KANSAS CITY —
Major League Baseball’s World Series is under way between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. While the Giants have won the baseball championship in recent years, it’s been almost three decades since the Royals made it this far. The return of baseball’s championship series here to Kansas City has energized baseball fans in the heart of the United States, while also providing an economic boost to area attractions.
Mark Martinez’s decision to arrive at Kauffman Stadium with his son McKinley seven hours before Game 2 of the World Series is a calculated move.
“We are here only because we have standing room only tickets,” said Martinez.
That means despite the fact that Martinez paid almost $700 for two tickets, they don't get seats inside the stadium.
He hopes that by getting through the gates first, they can find an extra space to watch baseball’s biggest game, in a town where it happens so rarely.
“It’s a once in a lifetime chance. The Royals haven’t been here in 29 years and might not be back in 29,” said Martinez.
For Martinez’s son McKinley, it’s the first time the Royals have reached the World Series in his lifetime.
“It’s everything. It’s just so exciting because we’ve not made it to the World Series in 29 years,” said McKinley.
“Kansas City is in love with the Royals right now, and so are we,” said his father.
That love is on display throughout the city, even in its iconic water fountains, which are dispensing blue colored water.
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, is among those excited for the home team.
“The atmosphere is so crazy. People are so excited,” said Kendrick. “It’s been a tremendous opportunity for the museum.”
Kendrick said the playoff games at Kauffman Stadium, and now the World Series, have been an economic shot in the arm to the local economy. Not only are fans buying more merchandise and memorabilia, they also are buying tickets for admission to his museum.
“I would anticipate that we will see a 25 to 30 percent jump in attendance over this time last year,” said Kendrick.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum honors African-Americans who played in a segregated league - founded in Kansas City in 1920 - that formed as a result of racism in Major League Baseball and ended when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Kendrick said baseball fans might be drawn to the museum because this year’s Royals team - which few expected to reach the World Series - echoes the spirit of the African-American players in the now-defunct Negro Leagues.
“It is that story of the underdog rising to greatness,” said Kendrick.
“I expected them to get close, but I didn’t expect them to get into the World Series,” said Martinez.
For Mark Martinez, he hopes it won’t take another 29 years for his son McKinley to experience his next World Series in Kansas City.
“I think he’ll probably be back next year. If not, then the year after,” he said.
But there is still baseball left to play this year in a best-of-seven series that also will bring America’s favorite pastime back to San Francisco.