KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> The world champion Kansas City Royals basked in the adulation of hundreds of thousands of ecstatic fans in a parade and rally today that nearly shut down downtown for hours.
After driving a 2.3-mile route in a caravan, team owner David Glass, manager Ned Yost and several of the Royals returned the love by telling fans they could not have captured the World Series without their support and calling the turnout for Tuesday’s celebration "unbelievable" and "amazing."
City officials estimated 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."
Left fielder Alex Gordon, who has been with the team since 2007, recalled years of losing seasons for the Royals. "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 is not expected to exercise an option on his contract for next season, gave no hint about his possible future with the team.
Johnny Gomes, a midseason acquisition from the Atlanta Braves who didn’t make the playoff roster but was credited with bringing positive energy to the clubhouse, was the most animated of the players, forcing the reluctant relieving corps to take a bow and introducing several players. He also asked for a moment of silence in honor of Edinson Volquez’s father, Chris Young’s father and Mike Moustakas’ mother, all of whom died this year.
"It’s unbelievable what those guys did," Gomes said, emphatically.
Volquez drew loud applause when he vowed that the Royals would be back on the same stage next season after winning another world championship.
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.
Several area school districts called off classes for the day and Rachel Bryant, of Kansas City, took advantage and brought her 7-year-old son, Jayden, to the parade.
"It’s been 30 years since the last championship. Who knows if it will be another 30 years? It might be a one-time experience for him. I hope not; I hope we’re back here next year," she said.
Steve Templeton, of suburban Lee’s Summit, said the championship brought the city together.
"The Royals were a doormat for so long and look at it now, it’s just a sea of blue," he said. "It’s fun because they are bringing everybody together, every nationality, every kind of person is here together because we love the team."
Downtown was so crowded that some fans who came for the festivities left before they began, realizing they wouldn’t be able to see or hear anything.
"It’s a shame because we’re so proud of the team," said Mary Winston of suburban Overland Park, Kansas, who brought her five children three hours before the rally and left before it began. "But with five children we would have had to be here at 5 a.m. to get a seat."
The Kansas City Transit Authority said those trying to take public transportation to the events endured waits of one- to three-hours. Spokeswoman Cindy Baker said the crowds were "definitely more than we expected," with a conservative estimate of about 100,000 people being shuttled before the rally, with more after it began. Police spokesman Tye Grant said traffic was so heavy that some drivers parked along the interstate and walked.
Associated Press reporter Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report.