Opening Day brings excitement for Royals fans

Opening Day brings excitement for Royals fans

Opening Day brings excitement for Royals fans
KANSAS CITY -- Officially, Luke Hochevar's first-pitch strike was the start of the Royals' home opener Friday afternoon.

But unofficially, things kicked off in the half hour leading up to the game. The pregame festivities on Opening Day were a hit with the fans, who let out thunderous cheers throughout the ceremonies.

Royals stars past and present took to the field to loud ovations and several rounds of applause as they were introduced before the 2012 squad hosted the Cleveland Indians.

With the teams on the baselines and the alumni on the infield, balloons were released, an American flag was unfurled and a B2 bomber flew overhead to signal the season's arrival in Kansas City.

The national anthem, played by saxophonist Horace Washington, concluded with the flyover, and the plane sent the fans into a frenzy. People pointed, cheered and pumped their fist as the patriotic symbol sent a rumble of noise throughout the stadium.

Even Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who was experiencing his first Kauffman Stadium opener in the big leagues, had to spin his head around and look behind him as the plane flew past.

But even with all the pregame events, the fans were there to see the Royals. And it was easy to tell that was the case as the Royals players were introduced.

Royals fan Brian Pattison from Kansas City said that things were a bit different on Opening Day 2012 than they have been in years past, and he should know. Pattison said Friday marked his fifth or sixth Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium.

"There's a lot of excitement because of the young players," Pattison said. "The whole city seems to be excited."

Pattison said he was surprised at how many fans were trying to squeeze through the gates to get into Kauffman Stadium as the game was starting.

Even the pregame musician Washington was excited to see the Royals, waiting to leave the field until the team took their positions.

The excitement stems from a strong finish to last season and a talented group of young players. Both of those were on display when outfielder Alex Gordon received his Gold Glove Award. The fans gave him a standing ovation, as did his teammates in the dugout, with first baseman Eric Hosmer on the top step and Moustakas leaning over the rail applauding.

Pattison said work colleagues who heard he was attending were excited for him. Royals fan Bill Miller, from Overland Park, Kan., said he jumped at the chance to come to the game when offered a ticket. He said there's a lot of hope this season.

"If this team's even in the race," Miller said, "this town will go crazy."

With even a whisper of playoff potential traveling through Kauffman Stadium on Friday, perhaps it was appropriate that Royals legend George Brett delivered the first pitch to former catcher and manager John Wathan. A pregame video featured the Hall of Famer, saying that the present belongs to the young Royals.

"A lot of kids haven't known a winning Royals team," Miller said.

Fans are hoping that is about to change.