That January, I attended my first Fan Fest in Kansas City. I figured I could treat myself to a getaway, but it turned out my sister and nephews had the same idea and tagged along. Since the KC Royals had merely gotten close to the playoffs that year, the crowd at Fan Fest was still small. Ventura happened to be our first autograph.
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Wouldn’t you know, that’s the year the Kansas City Royals advanced to Game 7 of the World Series, thanks in large part to Ventura’s performance in Game 6. That meant baseball was interesting after the All-Star game. It meant the Royals played in that unforgettable Wild Card game against Oakland. It meant a lot of extra baseball and a lot of extra distraction.
Since then, my love of the KC Royals has only intensified. Fan Fest has given me the opportunity to get books signed by Lefebvre and Denny Matthews. I had my picture taken with Hudler. I spoke with Dayton Moore. I’ve met a few of the players. It never mattered that we were still strangers. They felt like family.
Just this last year, I won the opportunity to sit in the dugout suite at Kauffman Stadium. That was my first opportunity to touch the soil at my favorite ballpark, and Ventura pitched for the win that night. A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to take batting practice and field some balls at the “K.”