The last time the Kansas City Royals were featured on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, President Bill Clinton was in the midst of a reelection campaign, Derek Jeter was a rookie, and 2009 AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke was in middle school.

The maiden Sunday Night Baseball contest was on ESPN on April 15, 1990. Back then, each team was guaranteed at least one appearance in the spotlight every season. But at the time, the Royals were a sub-.500 squad well on its way to becoming an afterthought in the American League.

The most recent Sunday Night Baseball broadcast at Kauffman Stadium was on June 16, 1996. That night, the Royals – playing in front of just 19,437 fans at their home ballpark – lost to the Baltimore Orioles 13-5 and coughed up eight runs in the eighth inning. Perhaps that embarrassing implosion is what screamed “stay away!” to ESPN’s producers.

But regardless of the reason, that was the last time the boys in blue would play in front of the broadcasting duo of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.

Until now because according to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball schedule for the 2010 season, the Royals will visit the Los Angeles Angels in primetime on July 4, marking Kansas City’s first appearance on the program in 14 years.

Fans who want to spend the evening of Independence Day watching America’s pastime will have no choice but to watch Trey Hillman’s Royals. They’ll have to tune in hoping that Billy Butler, Jose Guillen, and the newly signed Rick Ankiel can put on a fireworks display. And they’ll have to stay tuned to ESPN no matter the score to make sure that Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth, and Juan Cruz won’t channel their inner Hipolito Pichardo and Tim Pugh.

The Royals are 920-1,275 since their last appearance on Sunday Night Baseball. For a beleaguered franchise that can’t seem to do anything right, a rare appearance on the national stage is an excellent chance to show signs of hope for the future. 

A win on the Fourth could be the first step toward rebuilding their long-lost respect.