KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The world champion Royals basked in the adulation of hundreds of thousands of ecstatic fans in a parade and rally Tuesday that nearly shut down downtown for hours.
And the man who stole the show wasn't even on the postseason roster.
Former Ray Jonny Gomes was a midseason acquisition from the Braves who was credited with bringing positive energy to the clubhouse. After the 2.3-mile caravan arrived at Union Station, Gomes grabbed a U.S. flag, forced the team's reluctant relief corps to take a bow then introduced several players. He then asked for a moment of silence for Mike Moustakas' mother, Chris Young's father and Edinson Volquez's father, who all died in the past four months.
"It's unbelievable what those boys did," Gomes said.
"Hey, guess what, Cy Young winner, not on our team, beat him. Rookie of the year, not on our team, we beat him. MVP of the whole league, sorry guys, not on our team. But we beat that guy, too! You know why we beat them? Because all of you all people had our backs.
"And (general manager) Dayton Moore put this team together, and (manager Ned) Yost delivered it by being the captain of the ship. You all want to be politically correct, I'm the un-politically correct person. We whooped their (butts)!"
Yost and several other players told the fans they could not have captured the World Series without their support and called the turnout for the celebration "unbelievable" and "amazing."
City officials estimated Tuesday that 500,000 people attended the events.
"This is a day like none of us have seen before and we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts," Yost said. "What (the team) wanted most was to come to this city to win a championship for you guys. We celebrate it with you today."
Leftfielder Alex Gordon, who has been with the team since 2007, recalled years of losing. "To see this unfold to this is unbelievable. We're the World Series champs and you are the best fans in the world," he told the crowd.
Gordon, who's not expected to exercise an option on his contract for next season, gave no hint about his future.
Volquez drew loud applause when he vowed that the Royals would be back on the same stage next season.
Fans began arriving hours before the festivities and were packed in so tightly that many could not move. Yet the mood remained mostly jovial, with people waving flags, hats and signs, thrilled for their team's first World Series win since 1985.
Hall of Famer George Brett told the crowd this year's team was better than the one he played on in 1985.
"These guys are the best team ever, in my opinion, and I'm sure in yours, too," he said.