The line began at the front door of the popular Plaza clothing store, Charlie Hustle, and wrapped halfway around the block as Kansas City Royals faithful waited to meet longtime fan favorite Mike “Moose” Moustakas.
Moustakas teamed with Charlie Hustle and Pepsi to create a limited edition MOOSE T shirt that drew rave reviews from everyone who had the opportunity to meet the all-star third baseman – who actually seemed to be having as much fun as his loyal fan base.
“Nothing about our fans surprises me,” said Moustakas, who posed for photos with babies, grandparents, young Moose wannabes and members of Moose Nation who stood in line for more than four hours to greet their homegrown hero.
“I’m from California, but the fans have made me feel like Kansas City is my home. I love it here – just look at these fans, how could you not love playing in front of them every night? They make it so special to be a member of this team. We have something special going on and I hope it keeps going on for a long, long time.”
Moustakas was signing his new MOOSE 8 T shirt that features his uniform number and the image of a moose on a Royal blue shirt. Moustakas said he loves the final product – and gauging from the number of individuals lined down the block, so do his fans.
“We felt honored that Pepsi and Mike looked to us for this project,” said Chase McAnulty, Charlie Hustle CEO. “This collaboration is a perfect representation of what our brand is about – regional pride, especially as it relates to sports, and philanthropic initiatives.”
Proceeds from the sale of the shirt will go toward the Royals Charities ACE 30 Memorial Fund. This fund was established in memory of Yordano Ventura to support youth baseball projects in his native country of the Dominican Republic.
“Yordano was such a great teammate and friend,” Moustakas said. “It’s important to me that his legacy lives on forever and proceeds from the MOOSE t-shirt sales will help make that happen. I am proud to work with partners like Pepsi and Charlie Hustle who are wonderful supporters of this initiative and the Kansas City community.”
Moustakas and his teammates wear jerseys with an ACE 30 patch on the sleeve. Every time Moustakas crosses home plate with a run scored, he pats the patch in remembrance of his fallen teammate who died in an offseason car accident in his native Dominican Republic.
“It’s tough,” Moustakas said, when asked how he and his teammates are dealing with Ventura’s death. “We all grieve in different ways. Danny (Duffy) writes 30 in the dirt on the mound before he starts a game and Salvy (Salvador Perez) and Hoz (Eric Hosmer) and the guys touch the patch when we score a run.
“He might be gone from the team, but he will live in our hearts forever.”
While many of the Royals have struggled offensively, Moustakas is off to a hot start following an injury-plagued 2016 campaign.
“I feel good at the plate,” said Moustakas, who has five homers and a .293 batting average. “I wanted to feel comfortable at the plate and get off to a good start after the (leg) injury last year. I did a lot of rehab in the offseason and worked hard at spring training and it seems to be paying off.”
And, on those rare nights when he goes hitless or makes an error, returning home to his wife Stephanie and their eight-month old baby Mila takes the sting out those memories.
“I can lay down on the couch and put Mila on my chest and she’ll smile at me and those 0-for-4 nights disappear,”Moustakas said. “She’s going to love her papa even if he goes hitless.
“She’s always asleep when I get home, but there are nights I’ll sneak in her room just to get a quick look at her. Then, I can hardly wait for morning when I get to hold her and play with her. Being a dad is the coolest thing – the coolest thing ever.”
The limited edition MOOSE T-shirts will continue to be available at the Charlie Hustle Plaza store location, 419 W 47th St., and online at charliehustleshop.com.