has its back against the wall.
A few years ago, that mindset helped us will ourselves back from four runs down to win the first playoff game this franchise had played in 29 years. So we know all about doing the unexpected.
During that wild card game against the A’s, we found ourselves in a spot where a lot of teams would’ve packed it in and called it a season. But if you keep grinding and let things play out, weird things can happen.
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It’s funny to think about now, but I remember walking up and down the dugout during that game muttering, “We are not losing this game.” Just saying that over and over. To myself. Or, like, I don’t know, to the universe. “There’s no way we’re losing this game.”
People probably thought I was a little nuts. But while I was doing that, I could tell that everyone else in that dugout was thinking the same thing.
I remember looking directly into my teammates’ eyes — Hos, Gordo, Salvy, Esky, everyone up and down the bench, just every single guy — and everyone had the exact same determined look.
We’re NOT going to lose this game!
And, well, then a bunch of crazy stuff started happening, we stole a million bases and got some huge hits and … you know the rest.
When I saw Salvy’s smash get past Donaldson down at third, and Salvy raising his arms up over his head, I almost couldn’t control myself I was so happy.
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So, yeah, I believe in miracles. I’ve seen it all. And maybe I need to bring that whole “We are not losing!” dugout mumbling thing back for all the games we have left.
I’ll have to think about it, I guess, but I can promise you this much: I’m going to give it everything I have for the rest of the season. We all are. You’re not going to see a single guy on this team packing it in.
That’s not what we do. That’s not the Royal way.
We’re going to go out and play as hard as we can, and then … we’ll see what happens.
One of the coolest things about that wild card game three years ago was that it wasn’t just the players who made that win possible.
We all did it together — players, coaches, fans. The entire Royals family.
And I definitely use that last word intentionally.
This Royals organization, and this city, really are like family to me.
I came to the Royals when I was an 18-year-old kid, and I’m 29 now. So I’ve spent more than one-third of my life with this team.
And literally from Day One, everyone here has made me feel special. As a player, you feel that love and you just want to do everything you can to win ballgames for the franchise. It makes a difference. And once that winning mindset becomes ingrained, it never goes away.
It becomes part of who you are.
Me and Hos talk about this all the time. As we were coming up through the system together, we bought in completely to what we were being taught, and we won our fair share of championships. It started early, all the way down in Low A ball, when I was 19 and too young to drink champagne during the celebration. (Sparkling cider just isn’t the same, you know what I mean? It doesn’t spray in the same way … and it definitely doesn’t taste as good.) But in any case, I truly believe those experiences helped us when it came time to us to compete for titles at the major league level.
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By the time I made it to the bigs I was 22, and I’d grown up a ton as both a player and a person. But, you know, I was still really just a kid.
You kind of look up one day and you’re out there in front of 40,000 people playing against grown men. Legends. Jeter. Thome. Cabrera.
You’re just trying to figure things out, really, and that’s what you’re seeing in the opposing dugout. It can be, how can I put this … a lot.
And I can say for certain that what enabled me to somehow make it through those first few seasons intact was a bunch of things that I think are truly unique about Kansas City and this Royals organization.
One of the biggest things that allowed me to get comfortable was the fact that I came up with a core group of young players who all got the call at around the same time. Me, Hos, Salvy, Danny Duffy, Jarrod Dyson, Greg Holland, we all found ourselves on the major league team and were able to kind of figure it out together, after becoming friends in the minors.
And when I say friends, I don’t mean, like, just teammates who you’re cool with. I mean real, true friends.
I became like brothers with those guys. I love and respect them as people, and I’d do anything for them. So to be able to break in and not only have tremendous leadership from guys like Alex Gordon, but to also have so many friends around you to help with the transition … that was huge for me. We were all watching our friends’ dreams come true.
And, of course, we were doing that in front of fans who were so hungry for winning baseball. I remember after all of us got up to the big leagues, and kind of showed that we were here to stay, there was just this cool buzz around the stadium. Like, These kids are legit. This is gonna get really fun.
You can’t help but be motivated by that sort of vibe, you know? And then, from there, the city and our group kind of grew into winning together. We had each other’s backs and we fed off each other’s energy every single night at the ballpark.
John Sleezer/TNS/ZUMA Wire
The final piece of the puzzle, and what probably helped me the most as a young player coming up, is just that family atmosphere that starts at the very top with the Glass family and filters down through Dayton Moore and everyone in the front office, to Ned and all the coaches, to the players, right on down to the clubhouse staff and trainers, and all the way through the system.
When you’re in that type of environment, you just have this sense of calm, and a feeling of security, that allows you to be yourself and play your best every night.
These guys — Dayton, Ned — they always have your back. Always. Good times. Bad times. It makes no difference … they are going to have your back no matter what. They show you, time and time again, that they care about you as a person, and about your family. So it became clear to me from very early on that I was truly valued here.
And sometimes it really hits you how meaningful and important that is.
Two years ago, when my mom passed away, every single person on this team came up to me and gave me a hug and just made it crystal clear that they would be there for me in any way I needed.
I’ll always remember Hos locking eyes with me the first time we saw each other after my mom’s passing, and him just walking up to me at my locker, putting his arms around me and giving me a great big hug.
It still gets me, to this day, when I think about that moment.
When you can build lifelong friendships with the people you work with and know that your friends are always there for you to lean on, that’s really a wonderful feeling. And those relationships have shaped me in so many ways.
It goes so much deeper than the sport of baseball.
At the same time, though, there’s always business to take care of on the field. And right now, you know, I’m not gonna lie … we’ve got our work cut out for us.
And, look, we get that there’s another element lurking in the background here. We know that some of us are going to become free agents after the season. We know things may be different next year in some ways.
But we’re not thinking about that now.
We’re spending our time making sure that we do all we can to win ballgames and give our fans something to cheer about. And if we do enough of that … you never know.
The more you play this game the more you realize that anything is possible. Nothing shocks me anymore.
I can tell you that one of the greatest moments I’ve ever experienced came when this team did something that so many people over the past three decades thought was never, ever going to happen.
I mean, when we clinched that playoff spot in 2014 it was one of the most awesome nights of my entire life. We came back into the clubhouse and we were popping bottles, lighting up cigars, and just going nuts.
And I think that what we were most excited about was that we had brought playoff baseball to Kansas City for the first time in most of our lifetimes. Making that happen with a group of guys I’d spent six or seven years with, guys who rode busses with me in the minors, people who are my friends … that was just incredible.
I’ve experienced some amazing celebrations in my day. But nothing — nothing — compares to the one we had that late September night on the road in Chicago. It had just been so long for this franchise, and we knew how proud the whole city was of us. It meant so much to us to be able to reward our fans for all the love and dedication they’d shown to us over the years. And, obviously, that night was just a sign of things to come for us during the playoffs, and then with our World Series run the following year.
When we threw one of the most epic parades in the history of the entire world to celebrate that world championship in 2015 … it was all the more sweet because so many people had said it couldn’t be done.
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Seeing all those people out there in the streets, and the pure joy on the faces of our fans, just that sea of blue, with people on top of buildings and hanging out windows and climbing up light posts … just being there and knowing that we gave this incredible city a world championship is something I hold very dear.
I will never forget that moment as long as I live.
The relationship I’ve built with this city and the people of Kansas City means so much to me. Arriving here, and becoming a Kansas City Royal, and joining this family, has been one of the great honors of my life. It’s an absolute privilege to put that jersey on each day and represent for this city.
And while the entire baseball world may already be counting us out this year, and we could really, really use a five- or six-game winning streak right now, we’re not giving up, Kansas City.
We’ve all definitely seen crazier things happen, right?