Monday, April 28, 2008

How I Became a Royals Fan: Minda Haas

Name: Minda Haas
Location: Lincoln and Omaha, NE
Age: 19
Blog: Baseball and Other Things

Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies?

Truth be told, baseball is the answer to all of these. I am a student working toward two journalism degrees that will hopefully allow me to be a sportswriter professionally. (As much as I love blogging, it sure doesn't pay the bills!) The coolest of my three part-time jobs is the one with the Omaha Royals, where I help do all the crazy on-field promotions that make the minor league experience what it is. In my free time, I read this and other fine Royals blogs, and occasionally play video games and guitar, sing in my church's choir, and follow other sports.

How old were you when you first started following the Royals?

I was born into it. I can't ever remember a summer day without the Royals. Even if I didn't actively follow them when I was very young, I was always somewhat aware of how they were doing because we always had the games on the radio, and my parents and older brothers would discuss the team over dinner. It didn't become an all-out obsession until early high school, but I've always followed the team to some extent.

Who was your first favorite Royals' player and why?

I suppose my first favorite Royal was Mike Sweeney. Because I'm as young as I am, he was big when I was "coming of age" as a baseball fan. When I made the transition from being vaguely aware of Royals happenings to being an active fan, Sween-dog was in the "Face of the Franchise" phase of his KC career, so it was easy to latch on to him as my favorite. I'm still fond of him, by the way, and was sad that he and the team weren't able to come up with some solution where he'd still be a Royal.

Can you remember the first time you saw a game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium? Describe your experience.

The first one I specifically remember wasn't actually until mid-July of 2001. I'm certain I went to games before that, but sadly that's the earliest one where I can recall specific details. The Mariners were in town, and of course that was Ichiro's rookie year so the stadium was packed with Ichiro-crazed fans. He promptly went 0-5 on the night, and was also the cause for the ejection of a Royals pitcher, and one of the most fiery on-field manager/ump arguments I have seen to this day. Let's take a moment to think about how far our pitching staff has come since then: Kris Wilson was KC's starter that night.

What is your favorite Kauffman Stadium memory?

That has to be Opening Day 2007. It was the kind of day that makes people get that fond, faraway look in their eyes as they describe seeing the greenest grass they've ever seen, and feeling the most perfect sunshine they've ever felt, and all of that. April 2, 2007 was exactly like that for me. I went with two of my brothers and two of their friends, and the day could not have been more flawless. It was the first time I had seen Curt Schilling pitch in person, and my Royals flogged him. I had never seen Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz bat in person, and Royal pitching held them to a combined 1-for-7. Royals fans everywhere were anxious to see if Gil Meche was an ace, a waste, or somewhere in between, and he went a beautiful 7.1 innings with only one run given up. On that day, the Royals had a taste of success, and a share of first place that would disappear the next day. But that slice of non-loserdom was the most glorious day of my baseball life.

Are you old enough to remember the 1985 season? If so, where were you when Darryl Motley caught the final out of Game 7? Describe your experience.

I wasn't even a twinkle in my father's eye yet. What a shame; I would love to know what Royals victory feels like.

Are you old enough to remember seeing George Brett play? If so, what is your favorite George Brett memory?

I was a toddler when he retired. Again, a massive shame--I love George Brett.

Tell me your favorite memory from the 2003 season when the Royals spent most of the season in first place in the AL Central.

2003 was a cool year for me, because my brother and I were both at the same high school that year (he was a senior). We were on the same newspaper staff, along with a bunch of other baseball fans, so newspaper working time was often accompanied by ESPN or the Royals on the radio. All season long, that group of students--mostly senior guys, plus me as a sophomore--kept tabs on the Royals. When Pena was named Manager of the Year and Berroa the Rookie of the Year, someone (probably my brother) printed out a bunch of copies of those news stories and plastered the newspaper room with it. Sheer triumph reigned for the handful of Royals fans in my high school that day.

Who is your favorite Royals player right now? Why?

Brian Bannister, all the way. Before I ever saw him pitch as a Royal, I could tell I was going to like him, and I thought the Mets were crazy for completing that trade. When he was in Omaha, I loved watching him. Even if I didn't have time to watch the game closely (around my job), I could tell that he had command over games, but not in an overpowering way the way someone like Randy Johnson might have. Before I knew of his sabermetric prowess, I saw that mental domination he had over hitters he faced--even when he didn't win.

Then came the call up. I started seeing him in interviews, and he was actually able to string together coherent and even insightful thoughts--I think we all know how rare that is among players. The more time went on, the more it was obvious that the brain inside his head was something to be treasured and something to be picked. I followed Bannister more closely and with more detailed attention than I have ever given a single player. I squealed with delight every time a different website interviewed him this offseason, and have bookmarked and re-read a lot of those interviews whenever I want to get excited about smart pitching (can I call it Bannyball?).

Also, I want the world to know that I just made my first jersey commitment--I've never bought a Royals' player jersey, but I did this week...and it is Brian Bannister.

What are your favorite memories of Mike Sweeney?

This one runs really, really deep for me. I'm Catholic, and had been finding everything out that I could about Sweeney and how he shares his faith. I was pumped to meet him when he rehabbed in Omaha last August, both because he had been my favorite Royal growing up and because of all the "Catholic stuff." The first time I really met him was that weekend in August (described in full detail here), but I ran into him again in January at a conference for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). He remembered me, asked how I was doing, and then...he told me he was proud of me. That meant a lot to me at the time, and still does. When I'm struggling with my faith life, I look back on things like that and it helps me see what I should be doing, what would make someone as genuinely good as Mike Sweeney proud of me.

What are your thoughts about the current Royals roster?

It's a little bit Swiss cheese-esque, but we have so many reasons to be hopeful. People are actually mentioning Royals players (pitchers, even!) when talking about building good fantasy teams, and I think that's a good sign. I'd love to have a shortstop who could get on base a little bit more regularly...or if TPJ could just go to the plate pretending he had two strikes. Maybe then he'd try to just get on base rather than swinging completely unrealistically for the fences until he's in a 2-strike hole. I love the bullpen, especially now that Nomo has been DFA'd. (That sounds so heartless, I know, but he struck me as such a weak link.) Joakim Soria is a delight--I'd hate him if he was in any division rival's pen, because once he comes in, he just gives that vibe that says, "This is it; I'm here so this game is over." I love having someone that exciting, and that worthy of boasting about in our pen.

Besides Mike Sweeney, have you ever met anybody who played for the Royals at an autograph session (or somewhere else)? Describe your experience.

Plenty. I've been to a few of the Royals Caravan stops, and have waited outside of The K many times for autographs, but most of my meaningful contact with players has come at AAA-Omaha. (I should, however, point out that meeting Ryan Shealy in February of 2007 was one of only a tiny number of non-horrible things in my life that winter. That is the origin of my irrational fan-love for Shealy.) At work, my team sets up all our promotions-related stuff in the camera wells, which are right next to the dugouts. I always go on the Royals side of the field, so I am side-by-side with the team all the time. They love to throw random objects at us, anything from sunflower seeds to bubble gum (usually gum that has not been chewed) to softee baseballs. Angel Berroa is one of the most fun to be around; I've born the brunt of his love for practical jokes and startling people many times. It's cool to get to know a little bit about the O-Royals as people, rather than only as potential filler for the 40-man or whatever. And when I had an awkward tumble off the dugout, the first two people to come to my aid were Joey Gathright and pitcher Matt Wright. Without Wright there to remind me to breathe, I definitely would have fainted, which would have meant more time in the ER for evaluation and all that, so I think I owe him big time. The way Gathright tells the story is a little different; apparently he says that he "saved my life."

This series will run periodically here at Royal Reflections. If you'd like to be interviewed for this series, send Lee an email and he'll be in touch. Also, please note: all photos belong to the interviewees and are not to be copied and/or posted elsewhere.

1 comment:

Raleigh said...

True baseball fans are a treasure. Thank you, Minda, and keep up the good work. I'll look forward to reading your work in te future

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