"It's been a blast. Way different," first baseman Eric Hosmer was saying as September thundered down.
As Hosmer put it, that normally was the time of year when younger players were coming up from the Minors and trying to lay groundwork for a possible Major League job the following year. There wasn't so much of that this year.
"This year, it's do everything you can to win ballgames because, obviously, we're in the race," Hosmer said then. "And it's a blast, and I think everyone in here realizes that we've got a team that can make it to the next level and everyone realizes how awesome this city can be when we're playing meaningful games at this time."
That was true enough. Kansas City was in a state of high expectation. Over the last nine games in September, during which attendance is generally low because school is back in session and the team is out of the running, the Royals this year instead averaged 21,458 fans raising the roof Kauffman Stadium.
"Unbelievable," is how Hosmer termed the atmosphere.
"Guys realize now how fun of a place this is to play, especially when you're winning," he said.
Hosmer certainly was having his fun in the last four months of the season and there's little doubt how much effect he can have on the Royals' chances next season.
"Next year is a big year for a lot of us," Hosmer said. "Especially after this second half, we all realize how good we can be. I think everyone here believes it now, that we're a good team, and I think Kansas City believes we're a good team and has our backs with it. I think next year there'll be a lot of good things to come."
Hosmer, after a slow start in 2013, blazed quite a hitting trail starting in June, notably after the arrival of hitting coaches George Brett (for two months) and Pedro Grifol (for the rest of the season and beyond).
Over the last four months of the season, Hosmer averaged .318 with 141 hits, most in the Majors from that point, with 16 more home runs along with 63 RBIs. The Royals' record in that span alone was 64-46.
His overall figures were .302, 17 homers, 79 RBIs, 34 doubles, 86 runs and a .353 on-base percentage.
Manager Ned Yost said the improvement of Hosmer and other players with the arrival of Brett and Grifol was no coincidence.
"The good thing that they did -- George was really good with the mental side, Pedro was really good with the mechanical side and as kind of as a team they broke down each individual hitter's strengths and weaknesses and they attacked it on an individual basis," Yost said. "What makes Eric Hosmer successful might not make Mike Moustakas successful. It might not make Alcides Escobar successful or Billy Butler. And they went at it -- here's your strengths, here's your weaknesses, this is what we've got to do to get you back to, here's how we do it."
The two coaches managed to encourage most of the hitters, resulting in a spirited run down the stretch. While Brett departed, Grifol will be back next season.
More time and experience over his third season benefited Hosmer, who turns 24 on Thursday.
"You definitely learn a lot just by playing every day," he said. "You know your tendencies or how pitchers have been getting you out and you learn from it. There are certain adjustments you have to make to put yourself in good counts to get good pitches to hit. If you come up in this league and you're a free swinger, they're not going to give in. So you've got to prove to them that you're going up there with an approach and you're looking in your zone and your zone only. With Pedro coming over, that's the biggest benefit I've gotten this year with me and him going over every at-bat and learning an approach."