KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals manager Ned Yost pleaded with fans on Wednesday to show up for their remaining home games, one night after Alex Gordon's walk-off homer gave Kansas City a dramatic win over Minnesota that was seen by just 13,847 at Kauffman Stadium.
Yost briefly mentioned the attendance in his postgame remarks, and expanded on his thoughts when he was asked a follow-up question about so many empty seats during a pennant race.
"We've been working hard to try to make our fans happy and make our fans proud of us for a lot of years," Yost said, "and we'd like them to enjoy a night like that."
Some took Yost's comments out of context — they thought they were a dig at fans who have suffered for 29 years without a playoff appearance. But the skipper said Wednesday that he wasn't being critical of fans, rather he was simply asking them to join in the fun.
The Royals entered Wednesday with a 1½-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central.
"The reason I do this job, there's two reasons: One is I've been to the World Series six times. I know that feeling. I know the excitement. I know what goes along with it," Yost said. "And one of my main things is I want these players to experience that, because it's very, very important. And the opportunities to do it are far and few between.
"And the other thing is I want the fans to experienced that," he said. "It's a special time. It's been a long time since our fans have been able to enjoy a playoff run."
The Royals won 86 games last year, their best mark since 1989, but were never really in the division race. They were eliminated from wild-card contention with a week left in the season.
"To win a division, it's one of the toughest things to do in sports, and you don't know when this opportunity is going to come again," Yost said. "I just think it's extremely important that our fans get the opportunity to come out and enjoy this with us."
It wasn't just Yost who noticed the empty seats, though. Gordon also mentioned how light the crowd was one night after 31,758 turned out to see the Yankees — and shortstop Derek Jeter's last scheduled appearance in Kansas City.
"It wasn't the best," Gordon said, "but I think they've been pretty great all year long. I think they were a little tired after the Jeter night and cheering for him all night and putting a lot into that game. They took a night off and hopefully they'll come back out tomorrow."
There were several reasons for the paltry crowd. The Royals were playing the last-place Twins, a team that lacks star power.
The game was being played on Tuesday, traditionally a poor night for attendance. And school is back in session, which means many families are unwilling to show up for a game that might not end until late in the evening.
"I know there's a lot of reasons for it," Yost said. "There's economic reasons. You can watch the game on TV. There's a lot of reasons for it. But again, we've worked really hard to get in this position, and I just don't know when we're going to get in this position again. It could be for the next five years. It could be the next six years. But enjoy it while you can."
The reality is more fans have been enjoying it than any point in the past two decades.
The Royals had drawn 1,476,908 fans through Tuesday night's game, an increase of more than 100,000 over a year ago. That's an average of 23,443 per contest, which would give the club about 1.9 million fans for the season — the best single-season mark since 1993.
On top of that, the Royals have been breaking records for local TV ratings all summer.
"You go back and talk to people about the '85 year when they won the World Series, they remember that, and they've been longing for that, and it's been a long time ago. And they remember it for the rest of their lives," Yost said. "If we do want we want to do, these kids jumping up and down on the Jumbotron, they're going to remember it for the rest of their lives, too."