Keep Your Ticket Stub: A new Kings of Kauffman series

A new series highlighting the overlooked moments that form the backbone of every KC Royals fan's experience.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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The game begins

The pitching matchup was David Paulino for Houston vs. Jakob Junis for the Royals. Junis came into 2017 as a rookie with little fanfare, but after finishing the season with a 9-3 record, 4.30 ERA, and 1.281 WHIP, and combined with the tragic death of Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy's inconsistency, was arguably the team's second best pitcher after Jason Vargas. Unfortunately, much like Brad Keller after him, his career took a downward turn after a promising start and he never quite recaptured that early promise.

This was only Junis' second career start, and I was excited to see what the young prospect had against one of the most potent lineups in the majors. Our seats were in left field, right in the heart of what was then known as "Gordo Nation". We were in prime home run territory, hoping that none would come at Junis' expense, and in high spirits. Only one thing could ruin that.

In my experience, games at great ballparks involve at least one subplot about the fans around you. I remember a 2015 game against the Orioles that was amazing — the Royals were at the height of their power, beating up a good Baltimore team, and the section we were in was unlike anything I'd ever seen. We were all strangers high-fiving and hugging each other, dancing and excitedly talking for all nine innings.

June 6 was not that. Two couples were seated in front of us. The guys were arrogant and didn't know much about baseball. They heckled Alex Gordon, and reliever Peter Moylan in the bullpen, and they thought they were hysterical, even if everyone around them didn't. I still don't understand what they had against Moylan; by all accounts a likeable guy, he was probably KC's most reliable reliever that season.

But the Astros jumped on Junis early and led 7-1 in the fourth. Apparently sensing a blowout, the guys fortunately left to salvage their dates, which let us refocus on the game.

On the flip side, my eight-year-old son was horrified to hear some Astros fans cheering a few rows behind us. He turned to them in disbelief and asked (loud enough that the whole section could hear), "Wait a minute. Are you actually rooting for the Astros?" They were, and they turned out to be very nice people. We exchanged compliments about each other's teams, and spent the rest of the game conversing and indulging in friendly trash talk.

And isn't that why we pay good money to go to these games? To have a good time? Of course, it never hurts when your team wins. And when they win in dramatic fashion, well, that's as good as it gets. So let's get to the good stuff.