Less than 24 hours after the Kansas City Royals lost Game 7 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, nearly 10,000 fans turned out for a rally at Kauffman Stadium to bid a fond farewell to the 2014 American League champions.
A chant of "Thank you, Royals" resounded through the ballpark, even before about a dozen members of the team took the field to make remarks.
"I have never been more proud of Kansas City and this franchise than I am today," Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said, starting off the festivities. "The record-setting sweep through the playoffs will live forever in baseball history because of this team. The 2014 American League championship flag will permanently fly over the house that Jackson County built in 1972 and renovated in 2006. How amazing did this stadium and this crowd look to the nation?"
Sanders spoke of watching the Royals’ great teams of the past, "sitting right out there in right field General Admission" when he was a boy, and of the "priceless memories" created while watching this year's playoff run with his own two sons.
Royals Manager Ned Yost thanked the fans for their support.
"You guys were unbelievable," he said. "The one thing that we will remember most about this year is our individual achievements and what you did for us and how you had our back and how you brought this city together. We enjoyed it, we loved it, and we appreciated it, and we thank you so much for it."
Fan favorite Billy Butler told the crowd, "We couldn't have done it without you guys. You treated us like royalty."
The rally's emcee was Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre. Some of the other speakers included team owner David Glass, General Manager Dayton Moore and various players.
Aaron and Ashlee Loper of Olathe, Kansas, brought their three sons, wearing Royals uniforms that will serve as their Halloween costumes this year, to the rally.
“We’re not ready for the season to end,” Aaron Loper said. “It’s a weird range of emotions -- disbelief; excitement, wondering if you’re going to be able to do it. I woke up this morning and saw they were having this event, and I said ‘They’re not going to school; let’s go out there.’ ”
Cousins Tommy and Tammy McGee of Kansas City, Missouri, brought Tammy’s 5-year-old daughter, Maleaha, to the rally. Maleaha was hoping to meet her favorite Royals player, Billy Butler.
"We’ll be back," Tommy McGee said. "You don’t knock Kansas City down. We’re building a dynasty. Everybody’s back into baseball, and it’s great for everyone. It’s uplifted the entire city."
Ruth Heard came from New York City to watch all four of the World Series games played at Kauffman and stayed for the rally. She even took in a Kansas City Chiefs game while she was here.
"I love Kansas City,” Heard said. “I love your stadium. I love your team. I took the trolley; I went to the Hallmark visitors center; I’m going to the Nelson-Atkins Museum. … I’ve made a lot of friends."