If you’ve been a longtime reader of The Examiner, you know I’m a softie.
I’ve never turned a Little Leaguer or Girl Scout away from my door without buying cookies, trash bags or scented candles – yes, scented candles.
If I see someone on the side of the road with a flat tire, I help fix it.
I can’t tell you how many times I stopped at a convenience store in North Kansas City to buy dog food for a “homeless” panhandler and his mini dachshund near the Kansas City Comets practice site at the Soccerdome, only to see him leave one morning in a Ford F-150 that put my car to shame. Oh, well, at least his dog had something to eat.
I mention this because I had to battle the tears Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium as four heart-and-soul players and the winningest pitcher in the majors this season all said goodbye.
Two kids who were “Raised Royal,” former No. 1 picks Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, two former Milwaukee Brewers the Royals dealt for in the Zach Greinke deal – Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar – and 18-game winner Jason Vargas might have played their final game for the Royals in Sunday’s 14-2 season-ending loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And in a move usually reserved for the movies, they walked off into the sunset together.
I’ve always been a fan of manager Ned Yost, because he defends his players till his last breath, and he showed pure class Sunday by taking all four players out of the game in a moment that will forever be galvanized in Royals history,.
Vargas had left the game, and Yost approached the home plate umpire to pull the four players at the same moment.
They all gathered near the pitcher mound, embraced and doffed their caps to the delirious fans.
It was apparent Hosmer was crying, and that’s when my tears began to flow.
It didn’t last long, after all, there’s no crying in baseball. Right?
Not Sunday at The K.
“Why do you think I wore my sunglasses all day?” asked Moustakas, who like the other players is a highly sought after free agent who will demand a huge paycheck from a team that likely does not wear Royals blue.
“I couldn’t quit crying. When everybody came behind the mound, we all hugged and realized it might be the last time we were all on the same field together, with the same team.”
Hosmer didn’t help matters when he hit one of the most dramatic homers in team history. Following a 90-second standing ovation in the first inning, the Gold Glove first baseman hit his career-high 25th home run into the left field bleachers.
“I was a wreck all day. When he hit that home run I had tears in my eyes when I went up to hit,” added Moustakas, who followed his friend up to the plate. “It was one of the coolest moments I’d ever been a part of, watching the fans give him that ovation, and having him go out and hit that home run. I was so glad I was able to see that.”
Hosmer said that homer is just part of the memories he will take from his time with the Royals.
“I’ll reflect on the moments, the crazy highlights, the comebacks, the moments you relive every time you see a highlight reel,” said the man who has become the face of the organization. “These guys are more than teammates, they’re family. You can see the true bond we all have and no one can ever take from us.”
Cain and Escobar simply smiled as Hosmer and Moustakas poured their hearts out during the postgame interview session.
“The past six years have been amazing,” Cain said, “just amazing.”
Added Escobar, “I came here and did not know anyone. Now, I play with my brothers, my family.”
Could someone please pass me a tissue?
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC.