With the series finale set in Detroit for Thursday afternoon, the Kansas City Royals will head home afterward and play their home opener Friday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
Coming off the success of last season, the Royals have high hopes this season. Not only on the field but, at the gate as well.
There couldn’t have been a better finish to last year’s home schedule than Justin Maxwell’s game-winning grand slam in the tenth inning against the Texas Rangers. That homer secured the first winning season for the Kansas City Royals since 2003. Plus, the 27,000 fans on hand helped the team surpass its total 2012 attendance by more than 10,000.
But the Royals’ showing still ranked 12th out of the 15 American League teams.
Steve Shiffman, the Royals senior director of ticket sales, expects attendance to be better this year.
“We’ve really had an exciting off-season and I think a lot has to do with the believing of the fans that we had last year,” said Shiffman. “We had a much higher renewal rate than we actually anticipated, which is great. And we sold a lot more packages this year, so we surpassed last year’s number and we hope to continue to surpass last year’s number as we keep selling.”
The Royals won’t reveal how many season ticket packages are sold, but Shiffman hopes there are enough to drive attendance closer to the two million threshold. The team hasn’t had more than two million at the K since 1991.
The best year ever for Royals attendance was 1989, the only year the Royals averaged more than 30,000 fans a game. Former Royals catcher Mike Macfarlane remembers those days — “It was just electric,” he said.
Four years removed from the World Series championship, the Royals remained division contenders and the fans were along for the ride.
“They’ve always been very supportive, but back in those days they were very loud, very raucous and to this day very supportive,” Macfarland added.
Those days are back when the Royals won 92 games in 1989, their highest number to date.
Last year’s team got close, winning 86 and finishing seven games behind the division-winning Detroit Tigers. The Cleveland Indians earned a wild card berth with 92 victories. With hopes of raising the Royals victory total, Royals general manager Dayton Moore tweaked the roster.
“We feel that the changes that we were able to make this off-season, the additions that we were able to make is going to certainly make us a more consistent baseball team,” said Moore before spring training. “That being said, I expect us to get out of the game good and compete from the first day to the last day.”
As the co-owner of a baseball academy, Mike Macfarlane also considers himself a Royals fan. He says the front office’s willingness to spend more money on payroll this year is a good sign compared to the late 1990s.
“I mean it was bad. It got worse in the early 2000s,” said Macfarlane. “But it kind of weeded itself out. They started going after and signing the higher draft picks and not afraid to spend a little money on the some of the better talent that you see on the field now. I think that was the turning point.”
The next turning point for the front office, the players and, of course, the fans will be making the playoffs for the first time since the 1985 World Series.