You beat me to Kansas City by a few years; I didn’t make it back here until August of 2001. One morning, while eating Cheerios at the kitchen table, I discovered your column. Royals’ All-Star Mike Sweeney got into a fight with then-Tigers’ pitcher Jeff Weaver and you shared the inside scoop with all of us. Towards the end of yet another losing season, Sweeney had had enough. Even though you were writing for a team that seemingly tried to lose 100 games, your words weren’t cynical or sarcastic. And your words stuck with me.
You wrote during some incredibly lean years—the Neifi Perez years and the Mark Quinn years and the Ken Harvey years. There was but one bright season during those dismal dog days, the “We-Believe-2003,” yet your stories were still hope-filled.
I remember reading your stories about Dan Quisenberry and was grateful that you were able to put numbers and reasons to my heart-felt belief that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I used to have all of his baseball cards, even when he played in St. Louis. You were the first person to tell me that he wrote a book of poetry, which now sits on my nightstand.
I remember reading your story about Jeremy Affeldt in spring training. He still credits you for his arrival in the major leagues. I actually got the chance to meet Affeldt last year. He’s a great guy doing amazing things outside of baseball. (Check out his organization Generation Alive.)
I remember reading about the water fountain button and, by the end of the column, I wanted a chance to push the button and make the fountains come to life too.
I met you on two separate occasions—both of your book readings in KC. To this day, The Soul of Baseball is one of my favorite books of all-time, and I read dozens of books each year. Tears welled up in my eyes reading how Buck was denied the Hall of Fame, even though I knew it was coming. You played the piano at that reading and it was beautiful. (I’m also a professional musician, so that gives you some bonus points). At the reading for The Machine, I actually screwed up the courage to ask you a question about Frank White, and you shared a story about his broadcasting days. Reading The Machine took me back to my childhood. When I first started to play baseball, Pete Rose was one of my heroes—I named my first pet after him. I think that he, too, deserves to be in the Hall.
Every February, you would write my favorite column—this is the year the Royals will win the division. As players were reporting to Spring Training, you were instilling hope in the fan-base back in KC. There were a couple of times that I actually saved that column for months, willing its words to be prophetic.
Joe, I wish you were here to write the column this year, because there are some great things worth writing about.
Alex Gordon will simply shine on his way to a second gold glove. Now that he’s tasted success, he’ll be hungry for more. Gordon will be a delight to watch at the plate and in left field. And he will continue to lead a defensively-solid outfield including Jeff Francoeur and Lorenzo Cain.
Hitting-Genius Kevin Seitzer will keep Hosmer, Moose, Escobar, Perez, and Johnny G on track at the plate.
Chen and Hochevar will pile up innings and wins, and I bet some of the young arms break through to dominate as well.
Joe, this is the year. It really is “Our Time.” The boys in blue are gonna win the division this year.
You’ve definitely put in your stripes during the lean times; please, come back and write for one more year. Write the stories of the All-Star Game and this playoff-bound season. Write the stories of Alex’s outfield assists, of Frenchy’s leadership and smile, and of a team that truly shares life together—just like the good old days.
Finally, Joe, I have a personal request.
I’m trying to find a way to get to Royals’ Alumni Fantasy Camp next year, and I’m wondering if, once I get there, there’s any way you can come and write some stories for me.
You could write about my solitary fly-out that almost makes it to the warning track. I know you’ll make it sound much more impressive than every other fly-out I’ve made.
You could write about my presence on the mound and how my 68 mph fastball has “life” and really helps set-up my 48 mph change-up.
You could write about my fancy footwork at second base and how I must have learned a thing or two from years of watching Frank White on TV.
You could write about my blazing speed as I turn first and dig for second and pray with everything in me that I arrive with both hamstrings still firmly attached.
Maybe it would be one “curiously long post” about my ridiculously exceptional week. Or maybe it would just be a “curiously long post” about my ridiculously un-exceptional skills. Either way, I know you could write the story in such a fashion that my girls will be proud of me, and that’s all I’m asking. It’ll be something I can print off and laminate and tape up on my office wall to get me through those hard days of life.
Here’s the catch: I can’t pay you a thing.
If I happen to make it to camp, I’ll have to save all my dough for Kangaroo Court fines and souvenirs for autographs.
But money isn’t everything. I’m more than willing to barter.
Here’s what’s on the table:
1. I’ll write you a baseball song.
2. My seven-year-old daughter is an incredible artist. She will make you a drawing of Kauffman Stadium with fireworks that look like real life.
3. A Barry Bonds rookie card.
4. A Royals’ lunch box.
5. I’ll write a guest-post for your blog. (Everyone needs a day off every now and then.)
Joe, it’s going to be a great 2012 baseball season in KC, and I think that America’s best sportswriter needs to return for one more summer with the boys in blue.
And about Fantasy Camp, the offer’s there for the taking.
Hope to see you at the K,
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