If you attend sporting events, be it major or minor league, you see them. Or maybe you don't. They check your ticket and, if you get too adventurous, they gently remind you that the seats you're sitting in aren't yours. For most of my life, I scarcely noticed them, other than to check where they were before sneaking down the aisle to better seats.
Then I became one.
My son Cody and I applied together. He wanted money for college. I liked the idea of a part-time retirement job that allowed me to watch baseball for free. Robin encouraged me. "You're going out there anyway," she said. "You might as well get paid for it."
Cody and I were both hired. He worked the first base side. I worked the third, behind the visiting team dugout. After a couple years Cody moved on to bigger and better things. Five years later, I was still there, in the same spot I'd occupied throughout. Section 123.
The Royals weren't very good the first couple years. Crowds were small and much of my time was spent chasing people out of the same seats I'd snuck into a few years before. There were games - lots of games - when fans from visiting teams outnumbered our own, including Yankee games when Bronx cheers drowned out Midwest twang.
But then, the team started to get good. Real good. A World Series in 2014 ended with the tying run on third base in the bottom of the ninth. Then, in 2015 the Royals won it all! As you can see from the photo above, Kansas City loves a winner. That's the World Series parade held 13 months ago. The sea of blue is people. Hundreds of thousands of people.
2016 was my final year as a Royals usher. I want to write a little more and travel a little more; the time requirements cut into family get-togethers sometimes. Then there is the physical wear and tear from standing on concrete for hours every night. But man, am I glad I had the chance to be an usher.
A week doesn't go by without someone asking what the job is like. So, I'm going to answer that question here, one last time, for everyone.
It's one of the greatest gigs ever.
I don't use the word, 'awesome' very much, but man did I work with some awesome people. Our usher crew was tight, and made coming to work fun. We were a melting pot really, with all backgrounds, lifestyles, and colors represented. None of that mattered. We were a team.
But, you want to know something? Even better than the crew I worked with were the people who turned out for Royals games. Especially the regulars. My section was populated by season-ticket holders. Most had been showing up since the dark days. Celebrating playoff championships with them was an indescrible experience. Over time, we moved past being usher and fans. We became friends. One couple visited us in Florida. Others have become dining partners. We know the names of each others' family members. We graduated kids together, married off kids together, and became grandparents together. We mourned the losses of a few of our regulars, but celebrated our memories of them. I'm gone from the park, but these friends stay with me.
And what are the most common questions ushers get? I heard these a lot:
Thank you Kauffman Stadium. It was a great ride. Next time I visit, it will be with a ticket. I can't wait.