Despite dual allegiances, Mike Boddicker pulling for Royals over Orioles

Mike Boddicker has a World Series ring from the Orioles, whom the right-hander helped win it all in 1983. On Friday, however, he'll wear a Kansas City Royals T-shirt to watch the start of the American League Championship Series.

"I bleed Royals blue," Boddicker said by phone from his home in Overland Park, Kan., 20 minutes from Kauffman Stadium. "This city has gone nuts. We've waited 29 years for a playoff team. These people have been so loyal for so long; I'll root for the city because it deserves this."

Heresy, cry Orioles fans who remember Boddicker as the team's onetime ace and its last 20-game winner. He played nine years here, made the All-Star team, won the 1983 ALCS Most Valuable Player Award and pitched a three-hitter to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, in the World Series. And now he'll back the enemy in the playoffs?

"I'm getting text messages from everyone asking, 'Who are you going to root for?'" Boddicker said. "I tell them, 'I'm rooting for good baseball.' That's got it covered."

In truth, the Iowa native said, he's pulling for Kansas City, a team he played for toward the end of his 14-year career and a town he has called home since 1991. For years, he threw batting practice for the Royals, and he currently hosts a weekly sports radio talk show.

Boddicker, 57, is one of a number of former players who must decide their allegiance in the ALCS, having been on both teams.

Like over-achieving Orioles teams past and present, Boddicker said, the Royals have captured the heart of the city. His too.

"You can't fathom what the playoffs mean here," he said. "Winning the wild-card game against Oakland was like taking the World Series. After we won [the ALDS] Sunday night, the players went downtown, walked around and signed autographs for the fans.

"It was ugly most of the year, watching these guys win. They'd scratch out two or three runs and somehow manage to do it. If we were close, or ahead in the seventh inning, the game was ours.

"We're hotter than a firecracker right now. It's going to be a singles-and-running 'slugfest' for the Royals. Like [Baltimore] in 1983, this team doesn't believe it can be beat. The Orioles will have their hands full. It'll be a knock-down, drag-out, nobody-wants-to-give-up series that should go seven games."

Storm Davis doesn't care how long it takes.

"As long as Baltimore gets that fourth win before the Royals do, that's all that matters," said Davis who, like Boddicker, pitched the Orioles to a World Series victory in 1983.

Davis also played two years for Kansas City, but he favors the team that drafted him.

"I'm a die-hard Orioles fan, 100 percent," said Davis, who won 61 games in six years here. "You can't get more loyal than me. I'll live and die with every pitch. That's the organization that reared me and taught me and, golly, do I want them to win another championship so bad.

"I'd walk around in my Orioles jersey, except that I don't think it fits anymore."

Davis, 52, lives in Jacksonville and works as pitching coach for the Tennessee Smokies, the Chicago Cubs' Double-A team.

"But a big part of me will always be in Baltimore," he said. "When the [Detroit] Tigers mounted a comeback in the ninth inning Sunday, I did jump out of my chair a little bit, but I calmed down."

Davis also predicts a lengthy ALCS, saying it would favor the Orioles.

"A long series is like a game of chess — you might need a 'B' or 'C' move, to make adjustments, and Buck Showalter has the pulse of the game," he said. "He's the only manager I played for, besides Tony LaRussa, who knows just what his players can and cannot do."

Gregg Zaun doesn't care who wins the AL pennant.

"People think I should be loyal to the Orioles, but they traded me twice," said the former catcher, who played three years here (1995-96 and 2009) and two in Kansas City. "I'm happy whoever takes it. If Baltimore wins, they're very deserving, and a Royals' win would be an amazing story."

The latter is a longshot, Zaun said:

"My gut says the Orioles in five. Their starting pitching is better, their bullpen is locked down and their power is dynamic."

The Orioles' power ought to overcome the Royals' speed, said Zaun, 43, a broadcast analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays.

"If the Royals find themselves down by a lot, they have a hard time putting crooked numbers on the board," said Zaun, the nephew of ex-Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey. "They have the speed to run people out of the building, but they can't steal first [base]."

Don't discount intangibles, said Boddicker, who finds both the Royals' aura and the fans' troth reminiscent of the Orioles' last title team.

"These guys are like family. They hang together on off-days, like the Orioles did in '83," he said. "And the fans in both cities are hard-working people who appreciate your effort and understand that you're not going to pitch great every day.

"In neither place, when I came off the mound, did I ever hear a boo when I deserved it. The fans don't react to one game; it's a collective thing, it's what you've done for them all year. That means a lot, especially in the playoffs."

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