Willie Mays Hayes
Something changed last night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals and the Pirates were demonstrating why they’re the two worst teams in baseball. I found myself booing involuntarily. It was the only appropriate response to what I was witnessing.
Then newly acquired outfielder Joey Gathright came to bat for the first time in the bottom of the third. He hit a weak grounder, but instead of dejectedly trudging toward first in the fashion of most current Royals, he ran hard. And fast. Gathright was out, but that was the pivotal moment when things changed for the Royals.
The Royals’ pitching veered toward competency and the Royals put together a comeback win. Gathright, a real-life Willie Mays Hayes, did more than remind his new teammates about the concept of effort.
He changed the atmosphere in the stands. After Gathright's at-bat, the fans came alive. And it was only then that I realized that the mania for the hot dog race, the kiss cam, and Sluggerrr doesn’t really mean that Royals fans are hayseeds. It’s simply displaced enthusiasm. People are desperate for something to cheer for.
I believe they'll get it. Not anytime soon- this year’s team is historically awful. But it’s suddenly clear that Kansas City is still a baseball town.