Baseball starts for some fans on Opening Day, for others when pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

For the Konrade family of Emporia, baseball arrived Wednesday when a bus pulled up in front of Bruff’s Steak House just off Interstate 35 and out came members of the Royals, including designated hitter Billy Butler and reliever Aaron Crow.

Monica Konrade and her sons Jonas, the oldest at 9, Drew, Eli and T.J., came decked in Royals gear and lined up for autographs at the Royals Caravan, where different members of the organization hit the road in several directions, to sign, pose for photographs and talk baseball.

“It’s a special thing,” Monica Konrade said. “We took the kids out of school for an hour or two. They’ve gotten good grades, so this is a special privilege, and they are very excited. They’ve seen the players from so far away. To see them up close like this, I think they’ll be excited about baseball.”

It’s not just the kids. Players are stoked as well after posting the franchise’s most victories, 86, in two decades.

“If we don’t win the (American League) Central, it’s basically a letdown,” Butler said. “We’ve added to a team that finished 10 games over .500. And we’re expected to compete in the Central and get a playoff berth.”

“The city’s waited a long time for it, and we added to a team that had success last year. There’s only one way to meet the expectations on that, and we understand that.”

The lineup has been bolstered, and Butler, beginning his eighth year with the Royals, called it the best of his career. The Royals retooled the top of their order by acquiring outfielder Noichika Aoki from the Brewers and second baseman Omar Infante from the Tigers.