MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Royals' opener begins, ends with celebration

Mets part of salute to World Series champions

Royals' opener begins, ends with celebration

KANSAS CITY -- Hey, the Royals are proud of that World Series championship they won last November, the one that ended the franchise's 30-year drought and reaffirmed Kansas City's status as one of the game's most energized baseball cities.

It's just that instead of looking back, they want to focus on what's ahead.

So on a day of seemingly endless celebration for what the Royals did in their five-game disposal of the Mets in the best-of-seven World Series, it was that 4-3 victory against the Mets in the first Major League season-opening series to match up the World Series opponents from the previous year.

There was that 2,500-fan, 9-mile relay to deliver a ball to Kauffman Stadium.

There was a parking lot-wide tailgate party that began five hours before first pitch.

There was the introduction of 28 Royals alumni, capped off by the on-field appearance of Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett.

There was a highlight reel from 2015 and even a montage that focused on the things that went right for the Mets in winning the National League championship before having their dreams shattered by the Royals.

And then there was what mattered most to the folks in the uniforms -- the game, a Royals victory in which Wade Davis had to pitch out of a first-and-third, one-out jam by striking out David Wright looking and Yoenis Cespedes swinging, leaving him perfect in his big league career in earning a ninth-inning save.

Davis slams the door

"It was nice, but we wanted to play the game," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "The pregame was for the fans more than for us. ... It's the first time together for our team and fans [since the end of the World Series] for them to celebrate what we did."

That victory made the celebration that much sweeter for a sellout crowd at Kauffman Stadium, most of whom were wearing Royals blue.

Royals raise championship banner

"It was like a continuation of the World Series," said Hosmer. "When you experience what we experienced -- the turnaround, the parade [with an estimated crowd of 800,000], playing in front of a fan base like this -- it's just so special. And oh, that parade. We were on that float for 20 to 30 minutes. And it felt like we were on it for three days.

"It's amazing how a baseball team can turn a city around."

Amazing and impressive.

"They're the champs," said Wright. "They should celebrate. If the outcome would have been a little different and we won, I'm sure we would have played a nice video as well. They're the champs. They deserve it."

Even Mets manager Terry Collins could appreciate the celebration his team endured Sunday night, when through the quirk of scheduling the Mets wound up being a part of the celebration for what the Royals accomplished at their expense.

After all, who would have ever thought it would be the Mets and the Royals as the last two teams standing in the baseball world last November when the 2016 regular-season schedule was finalized in August?

"I know what losing a World Series feels like," said Yost, a member of the Braves' coaching staff in the first 12 years of a 14-year run of division championships in which they won only one World Series but lost four. "Then to sit back and have to relive that felt a little awkward for them."

That's why that montage of Mets highlights was included as a part of the ceremony.

"It's weird and it's strange at the same time," said Collins. "But if we were going to lose to anyone, I was glad it was those guys. I think the world of Ned Yost. I loved [general manager] Dayton Moore from the days I was a farm director [with the Dodgers and Moore was with Atlanta]. So if you are going to open some place, what better place is there to be on Opening Night than with the two teams that played in the World Series?"

It could have been better for the Mets, but these Royals who wouldn't fold last season weren't about to stumble in their first step in a bid to repeat this year.

Oh, offseason addition Joakim Soria made his return to Kansas City entertaining, coming on in relief in the eighth and allowing the three runs that gave New York hope. And yes, Davis came on and had that first-and-third, one-out threat to escape.

Hochevar strikes out Cabrera

"These guys have played on a stage the last two years with so many high-pressure situations and big games that it doesn't affect them anymore," said Yost. "They aren't afraid to play to win."

They certainly showed no fear in their first step on a journey through the summer of 2016 in which they hope to retrace the trail that led to that World Series championship last fall.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.