It seems to be just one bomb after another for folks not just nationally, but here in Kansas City as well. Last night, Governor of Kansas Laura Kelly ordered all K-12 schools in the state of Kansas to close their doors and go to online learning for the remainder of the semester in order to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. And as expected today, KSHSAA announced that all spring sports and competitions would be cancelled as well.
As a high school teacher and baseball coach, both news bits are devastating, and are only amplified when thinking about the kids, especially those seniors who will not have a graduation ceremony or be able to play one last Spring sport in their athletic careers.
To make matters worse, to go along with this, and the closure of all dine-in restaurants and bars, is the lack of sports, specifically Royals and Major League baseball, which as of now, is totally up in the air in terms of season-length as well as start date. In tough times, sports, especially baseball can be a great distraction. I remember the Yankees World Series (runners up) run in the wake of 9/11 and how that helped the nation come together amid that crisis. As of now though it seems unclear when sports will be back to help inspire, or at least distract, our nation once again.
So what can Royals fans do to help them get their Royals baseball fix during these “social distancing” and “self-isolation” times? What can they do in their house to help them satiate their passion and longing for Royals baseball at the K?
Here are three suggestions to help Royals fans during this tough time.
Watch classic Royals games on YouTube (pre-2014)
I was able to watch the 2015 World Series on DVD in its entirety during this “Spring Break” for me. However, while the high moments of Royals history are important, I think sometimes the 2014-2015 get so solely focused on that we miss out on other great moments in Royals history prior to that great two-year run.
As someone who was born in 1987, I have little to no context of the Royals in the 1980’s, when they were one of the best clubs in baseball, and had a pretty good rivalry with the New York Yankees. MLB Network did a re-run of the Pine Tar Game last night, but there are other classic Royals games worth watching:
First off, an underrated one worth watching is Game 2 of the 1984 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. Though the Royals got swept, it was the best game the Royals played, and it was a microcosm of a crazy year where the Royals came from behind and stole the West division at the time. I will embed this game below:
Another game worth watching is the 1980 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, which was the first World Series appearance in the club’s history. Though the Royals lost the series 4-2, the Royals did win Game 3, thanks to a two-hit performance from George Brett, who hit a home run and a double in the Royals’ 4-3 extra-innings win.
And lastly, who can forget Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, and the Don Denkinger “call”? This summer, a professor in my grad program at Notre Dame used this moment to talk about how that was one of the biggest heartbreaks he ever suffered as a St. Louis Cardinals fan.
Safe to say, watching this game with that talk in mind only made this more enjoyable to witness, especially the call.
Jorge Orta was safe, Cardinals fans. Deal with it.
Play past seasons in Strat-O-Matic
I have just ordered a board version of Strat-O-Matic, the classic sports board game that started with baseball, but now has hockey, football, and basketball versions. I grew up with the game as a kid, receiving it from an uncle as a Christmas gift, though it took me until my teenage years to really understand what the hell I was supposed to do when playing. Despite the learning curve (which mostly stemmed from my own struggle to concentrate on single things as a younger sprat), Strat-O-Matic definitely helped develop my love of baseball as well as baseball statistics. I still fondly recall my old set which I’m pretty sure I got during the 1995 season, the first season after the strike ended.
For those who need a tutorial of the digital version, which is Windows only (I have a Chromebook so I’m out of luck), you can take a look at the video below, which actually uses a Royals game with the Twins as an example:
The awesome thing about Strat-O-Matic is you can choose past seasons, and even play Negro League seasons, which is awesome when you consider Kansas City’s history as the hub of Negro League baseball (with a great museum off of 18th and Vine to boot). So pick a season, play it through, and enjoy the statistical nerdiness of Strat baseball, baseball nerds’ own version of Risk and Settlers of Catan.
Play as the Royals in MVP Baseball 2005
I know MLB the Show 20 is out. I understand most people have PS4 or XBox One gaming systems. As for me, I am not a big video game guy anymore. I mean, when I had my PS2, I loved Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 as much as the next guy. But as I have gotten older, I just find myself not having the time and/or patience to really dig into most video games these days, especially sports ones (the only one I can do is EA’s NHL series, mostly because I can play 5 minute period games, and still get scores that mirror what scores would be in real life).
However, if there is one baseball game I absolutely love above all others, it’s EA’s MVP Baseball 2005. As a kid, mostly in high school, I spent hours playing MVP Baseball 2004 and 2005. In fact, I felt it helped me as a hitter in high school, as it helped me recognize mistake pitches, and understand how to think like a pitcher when it came to what they would throw in certain counts. But most importantly, MVP Baseball helped me develop my love affair with the Royals, as I frequently played with them in Dynasty mode (wasn’t a fan of owner mode, because I couldn’t play in Kauffman Stadium). I mean, even if you watch the video below, the game still holds up incredibly well:
I choose MVP Baseball 2005 over 2004 mostly because it’s a bit better of a game with better graphics and better gameplay tweaks. However, I do love the 2005 Royals team a little more. The 2004 team was kind of overhyped, as they were coming off their first winning season since 1994, and GM Allard Baird acquired an over-the-hill Juan Gonzalez that off-season thinking that would take them to the next level (surprise, he did not). The 2005 club was a little more characteristic of most Royals teams over the past decade: some good pieces (Mike Sweeney, David DeJesus, Mark Teahan), but for the most part, not great. Which makes them a fun team to play with, because if you win with that roster, you are a good player (or at least playing on easy). Anyone can rock it out with the Yankees or Red Sox.
So boot up the PS2 or XBox if you got it. Get used to that middle-infield combo of Angel Berrora and Ruben Gotay. If anything, it will show you as a Royals fan that things have to be bad first before they can get better, which it did precisely ten years later.
Which is kind of symbolic considering the time and challenges we are currently facing, don’t you think, Royals fans?