Every year, the excitement I get for Kansas City Royals’ opening day is always hard to put in words. I started my first job (volunteer) at 12 years old, batboying for the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers during spring training at Surprise Stadium. As a kid, I loved just being around the game every day. I dealt with a lot of bullying in elementary and middle-school. Kansas City Royals baseball was my way to get away from school and the constant ridicule. It was a place where I felt like I was accepted for who I was each day I was at the ballpark. I remember conversations with players and coaches like it was yesterday. Whether George Brett explained his favorite Gatorade flavor to me or then-manager Tony Pena taught me how to spit seeds. I’ll never forget how every player and coach with the Kansas City Royals did whatever it took to make us feel part of the team.
Growing up in Arizona, I was able to be around baseball nearly 24/7. The batboying gig eventually led to me obtaining a REAL job with the Kansas City Royals as a Clubhouse Attendant/Clubhouse Manager during minor league spring training, extended spring training, and the Arizona League. My passion for Royals baseball, specifically Royals minor league baseball, grew tenfold. My first season was in 2007. I was lucky enough to develop so many memories as a 16-year-old. Danny Duffy was one of the first players I got to pick up from the airport after draft day. And 17-year-old Salvador Perez was making his professional debut in the Arizona League.
I couldn’t ask for much more as a high school kid. Will Simon and Nick Leto gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. They gave me a place to not only be around the game I love but a place where I could learn the importance of a strong work ethic, what it meant to treat people with the utmost respect no matter who they were, and to develop so many relationships that I still keep today. This type of attitude was shown top-down throughout the organization, whether it was front office staff coming to visit, the training and strength staff, the players, or the coaches. The established culture and atmosphere at the top were echoed everywhere, no matter where you turned.
Surprise Stadium and the Kansas City Royals were my second home. Every summer during college, when I kept thinking about what I wanted to do for work or my break, I kept being led back to the Royals in the Arizona League. I couldn’t get enough of it. The chance to be back with some of the most remarkable people I knew was hard to turn down. Sure, it was early 5 am van pickups of players from the hotel and extended hours throughout the day, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. The relationships I got to develop with some of the players were incredible. I’ll never forget getting pitching lessons from Mike Penn during my high school days or the friendship I developed with Ivor Hodgson. Those memories last forever. The experiences I had for seven-plus years are what will keep me a Royals fan forever.
My last season with the Royals was the summer of 2013 before I started working full time. It was a bittersweet moment that I’ll never forget. There are days I miss being at the ballpark. I miss being around the game I love so much. The Royals went on their magical run in 2014 and 2015. It brought back so many great memories of my high school days. Seeing guys like Danny Duffy, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez get rings that they more than deserved was terrific. Knowing that all the minor league support staff I had the pleasure to work with would get rings and experience those incredible moments brought me to tears. I was just overjoyed to see the organization that gave me so much, that let me be a small part of something so great, achieve what they had been long going for since Dayton Moore was hired back in 2006.
Every opening day brings back all of these memories for me. It is a time of joy and reflection. Opening Day in 2022 will be extraordinary as we see multiple generations of Royals teams come together. Zack Greinke will be on the mound, Salvador Perez will be behind the dish, Whit Merrifield will be in right field, and the next generation of talent, Bobby Witt, Jr. will be at third base. It will be a special season for Royals fans everywhere, no matter the season’s outcome. There will be times to reflect on the past, enjoy the present, and get excited about the future. Some fans might be frustrated about how long a rebuild takes, but for me, this is what brings me joy. To watch all the hard work of Dayton Moore, JJ Picollo, and the rest of the Royals front office come together is special. It is exciting to see the formula implemented and have the process be built and executed. 2022 will be an exciting season. I know, like most of you, I am more than ready!
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