What a great start to the season! We showed the ESPN, er, Boston Red Sox that things are a little different here in KC this year. We have club leadership that demands professionalism and players that are committed to showing it on the field. I make a point of mentioning that at the onset because what I particularly noticed from the Royals today was - professionalism.
Every player out there not only carried themself as a real big leaguer, but they all had their head in the game for the full 9-innings. I've bled "Royal Blue" since I was a kid watching Brett chase .400 in 1980, so it was real nice to finally see a team that was bleeding the same color as me, and showing pride in wearing the Royals uniform. My hometown team just looked like they belonged on the field today more than the Red Sox from Boston...oh, what a nice change!
If I could give a "King's Crown" to one player today, I would have to give it to...two players - Gil Meche and Mark Grudzielanek.
Meche survived a shaky 1st-inning to cruise on into the 8th, showing the scoffing national sports media (paging ESPN and SI) and nervous Royals fans (paging, um, Me) that he has the stuff and know-how to be a staff Ace. My hat's off to you today fellow Northlander; it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that I would love to see more starts like this throughout the season!
Grudz not only made a surprise recovery from Spring knee surgery to start today's game, but showed why he earned a 2006 Gold Glove Award, along with a great day at the plate. Grudz is a model number 2 hitter in the lineup - consistent contact and smart placement of his hits. He adapts his hitting to the situation rather than making the situation adapt to his hitting - that equals great clutch hitter, great team guy. A Gold Glove for 2006 was nice, but how about a Batting Crown for 2007?
Other notable performances today included Tony Pena Jr. and his 2 deja-vu triples and great play in the field (the surprise trade acquisition from about a week and a half ago); John Buck calling a solid game and hitting a regal shot over the 410 sign in center; strong line-drive hitting from Mike Sweeney (stay healthy!); and Joel Peralta showing real cajones in relief by striking out both David Ortiz to end the 8th and Man-Ram to start the 9th.
Speaking of Manny Ramirez, that guy just really reminded me of Randy Moss today. Both players are capable of brilliance in their respective sports, but when things aren't going their way, they both just seem to go fetal and shut it down rather than push on to turn it around. Here's to hoping the Royals pitchers can keep Man-Ram in fetal mode!
One last note: while as a fan I was excited like the 41,000+ at Kauffman Stadium today when Alex Gordon stepped up to the plate for his first MLB at-bat with the bases loaded in the 1st-inning - BUT - at the same time I felt bad for the kid. He's been hyped up as a future superstar and the second-coming of George Brett, and then to be faced with that scenario for his 1st at-bat?! Shoooooot! Facing Curt Schilling, bases-loaded, an SRO crowd collectively standing in anticipation of the new "saviour" to hit a storybook grand-slam to get his MLB career started - man! Tough stuff. Though Gordon may not admit it, you could tell he was trying to hit anything that came close into the strike zone out onto I-70! Hey, I don't blame him, but the nerves and adrenaline had to be shooting through him something fierce - that combination can wreak havoc on even the best of concentration levels. Tough day at the plate for him today, but he'll have his fair share of ESPN highlights this year (of course, he'll probably have to be playing against Boston or New York to make it on their highlights...geez.)
Way to go Blue! The "Royal Turn-Around" starts today!