As of today, things look a little bit more optimistic when it comes to the start of the 2020 season. Per ESPN sources, it seems like Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association are negotiating a deal to begin play in Spring Training complexes and Chase Field in Arizona with no fans and regular testing. Here is the link to the article below:
Of course, nothing is set in stone yet, and even though the plan looks encouraging, a May return seems pretty optimistic considering the United States’ current situation with COVID-19 management. After all, Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan’s equivalent of Major League Baseball) was all set to begin games without fans, but that plan fell apart after multiple players tested positive with COVID-19 shortly after games began. Thus, MLB needs to make sure proper testing and monitoring is in place, or else MLB could make the situation worse, which would only further jeopardize the entire season in the process.
However, as a Royals fans, I try to be optimistic. And I am more positive than a week or two ago that after this announcement, baseball will happen sooner rather than later. Yes, there probably won’t be fans for a month or two, perhaps even longer if things do not get better “curve”-wise in the United States. But I do think baseball games will take place in some way, shape, or form in 2020.
So what should Royals fans look forward to if baseball returns in 2020? Here are five things that Kansas City baseball fans can look forward to, even if it will not involve watching the Royals in person at Kauffman Stadium for a while.
Game threads on Royal Review, Reddit, and Twitter
One of the great things about being a baseball (or sports fan in general) in the digital age is that you can interact with fans during games through various discussion board-esque threads. Whether it’s at Royals Review, KC Royals Reddit, or just in general on Twitter among Royals “Twitter” nation, it is fun to be able to irrationally get excited or depressed depending on the flow of a Royals baseball game. While there won’t be any fans in the stadium when Royals games begin again, there certainly will be Royals fans on the Web, not just following the game, but using all kinds of memes and GIFs to express their true feelings about the game at hand, in addition to their overall thoughts about Royals baseball.
So Royals fans, get your avatars and flairs ready. Game thread season will be back after a short hiatus, and you can guarantee it’s going to get lit on there.
The voice of Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler (and maybe Denny Matthews and Steve Physioc) in the background
I don’t know if there is a set plan for broadcasting during this re-vamped plan. (After all, I only read the first two paragraphs of the article, much like most of the nation does with reporting pieces; hey at least I read it!) Will MLB just use a set number of broadcasters to limit exposure? Will they allow teams to use their own broadcasters? And if so, will they limit it to just one set team (i.e. only a TV team, and no radio team?) While these questions aren’t the most pressing ones, they still will be ones worth examining, and could become talked about more should the “Arizona Plan” become more and more a reality.
During this time, as I have worked, I have had the 2018 Royals season playing in the background, almost like work music for me. Except that music is the voice of Lefebvre and Hudler being overly optimistic about the 2018 Royals (God, they love Duda). I hope when games start back up this year, I can once again be serenaded by Lefebvre’s professional tone, and Hudler’s off-the-wall craziness…only this time with games that aren’t replays, but actually happening.
Royals fans debating about Royals players and games for real now
I have been able to do a lot of writing during this COVID-19 pandemic, with most of my posts either hypothesizing Royals players and strategies for the upcoming season and beyond, or researching and analyzing Royals history. And granted, there’s a lot of fun in that: I like wondering if the Royals will make Salvador Perez a franchise player like Alex Gordon or if they will let him go in free agency, and the “Royals World Series” project has gotten me to know Royals teams and players that preceded my fanhood and well…life in general. But, I long to write not about projections or simulations between past Royals teams, but the present day Royals and how they are actually doing on the field.
If baseball starts again in May (or June), then that will happen again. We will see what Royals are getting off to hot and cold starts, and be able to debate about the decisions new manager Mike Matheny is making on the field. We will become irrationally confident if certain players get off to hot starts (what if Jorge Lopez really puts it together this year and becomes one of the Royals’ best starters?) and we’ll hit the panic button should other Royals not live up to the hype (what if Hunter Dozier regresses a bit out of the gate?). We’ll examine Matheny’s managing style, and either appreciate his new refreshing approach in KC, or long for the days of Ned Yost, even if his tenure ended with a whimper record-wise. And if the Royals get off to a hot start? World Series 2020, baby! And if they don’t? Fire Matheny and Dayton Moore!
And we thought the Trump pandemic handling got people fired up in Kansas City.
But most importantly, as Royals fans, we won’t be talking about projections, predictions, or predilections (see the alliteration?) when the games start up again. We’ll be talking Royals baseball…on the field…live. And that just makes me (and I’m sure other Royals faithful) giddy just thinking about it.
Self-Quarantining Tailgating at home
So, if the season starts up again, we most likely will be watching Royals “home” games in our own homes instead of Kauffman. And that is sad. Nothing beats tailgating at the K with close friends, decked out in Royals gear, enjoying some cold brews and BBQ while talking all things Royals hours before a game. Royals tailgates are a different kind of breed too: chill, laid back, and warm compared to the cold, “pound-em fast” fests of Chiefs tailgates at Arrowhead.
However, what can Royals fans do in the meantime to satisfy this urge for “outdoor, parking lot leisure” as baseball is played in isolation in Arizona? Well, tailgate in Self-Quarantine, obviously. Bust out the home grill, be it a Weber charcoal, a fancy propane one, or even a smoker, and cook up what you normally would for a Royals evening or afternoon contest. Brisket? Go for it. Pulled pork? No problem. Burgers and brautwurst? You do you, Royals fans. This is your self-quarantine taligate after all!
And how can you make it better? Get your neighbors all in on it. Have them grill out on their porches or patios and you can shoot the shit about the Royals game upcoming on television. If you don’t have patios? Move it to the driveway, and maybe pull that television into the garage if you don’t want to be constantly moving in and want to simulate an outdoors experience. And your neighbors can be in their driveways as well, with folding lawn chairs set up, packs of Boulevard at hand, all enjoy tailgating fare as if it were a day at the K, all while still practicing the proper six feet or more distance etiquette.
Come on…this sounds great during this time, admit it. I know I am looking forward to it.
Giving Royals fans hope for games at the K in 2020 (or at least be more excited in 2021)
While baseball will not start with fans in Arizona, baseball is still baseball. The nine innings, the crack of the bat, the sound of a strike three call, the seventh inning stretch, etc. All of the little aspects of baseball combine to make an object of beauty so majestic that one cannot have summer properly without baseball, the Nation’s pastime. There is no better game in sports, in my opinion, and there is not better version of baseball than Royals baseball, especially at Kauffman, even despite the Royals’ flaws as a club.
And that is what baseball in Arizona to start the year will give us as Royals fans. Hope that baseball will return to the K. Hope that we are returning to normal sooner rather than later. Hope that dollar dog nights, and bobblehead give-aways will one again be part of our summer evenings here in Kansas City. Hope that the Royals will surprise and surpass expectations, even though 90 percent of the time (and that’s generous) they will fall short.
Baseball in Arizona will give us that much needed hope in these global dark times. And it will also give Royals fans the hope that whether it 50-40-20 or even 10 games at the K, that there CAN be baseball in 2020. It may not be a lot, but a game at the K in 2020 will be worth a 100 in terms of importance considering all we have been through as a city, state, nation, and world.
And even if we don’t play at the K in 2020…baseball still being played will give us the excitement for 2021. After all, maybe the longing will help pack Kauffman in 2021 and give it the atmosphere it once had from 2014-2017, when Kauffman was the place to be in Kansas City during the summer months. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I know my, and other Royals fans, are feeling that hole in their heart for Royals baseball that is longing to be filled sooner rather than later.
I am a hopeful guy though, and I hope baseball returns to Kauffman in 2020, though I will just be happy with any baseball whatsoever this season.
And I’ll let Andy and Red close out my reasons for having hope in these dark times (and yes I’m posting the whole scene because the “Shawshank Redemption” is awesome):