KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You know what, they do care.
They care so much that they cheered Billy Butler as if he was the best player in baseball. They care so much that they stayed around for all three hours of one of the dullest All-Star Games in recent memory, happy just to get one more chance to cheer . . .
Maybe you don't care about Billy Butler. Maybe some of them didn't know they cared that much about Billy Butler.
But you know what Billy Butler represented the last couple of days?
He represented baseball in Kansas City, and the people here were going to show that they cared about it.
So maybe they went a little overboard in their booing of Robinson Cano, for the "crime" of leaving Billy Butler out of the Home Run Derby (after saying he wanted to pick a Royal). Hey, when you've been told for more than a decade that you don't matter to baseball, you don't want to be told it again for one more night.
You can only hope that Royals ownership understands the message of the last three days, of the overwhelming (and overwhelmingly enthusiastic) crowds for everything All-Star related -- and of all the cheers for Bil-ly! But-ler!
"If they're coming out for the All-Star Game, they'll come out for a team competing for a title," Butler said when it was over.
He couldn't give the Royals their first All-Star hit since Bo Jackson's big night in 1989. Butler went 0 for 2, making the Royals 0 for 12 in All-Star Games over the last 23 years.
But Butler gave the Royals and the All-Star Game more than that. He gave them proof that Royals fans can be passionate.
Believe me, players on both All-Star teams noticed the huge ovation Butler got during the pregame introductions. They didn't mind it, not at all. They love to see a home crowd give a player that kind of support.
"That was great," Indians closer Chris Perez said. "I loved it."
Perez got booed, which just showed that the fans were paying attention to a Royals-Indians incident earlier this year. Cardinals players got booed (except for hometown favorite Carlos Beltran), which just showed that there really is a traditional rivalry between the two Missouri teams.
Yankee players got booed (and not just Cano), which just showed that baseball fans here are like baseball fans everywhere.
But it was the ovation for Butler that resonated, just as it was the ovation for Royals prospect Wil Myers that resonated during Sunday's Futures Game.
"This has always been one of my favorite ballparks," White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy said. "To come and see this atmosphere, that was amazing. This is a great baseball town. It'll be fun to come here in the future."
That future is probably more about guys like Myers and guys like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer than it is about Billy Butler.
But Butler was the Royals All-Star, the Royals' only All-Star, so Butler was the one who got to experience what the rest of them may someday get to see for themselves.
"I had a blast," Butler said. "I'm very proud to be a Kansas City Royal."
The Royals can be proud, too, but hopefully they got the message that the fans sent.
Kauffman Stadium can be like it was this week. This can be a great baseball town.
Just give them a reason.