Opening Day is finally here for Major League Baseball after a difficult offseason where CBA negotiations didn’t appear to be going well. The season officially begins on Thursday, Apr. 7, with a good portion of the teams hitting the field for the first time.
That includes the local Kansas City Royals, who host Cleveland at 4:10 p.m. ET.
The home side is sending out an old, but familiar, face in starting pitcher Zack Greinke. The 38-year-old is back with the Royals for the first time since 2010 after spending his first seven years in the big leagues with KC.
Greinke will look to have a quality outing and perhaps add another great Opening Day moment to the list. The Royals feature several in their history that fans and baseball enthusiasts will never forget.
Since being established in 1969, the Royals have had their share of exciting tilts and finishes through the years. Of course, this is opinionated, but their most memorable wasn’t all that long ago. The hope for the 2022 season is the Royals get back to winning. And with legal Kansas sports betting on the horizon, this season could be a whole new experience for fans. But it all starts with opening day and starting the season off with a win.
Here are three unforgettable Kansas City Royals Opening Day games.
No. 1: Royals vs. White Sox, 2004
While the majority of the afternoon wasn’t thrilling for fans inside Kauffman Stadium, this was a ninth inning for the ages.
Kansas City trailed 7-3 entering the bottom half of the frame. A few free passes got some men on base. With one run already across, utility player Mendy Lopez launched a massive shot over the wall in center that tied the contest up.
Following another hit, outfielder Carlos Beltran secured the comeback with a two-run homer to left. The six-run ninth inning was the perfect way for the Royals to celebrate the start of a new season after completing a winning campaign six months prior.
Beltran, who went on to have a few more clutch hits like this going forward in his career, was ecstatic with the 2004 result. He said:
“This, I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. I’m going to live with this. Opening Day, a walk-off home run — it doesn’t get any better.”
The game was Beltran’s last Opening Day with the team before moving on to Houston and several other franchises.
No. 2: Royals vs. Mets, 2016
Is there any better Opening Day than when your team is raising a championship banner?
Kansas City lifted its World Series flag in 2016 for the first time in 30 years. Ironically, it did so in front of the team it defeated to earn the hardware in the New York Mets.
This was the first time this ever occurred in MLB.
The pregame party continued throughout the affair, as the Royals never trailed. They scored once in the first and scratched a few more runs across in the next few innings. This proved to be plenty for starter Edinson Volquez, who threw for six scoreless frames.
New York threatened toward the end, but it wasn’t enough. Closer Wade Davis struck out the last few hitters, with the potential tying run only 90 feet away.
Kauffman rejoiced again as the Royals won an odd Opening Day evening affair in front of the home crowd.
No. 3: Royals vs. Twins, 1969
Although far fewer people may remember this one, the Royals’ very first Opening Day was quite notable, as well.
Not only did the fans at Municipal Stadium witness history that day, but they also got a win. For those who don’t remember, Kansas City played in this venue for its first four seasons before moving into Kauffman.
This game was exciting because of the result, but more importantly, how the Royals got there. They found themselves in a 3-1 hole before a strong sixth inning.
Both Lou Piniella and Jim Campanis came up with important knocks to help tie the contest up at three runs apiece.
The Royals and Twins needed more than nine innings to settle this one, though.
Thanks to the pitching staff, KC kept everything tied for a while. Reliever Dave Wickersham gave his team five strong innings and the opportunity to win.
When pinch-hitter Joe Keough entered the box with the bases loaded in the 12th, the stage was set. Keough connected on a pitch and smacked it off the wall in right to send everyone home happy. The Royals locked up their very first win as a franchise that day and now own more than 4,000 overall heading into 2022.
Photo by Ed Zurga / Associated Press