KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The end came on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, as a fall sun lit the confines of Kauffman Stadium, as a light blue sky hung overhead, as four teammates — friends and brothers and champions — huddled together on the infield grass in the top of the fifth inning.
Eric Hosmer wrapped his left arm around Mike Moustakas, who did the same with Lorenzo Cain. Alcides Escobar clutched Hosmer and Cain and completed the group hug. Together they had helped revitalize a franchise and change a city, transforming one of the worst teams in sports into a champion, taking a success-starved Midwestern town on two magical rides through the month of October. And now, they stood linked together in the middle of the diamond, doffing their hats as they walked off, one last time, together.
Salvador Perez stood at the top of the dugout steps. Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” the anthem of 2015, blared from the PA system. One fan, standing in the bottom section, held up a blue sign with four words: “We Are So Grateful.”
As Hosmer and Moustakas passed the first-base line, they locked arms once more. All around them, teammates and coaches and fans had come to their feet.
This was Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, the end of an era coming into focus in a 14-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. As a crowd of 32,277 paid tribute to a collection of pending free agents, the Royals closed out a 2017 season that was both disappointing and compelling, happy and sad, an anticlimactic end to one of the finest runs in franchise history.
Two seasons removed from hoisting a World Series championship trophy in New York, the Royals entered the year knowing that Hosmer, Moustakas, Cain and Escobar would be free agents at the end of the season.
The front office sought to give their championship core one more chance to make a run. Yet the hopes of a fairy tale ending were curtailed by a late-season fade in August and September.
By Sunday, the only thing that remained was the end, one final goodbye at Kauffman Stadium. In the moments after the final out, the Royals gathered on the field and watched a video together on the CrownVision board.
In the end, there were two words: Thank You.