I moved to Chanute four years ago from St. Louis, a city in which a high percentage of local conversations revolve around the fortunes of the local professional team. Whether the Cardinals are winning and losing, who is hitting, who is injured, when and why the manager should be fired are all discussed with total strangers; it’s much like the way people in most cities greet each other with talk of the weather. I worked in offices in St. Louis on days when the Cardinals were involved in big high-stakes games, and saw how little work actually got done by employees following every hit, strikeout, twist and turn.

When I first arrived in lovely Chanute, I was struck by how little interest seemed to be shown by local residents towards the Kansas City Royals or professional baseball in general. The team had been so bad for so long that not many Chanute citizens were actively rooting for them. At the time, I never anticipated that the Royals would provide my co-workers and me with an excuse to be a little less-than-productive during a big postseason workday game.

What a difference a couple of years makes. It’s been fun to see the turnaround in that organization, as smart management decisions and a crop of young, aggressive, and talented players have reversed the Royals’ fortunes. They have turned a dysfunctional team into an intimidating contender.

This all culminated with a barn-burner contest on Monday that was followed in the Tribune’s downtown office.

At a certain point in this playoff match-up, the Royals were on the verge of being eliminated from the post-season, being behind 6-2 going into the eighth inning. I was afraid we might have to start paying attention to our work duties instead of the game.

However, I was glad that our office chose to keep watching as the scrappy Royals squad came back for five runs in the eighth inning and a two-run homer in the ninth.

My co-workers were really ecstatic about this achievement. The Royals are not my team of choice, but it was fun to share in their moment of joy.

I’ve been watching Royals games to distract me from the struggles my beloved Cardinalshad in their playoff series against a hungry underdog of a Cubs squad. The Cubs featured a probable Cy Young winner in its pitching rotation and a dugout full of power-hitting young batters eager for the big-time. I was paying attention to the Royals-Astros series to see how well the Kansas City squad handled the challenge from that type of team, and to wish that my Cardinals could have pulled off a similar trick.

Even though Kauffman stadium is 120 miles from Chanute and in another state, the Royals and southeast Kansas have a lot in common. Some individuals might have assumed that the Royals’ and our region’s glory days were behind us, as both have hit a series of major rough patches in the last 25 years or so after achieving significant successes before then. Most of these woes for the region and the Royals can be traced to unpredictable economic forces exacerbated by bad choices by decision-makers at the top. These caused plenty of young people who showed real talent and promise to try to seek employment elsewhere, making it harder for both the Royals and the region surrounding Chanute to compete.

However, like the Royals have managed to do, our region could turn things around if it can attract some youthful energy that generates enthusiasm and inspires us to our best performance. Variations of a fiber to the home plan and other good ideas on how to bring business here have been presented to our city to improve its performance in the clutch – and conversations have recently reignited about how best to achieve this victory. I hope the people who have the power to put these plans in motion make the decisions necessary to help us get the win.

As the Royals proved against the Astros the other day, a comeback is always possible. It takes good management and the will of a collective group of individuals to achieve victory. Let’s not fall behind in the count and let a fear of risk or failure scare us from doing what has to be done to be successful. We’re still in this game, and there’s time for us to pull off something that nobody quite saw coming.

While some of us may occasionally root for different outcomes, a common goal would make us all feel like we are all working together. With that kind of attitude, our region and its favorite baseball team will be awfully hard to beat.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or offers for Royals World Series tickets to brian@chanute.com

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