Success in Kansas City has made some unlikely celebrities. First there was Superfan Chris Coats, who gained fame largely by following a then-struggling KC Royals team on the road. He was soon followed by Royalman Troy Olsen.
Then the team began to win and even more fan celebrities popped up: Royals Pope has made several appearances; Marlins Man Laurence Leavy makes appearances at all sporting events but has been a Kansas City favorite and even attended Fan Fest in January; Craig Rookstool, better known as “Moose Man,” runs around Kauffman with antlers and landed a spot in a prominent advertisement last fall.
Then there are the cat suit guys, John Stoner and Paul Long. Perhaps the biggest Royals fan celebrities of all, they have not wasted the opportunity to turn that fame into good for the community.
I thought if it’s funny with that big guy wrestling in it, it would be really funny to walk around a Royals’ game with cat-pun signs.” – John Stoner
“It’s kind of silly how big it got,” Stoner said. “As soon as it started going that direction we tried to turn it into something good so we wouldn’t get teased too much about it.”
Stoner, 35, and Long, 34, met as fifth graders in Osawatomie, Kans. Long later graduated from high school there and Stoner moved to Drexler, Mo. for his final two years of high school. Neither were particularly shy growing up.
“We wore 1970s swim trunks and things like that, painted our chest and done all kinds of weird things in high school, but we hadn’t done too much as adults,” said Stoner.
The cat suits just sort of happened. The KC Royals were playing the Yankees when the suits made their first appearance at Kauffman in 2014. Kansas City followed that appearance with a 10-game win streak.
“I saw them on the Internet and I thought they were funny as hell,” Stoner said. “Someone was wrestling in them. I thought if it’s funny with that big guy wrestling in it, it would be really funny to walk around a Royals’ game with cat-pun signs. We thought it would open up a bunch of cat-themed signs we could use.”
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Talk about timing. That year just happened to be a big one for the Royals, who won the Wild Card thriller against Oakland and advanced to the World Series against San Francisco. The cat-suit guys were featured in a World Series promotion on Fox.
The Royals did not win that year, but Stoner and Long did. They’ve since been part of a half-page feature in the Wall Street Journal, appeared in a graphic on the side of the Kansas City Royals bus, and have frequently been featured on Yahoo! Sports and MLB Network.
Since then, they’ve remained active in the community. Both Stoner and Long help with Noah’s Bandage Project. Noah Wilson was six years old when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Before passing away from the illness in June 2015, he helped start the Bandage Project that helps raise fun bandages for sick kids around the country, and also helps raise funds for the battle against pediatric cancer.
The first annual Noah’s Crown Town 5K Run is scheduled for April 23 in Overland Park. Stoner, Long, and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer will be among the runners and walkers. For more details or to sign up/donate, click here.
Stoner also visits children at Children’s Mercy and KU Medical Center, and he’s a volunteer for Heartland Habitat for Humanity. Last year, he helped coordinate a building competition between Royals, Sporting KC, and Chiefs fans.
Stoner is currently running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year in Kansas City. He bought and sold 114 tickets to game two of the upcoming season to help raise funds for that cause.
“The Royals gave me a good deal on a group and I was able to sell them at a game I knew was going to be very popular and sell out,” he said. “I’m going to end up making a couple thousand dollars that will go straight to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.”
Opening Day is scheduled for April 3 in Kansas City as the Royals welcome in the New York Mets in a rematch of the 2015 World Series. The cat suits? They may or may not make it.
“We’ll probably bust the suits out a couple of times with funny signs,” Stoner said. “It’s not going to be an every-week thing. We’ll come up with something new.”