I might never forgive those in charge at Belton High School for cutting off the radio that night. Battery life on my iPhone, which doubles as my recorder, was dangerously low already, and I knew I needed to complete interviews. At least, I could hear Denny Matthews over the loud speakers as 10 p.m. approached Sept. 26 at Southwick Stadium.
Following the football game between Platte County and Belton, the Royals broadcast was put on with fans in attendance advised they could stick around to hear the final three outs.
Not enough did.
And so I finished up my interviews and turned on the MLB At-Bat app with the power on my iPhone fading away. The game had already ended — which was good and bad.
I’ll always know the Royals ended a 29-year playoff drought, by far the longest in North America’s four major sports at the time, while I stood in the middle of a football field in Belton, Mo.
Not exactly how this lifelong Royals fan pictured the scene in his dreams.
I mused on Twitter before leaving that night for the game that going to Belton would be the worst time I’ve had since the last time I went to Belton.
That wasn’t entirely fair.
I found good food at The Little Pig BBQ and the athletic facilities at the high school were first class. The only negative was missing out on a memorable moment for my favorite team — an anti-perk of the odd hours of my job that you’d think I’d be more used to at this point.
Other Royals fans I know were either in Chicago to watch the game in person, celebrating en masse at a bar or holding their own private playoff party. I was in Belton and needed more than an hour drive to truly enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime-so-far event, remembering that I was barely two when the Royals last reached the postseason and won the World Series in 1985.
I grabbed a beer and a shot of Fireball at the house to calm my nerves. Couldn’t not celebrate, after all. That’s how big the moment became for long-suffering Royals fans.
Moments are finite in baseball, no guarantee of how long the ride goes on.
The Royals didn’t go on to win the American League Central Division. They ended up with a Wild Card, meaning a one-game scenario played out Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium — the first playoff game in Kansas City since the decisive Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.
I finished this column before the ending occurred.
Oakland’s Brandon Moss smacked a pair of home runs for the visitors, the second during a sixth inning that seemed to take another 29 years off my life. In reality, it lasted 10 batters and resulted in five runs for the A’s.
A hint of a potential miracle materialized in a three-run bottom of the eighth for the Royals, and the home team added another with help of the speed of Jarrod Dyson in the ninth to tie the score and send the game to extras.
Nine innings never seemed like enough for those of us who waited 29 years.
The years of losing piled up for this once-proud franchise, and those who stuck by wanted to make sure and tell their story. Some of the tales became a bit long-winded and seemed a little obtuse and self-serving.
There’s been no need to prove how long or how good of a Royals fan you were because we could finally enjoy this moment together.
I know that if I’m honest, I remember back to keeping a binder full of notebook paper with fake Detroit Tigers box scores that I made up for fun. First, what a loser, and second, the thought of spending that much time thinking about one of the Royals’ biggest rivals now makes me want to vomit.
I also briefly dabbled in the Mariners with a bit of obsession for how smooth Ken Griffey, Jr.’s home run swing looked. During late high school and early college years, I disconnected almost completely and only followed from afar, rarely attending games. I can admit my faults. Forgive me fellow Royals fans because I did sin.
But if we are all being perfectly honest, none of us want to remember where we were when Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran were traded, the tarp at Kauffman Stadium swallowed up our first basemen, forgettable starting pitcher Mark Redman represented the Royals in the All-Star Game, Sidney Ponson started a home opener years after he stopped being even decent or KC lost 100 games in 2002 — then 104 in 2004, 106 in 2005 and 100 more in 2006.
Unfortunately, there are too many other embarrassments to list.
Now we all have our story about where we were when the drought finally ended. A lot of good feelings will permeate for Royals fans when thinking about that particular moment.
Now, we have another moment, and I’ll remember where I was when that Wild Card game ended. Use your imagination to finish this story — unless the moment decided to last a little longer.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Citizen_Ross.