KANSAS CITY, Mo. — How special was the Royals’ 2014 season?
Enough so that a crowd estimated at 15,000 showed up the morning after the Royals’ crushing World Series Game 7 loss for a celebration event at Kauffman Stadium to honor the team.
But amid chants one last time of "Let’s go, Royals!" it really was the fans who were being honored.
Owner David Glass, general manager Dayton Moore, mayor Sly James and several players grabbed the microphone during the Thursday morning event and saluted the fans.
"You mean the world to us," manager Ned Yost told the fans to a large ovation.
Even pitcher James Shields, who likely will be gone through free agency, seemed moved by the turnout.
"There’s no way to describe how we feel about you," Shields said.
Designated hitter Billy Butler, a longtime fan favorite who also may have played his last game as a Royal, admitted he was nervous as he spoke to fans.
"I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of this organization," Butler said to another thunderous ovation.
Soon after, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, one of the stars of the postseason — he was the MVP of the ALCS sweep vs. Baltimore — was handed the microphone and received the largest cheer of all.
"We’ll get them next year!" Cain vowed.
Even Nori Aoki, another looming free agent, got a shot at talking to the crowd — in English. Aoki, who has required a translator all season when speaking to the media, shouted, "You the best! Thank you so much!"
Aoki’s English cracked up all of his teammates, as well as Yost.
But as Moore reminded everyone there, the pain of the Game 7 loss still lingered, although some healing had already started.
"Losing is no fun," Moore said. "It hurts today. But I think this organization is as strong as it has ever been and as fearless as it has ever been."