The Royals' opening day means it's wishing time again



Royals fans are ready to come to pray at the K.
  • Royals fans are ready to come to pray at the K.
I will start by admitting that I am not a fan of the Kansas City Royals. I root for the Chicago Cubs, as my father does and my grandfather once did. With the Jewish holiday of Passover coming weeks before opening day, and Jews all over the world pledging that next year they'll be in Jerusalem, my grandfather would utter his own holy wish: that this be the year when the Cubs win the World Series. We wore Cubs caps to his funeral in 2009. This April, I make my own wish.

This I tell you only to illustrate that I understand what it means to pin your hopes to a team that is particularly good at grinding down those hopes over a 162-game season. I know what it means to talk yourself into a new rotation, a new prospect, a new organizational approach and, most of all, a new season. Kansas City is a baseball town, a city full of people who have made these bargains with themselves year after year. People want the Royals to be good because life in a baseball town is better when the baseball team is good.

Local devotion to this team can't be questioned. Certainly owner David Glass doesn't take it for granted - he's been able to take that loyalty to the bank even in lousy years. The Royals drew nearly 18,000 more fans to home games in 2009, when they lost 97 games, than attended their last winning season, in 2003 (83-79). Last year, the Royals didn't win a game in Kansas City until May, but even a team that dropped its first 10 contests at home boasted a gate increase of about 15,000 fans. People can't stay away from the K. Some of that enthusiasm can be credited to All-Star Game hype, but that's also a testament to faith. The team's 2013 season slogan, "Come to Play," might as well be "Come to Pray." That's what those blue-and-white-clad fans are doing this week: making the pilgrimage, embracing their inner zealots, letting their spring fever crest.

Fans and sports-talk hosts are again vocalizing their belief that this is the year - that this season, the Royals have made the hard and smart decisions. This, they say, is the season we start winning again. I want to believe as they do. I want to believe that Chris Getz will go 6-for-6 in a regular-season game. I want to believe that James Shields will be featured on a Sports Illustrated cover for something other than a regional Baseball Preview edition (for which he was one of six athletes chosen).

I want to believe that Jeff Francoeur is more than a nice guy who buys pizzas for fans in Oakland. I want to believe that Sluggerrr can have a scandal-free year. I want to believe that Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain will end the year on the field and not in the trainer's room. I want to believe that Luke Hochevar is Kyle Farnsworth - the good Farnsworth, the Farnsworth with the blazing fastball that lit it up for the Royals in 2010.

I want to believe what Joe Posnanski wrote for NBC Sports last month, that "for the first time in what seems like forever, the Royals don't enter a season needing miracles." That doesn't mean I'd turn down a miracle. That's what you're asking for, after all, when you make a holy wish.

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