Yoko Yamashita, an assistant Buddhist priestess since age fifteen, likes the team enough to have traveled from her home in an Okayama, Japan, temple last month to sit through seven Royals games.
"At all of the games I saw at the K, the team won," says Yamashita, now in her twenties. "How lucky I am!"
That means a Buddhist priestess was in the bleachers for seven of the nine victories in the Royals' longest winning streak in eight years. It seemed kind of supernatural. Especially after the Royals won one game when Raul Ibanez was struck with a pitch in the bottom of the tenth inning while the score was tied and the bases loaded.
Yamashita became a Royals fan when Mac Suzuki, a pitcher from Kobe, Japan, joined the Kansas City organization. At the Royals' official Web site, Yamashita and season-ticket holder Paula Marie began a long-distance friendship through Marie's frequent optimistic posts to discussion forums. "I'm a very positive person," Marie says. "She had read my posts on the Royals site and felt comfortable enough to e-mail me and start up a friendship."
Marie, who has owned and operated a belly-dancing telegram-messenger service in Kansas City for twenty years and uses a professional name as a decoy in case an obsessed customer attempts to seek her out away from work, hosted Yamashita when the priestess visited Kansas City in July.
"I love the beautiful city so much," Yamashita says. "I feel that place is full of vigor. People are so friendly and kind."
Kauffman Stadium is "elegant," Yamashita says. "I've never seen such a wonderful stadium. I learned at the K how baseball has a big, special power to unite people. This is one of the most important experiences in my life."
Yamashita's father was a big fan of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, but he died when she was fourteen years old. "He didn't influence my love of baseball at all," she says. "I bet he must be surprised so much in the heaven to know that his daughter started a fan site of the Major League Baseball team.
"I've never played baseball. I became a baseball fan when I was eighteen years old," Yamashita explains. "To tell the truth, I had no interests in baseball until that age because I was too busy to study when I was a student. In Japan, most children are forced to study so hard because of the competitive entrance examinations."
After graduating from high school, she had time to watch television, and baseball games became her favorite programming. She started attending Yokohama Taiyo Whales games. "I love to see a baseball game in a ballpark from the bottom of my heart," Yamashita says.
Despite the Royals' dismal performance when Yamashita is not in the stands, she plans on sticking with the team whether it wins, loses or cuts Suzuki. She hosts a Web site for Royals fans from Japan (www.geocities.co.jp/AthleteSamos/5539). She listens to the games on the Internet and is planning to publish an English-language Royals Web site.
The team would be better off, though, if she'd just move here. "Since she's a Buddhist priestess, I think she's in with the guy upstairs," quips Marie, deftly blending Eastern philosophy and Western colloquialism. "The Royals need to get her back here and hire her as a good luck charm."
But first she has to stop by the league's office and dispense some of that good karma to the owners and the players' union.