ATLANTA -- Somebody had to be the first opponent to play the Red Sox in Boston following Monday's tragedy. That somebody will be the Royals, who open a weekend series at Fenway Park on Friday night.
The environment is uncharted territory for pretty much everybody, but being that opponent is a responsibility the team is taking very seriously and is something it sees as an opportunity to promote healing in a way that is unique to baseball.
Royals manager Ned Yost actually has an idea of the range of emotion that will be felt in Fenway and all around Boston this weekend, as he was on the Braves' coaching staff when Atlanta was the New York Mets' first opponent following 9/11. He knows how baseball can play a part in the healing process.
"It sounds stupid, because you don't really have much of an impact, but you just go and be with the city," said Yost. "Baseball promotes healing for everybody. Don't ask me how. When we were here in Atlanta at the end of the year, we'd get letters from families that their mom or their dad or their brother or their sister stayed alive four extra days to watch us play. They fought. That's all they were living for. It just makes you feel better if you can go to a baseball game. It's America's pastime, and it just helps heal. So I'm glad that we've got the opportunity to go in there and help some in that process."
"You saw what happened with 9/11. Baseball kind of brought everybody together," said pitcher Tim Collins, who grew up in nearby Worcester, Mass., and will have family and friends in the stands this weekend. "This is kind of the same thing. When there's a tragedy, when something like this happens, you're able to take people's minds off what happened for just a few hours. It really helps. Obviously, it won't be forgotten, but it will ease people's minds a little bit for just a short time."
Catcher George Kottaras has an emotional tie to the Red Sox, as he made his Major League debut with them on Sept. 13, 2008. While he knows the Red Sox will be the sentimental favorite, he feels there really will be no winners or losers on Friday -- even though the Royals will be out to win the game.
"It's definitely one of those things where we're trying to get together for Major League Baseball, then the city of Boston and people around the world," Kottaras said. "We all have heavy hearts. It's special for me in the sense that it's where I made my debut. It's kind of where things started for me, so there's definitely a little sense of that, but it's tough on everybody."
Win or lose this weekend, the Royals are proud to play a part in helping restore normality to Boston.
"Obviously we're not going to try to lose Friday night, but at the same time, I think just playing baseball sometimes takes people's minds off it," said right fielder Jeff Francoeur. "Obviously, it's not a big deal compared to what those people and families are going through, but hopefully it will give a little bit of normalcy to them."
"What happened is just sad, and I'm at a loss for words, but the city is unbelievable. Such a strong group of people," said third baseman Mike Moustakas. "It really shows you what it is to be an American, the way everybody's rallied around them. It's going to be a lot of fun to go into that city and play in that town when it means more than just playing baseball. It's going to be nice to go into a town and be able to help people out."
Getz responds loud and clear to homer tidbit
ATLANTA -- Don't believe it when players say they don't read information posted on the scoreboard, and don't sell short the power of motivation.
Royals second baseman Chris Getz proved both points Tuesday night. Leading off the third inning, a note on the scoreboard mentioned his 954 consecutive at-bats without a homer.
Two pitches later, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound second baseman ended the drought, putting a charge into a Kris Medlen fastball and sending it deep into the seats in right.
"I actually saw it on the board while I was hitting," said Getz of his third career homer. "So that definitely added to the satisfaction. It's too bad we lost, and too bad it took so long for me to get another one up there."
It had been a while since his last homer -- it was the second-longest streak among active players, with only Philadelphia's Ben Revere maintaining a longer streak. Still, Getz knew this one was gone the second he hit it.
"I did," he said. "If that one's not going out, I'm never going to get one. It was just a fastball. I took the first one, and then felt I was ready to go and get on a fastball, and I happened to catch it pretty good."
The homer touched off a wild celebration, in part because it tied the game and also because, in an interesting twist, the pitcher against whom Getz had last gone deep was in the on-deck circle, Jeremy Guthrie, who surrendered one on July 19, 2009.
"It's ironic that I'm on deck when he hits the home run, since I was the last guy to give one up to him," Guthrie said, adding with a laugh. "But as you saw tonight, I can give up a home run with the best of them."
Guthrie's place in Getz's career history is now unsecured, and that's not a bad thing.
"He's off the hook," said Getz.
Homers of solo variety not troubling to Yost
ATLANTA -- Kansas City pitchers allowed five homers in Tuesday night's 6-3 loss to the Braves. Starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed the first two, giving him five allowed in his last two starts. If there is a mitigating factor, it's that all of them were solo shots.
While manager Ned Yost doesn't like pitchers allowing long balls -- it's pretty difficult to find a manager who does -- that mitigating factor makes a big difference. In fact, Yost likes his staff's aggressive approach.
"We've got more guys around the plate, guys that aren't afraid to pitch to contact because of our defense," he said. "They are solo homers. They haven't been the two- and three- and four-run variety."
"It's not a concern. They're not walking two guys then giving up homers," Yost said. "They're attacking each individual hitter. We're playing in the big leagues. You're facing some of the best hitters in the world. So it's going to happen."
It's not happening a whole lot, as the Royals have limited contact, in general. The staff started Wednesday with 111 strikeouts in 13 games (fifth in the American League) with only 33 walks and a Major League-leading 3.36 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Bo knows KC: Legend tosses out first pitch in Atlanta
ATLANTA -- A legendary star in both the Major Leagues with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and the then-California Angels and the National Football League, with the then-Los Angeles Raiders, Bo Jackson threw out the first pitch prior to Wednesday's matinee at Turner Field.
Jackson, who played in the Majors from 1986-94, earning MVP honors in his lone All-Star Game appearance, admitted it was nice to be back at the ball park and remembered how much he enjoyed being around the game.
"I don't miss the game. I miss the camaraderie," he said. "I'm quite sure if you ask all of the players that have played and gone on and done other things, they miss the camaraderie more than the game. Being baseball players, our job is no different than [yours]. You have to come in punch the clock, put in time and go home. But between those periods and times, that's when you build the camaraderie and the friendships. That's what I miss."
The majority of the camaraderie and friendships were built between 1986 and 1990 with the Royals, when he performed magic in the outfield and hit 109 of his 132 career homers, many of the majestic variety.
"The Royals are my team," he said. "I'm hoping that they win. I pull for the Braves, because I know a few guys on the Braves, [fellow Auburn alum] Tim Hudson, John Schuerholz [Kansas City's general manager when Jackson played there], but I started my career in Kansas City. So I'm an American Leaguer."
Jackson, who admitted to having several "irons in the fire," was primarily in town to help promote "Bo Bikes Bama 2," the second-annual event, which takes place on Saturday to raise money for tornado victims in Alabama.
The recent subject of an ESPN 30-for-30 Documentary, Jackson, who currently lives in Chicago, remains modest, especially when asked about his legacy and being considered by some the greatest athlete of all time.
"I don't know. That's not for me to say. That's for my peers and for the people out there that watched me play," he said. "The only thing that I know is that when my wife says, 'Go out and plow the driveway.' I've got to do it. Even though I could be the greatest of all time I still have to plow that driveway."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.