Art Stewart: Why the Kansas City Royals deserve to be SI's Sportsman
The Kansas City Royals are one of the leading contenders for Sports Illustrated's 2015 Sportsman of the Year. You can see the full list and the entire series of essays that make the argument for each candidate here.
When you're someone who's seen the organization since the beginning, it's easy to think you've seen it all. The peaks, the valleys, championships seasons, 100 loss seasons, heartbreaking trades, incredible wins, hope and disappointment. I've been in baseball for 63 years. I'm in my fourth decade with the Royals. Since, 1985, my first year as scouting director, I've sat in the front row behind home plate for virtually every Royal game in Kansas City. I was there in 1985, when we won the championship. That was an unforgettable.
But I’ve never seen a team like the 2015 Kansas City Royals.
I’ll always remember sitting with Dayton Moore, George Brett, and Donnie Williams for all those October games, through all the drama. George always says, “It’s so much harder being up watching these guys than it ever was down there playing!” That afternoon in Houston, Game 4 of the ALDS, the first seven innings did not look good. Then the top of the hit, a string of hits, and George was saying, “I think they’re going to do it. They’re going to do it.” You know what happened next: six outs from being eliminated, they came back to win, and a few weeks later, we were holding the trophy in New York.
They stand for so many things. They are a testament to building from within, to being patient with your young players. They are a testament to the faith of GM Dayton Moore, who never got off track, despite criticism from the media, stayed on course and stayed with it, and proved that it could be done that way—the way he wanted to do it. That to me was the greatest feeling after the World Series, to win it, and do it the way he wanted to do it—Dayton’s way. To watch these players grow up and develop together has been unbelievable. I saw Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer in high school. I saw Alex Gordon in college. I saw Salvador Perez when he was just a baby. Had we’d gone off course, what we’d given up on any single one of them, they wouldn't be where they are today. Of course, now, all these kids will live on forever in Kansas City.
The one thing Dayton talked about since the day he got here in 2006 was that makeup was a premier thing with him, along with talent. And I think in the end that what’s most special about these guys is the character. The character. There’s no selfishness. Even the players who’ve joined the team through the years, all the way to Ben Zobrist. Chris Young said it best: I’m so happy to be a part of this group, I’ve never seen a group with this kind of togetherness.
You saw that in the way they came back in games day after day. You saw how this team connected to this city, creating a new generation of fans. To start a new tradition. All around you now, in Kansas City, is blue. At the parade they said there was close to a million people there. I rode in trolley car with the Glass family. We got to Union Station and walked out to the stage, and looking out on that mass of people took my breath away. Ryan Lefebvre, the Royals broadcaster and the emcee of the event, said it best when he said to me, “Art, when I walked out on that stage with the microphone, 100s of thousands of people, up on the hill that went up so far, when I walked I thought I was seeing people up as far as I could see, all the way up in the clouds.”
And that’s what I’ll remember. Royals fans as far as you could see, all the way up in the clouds.