KANSAS CITY -- Officially, Luke Hochevar's first-pitch strike was the start of the Royals' home opener Friday afternoon.
But unofficially, things kicked off in the half hour leading up to the game. The pregame festivities on Opening Day were a hit with the fans, who let out thunderous cheers throughout the ceremonies.
Royals stars past and present took to the field to loud ovations and several rounds of applause as they were introduced before the 2012 squad hosted the Cleveland Indians.
With the teams on the baselines and the alumni on the infield, balloons were released, an American flag was unfurled and a B2 bomber flew overhead to signal the season's arrival in Kansas City.
The national anthem, played by saxophonist Horace Washington, concluded with the flyover, and the plane sent the fans into a frenzy. People pointed, cheered and pumped their fist as the patriotic symbol sent a rumble of noise throughout the stadium.
Even Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who was experiencing his first Kauffman Stadium opener in the big leagues, had to spin his head around and look behind him as the plane flew past.
But even with all the pregame events, the fans were there to see the Royals. And it was easy to tell that was the case as the Royals players were introduced.
Royals fan Brian Pattison from Kansas City said that things were a bit different on Opening Day 2012 than they have been in years past, and he should know. Pattison said Friday marked his fifth or sixth Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium.
"There's a lot of excitement because of the young players," Pattison said. "The whole city seems to be excited."
Pattison said he was surprised at how many fans were trying to squeeze through the gates to get into Kauffman Stadium as the game was starting.
Even the pregame musician Washington was excited to see the Royals, waiting to leave the field until the team took their positions.
The excitement stems from a strong finish to last season and a talented group of young players. Both of those were on display when outfielder Alex Gordon received his Gold Glove Award. The fans gave him a standing ovation, as did his teammates in the dugout, with first baseman Eric Hosmer on the top step and Moustakas leaning over the rail applauding.
Pattison said work colleagues who heard he was attending were excited for him. Royals fan Bill Miller, from Overland Park, Kan., said he jumped at the chance to come to the game when offered a ticket. He said there's a lot of hope this season.
"If this team's even in the race," Miller said, "this town will go crazy."
With even a whisper of playoff potential traveling through Kauffman Stadium on Friday, perhaps it was appropriate that Royals legend George Brett delivered the first pitch to former catcher and manager John Wathan. A pregame video featured the Hall of Famer, saying that the present belongs to the young Royals.
"A lot of kids haven't known a winning Royals team," Miller said.
Fans are hoping that is about to change.
Yost adjusts lineup for matchup purposes
KANSAS CITY -- A sweeping lineup change greeted Royals fans as they settled in for Opening Day at home on Friday.
Just-arrived center fielder Jarrod Dyson was leading off and right fielder Jeff Francoeur was listed in the second slot for the first time in his career. Alex Gordon, who's been leading off, was dropped to fifth, formerly occupied by Francoeur.
The change was prompted by Dyson's arrival to replace injured Lorenzo Cain on the roster and manager Ned Yost's desire to have a left-right-left pattern to the first eight lineup spots.
"I think a left-handed pitcher has an advantage over a left-handed hitter," Yost said. "So we had four or five different scenarios that we did different lineups where it was easy to bring in a left-handed pitcher and face multiple left-handed hitters. We tried to break up the left and right, so if they do bring in a left-handed pitcher, they've got to face a right-handed hitter right after."
Dyson, one of baseball's fastest runners, is a more prototypical leadoff batter than Gordon.
"I've always liked Alex Gordon down in a position where he can drive in more runs," Yost said.
He called Francoeur arguably the best fastball hitter on the club and -- if Dyson is on base and with dangerous Eric Hosmer coming up next -- Francoeur should see more fastballs.
"He's going to get more fastballs and he's had great approaches all year long," Yost said and added: "The one spot that hasn't settled in yet is the No. 2 spot. Gordy would be perfect for that, too, but that presents the problem of two lefties in a row."
In the six previous games, Cain and Alcides Escobar, both right-handed hitters, batted second three times each.
If a left-handed pitcher starts against the Royals -- and that's not due to happen until next Tuesday -- right-handed batter Jason Bourgeois probably will play center. For now, Yost prefers to use left-handed-hitting outfielder Mitch Maier off the bench.
"We'll try it and see what it looks like," Yost said.
Leading off for Royals, Dyson returns to bigs
KANSAS CITY -- Jarrod Dyson is back in the big leagues.
The 27-year-old outfielder is not just back on the Royals' roster, though. He'll be batting leadoff for the team in its home opener Friday.
"It's exciting," Dyson said before Friday's game. "Every time you get a callup to the big leagues, it's exciting. I just want to go out there and have fun today."
Dyson was recalled Thursday, replacing the injured Lorenzo Cain. Dyson is a speedster, stealing 11 bases in 26 games for the Royals in 2011. In seven games at Triple-A Omaha this season, he hit .364 with a .400 on-base percentage, stealing six bases.
Royals manager Ned Yost said he liked Dyson at the top of the order, calling him a more prototypical leadoff man than Alex Gordon, who has handled leadoff duties so far this season.
"[Dyson] was swinging the bat very well, playing very, very good defense in center field," Yost said. "He was 6-for-6 in stolen bases. We're giving him an opportunity to do the same thing here."
Are Dyson's legs ready for their first Major League game of 2012?
"The wheels are always in good shape," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.