8/5/09 at Kauffman Stadium
You wanna know how far it is from Centralia, IL to Kauffman Stadium? Wait… why’s that important? Well, Centralia’s where I was staying (along with Michelle and our friend, Jenny) at the home of the bride’s family… we were in the area because Michelle was to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. So… they had a day of dress fittings and ribbon-tying… I had figured there might be a day that I had nothing to do… Seattle was playing the Royals.
The answer to the above question is 317 miles… roughly the distance from San Diego, CA to Las Vegas, NV. I left Illinois at about 11:45am and I made the trip in just under five hours, including a pit stop in Blue Springs, MO, home of 2008 American Idol David Cook. It says so on a sign when you enter the town. My route was along the 64 West, through St. Louis, to the 70 West… through city after city (and town after town), across two major rivers (the Mississippi and the Missouri) and to shiny, newly renovated Kauffman Stadium (which is right next to where the NFL Chiefs play–news to me). Woo-hoo!
I parked and immediately went to the Home Plate ticket windows and bought a ticket that was ordinarily $26.00 for $7.00 because it was College Night. What an awesome surprise! It was also Retro Night (80′s) and it was Buck Night (hot dogs, peanuts, and sodas for a dollar). Was I worried that this would attract a larger than average crowd? Yes. Did that hinder me? Heck no.
If I can snag at Angel Stadium, which averages about 40,000 fans per game, I can handle anything Kauffman Stadium had to offer.
So, ticket in hand, I headed around the third base side of the stadium to Gate A. There… I waited. It was 4:50pm and the gates weren’t going to open for forty minutes. I took as many photos as I could, talked to a couple locals, tried to see if the cage was up (it was), and then at 5:30pm the bell rang and I was the first ticket scanned. I ran in and scoured the left field seats for Easter eggs… no dice. I started running toward right field, behind the batter’s eye, and as I got there a guy grabbed a ball sitting in the Pepsi Party Porch. He then ran by me to check right field. I snapped this from my vantage point just on the left field side of the batter’s eye:
The Royals were done hitting by this point so I trotted over toward the left field foul pole where some Mariners were warming up. Right before I took this photo…
… I found a ball lying in a puddle of water near the pole. There were about a dozen people around it and the stadium had been open for about five minutes at this point. I was pretty shocked to see it was still there. I picked it up and that’s the story of Ball #1 on the day. It was WET! Like, soaking wet. Like, weighed double what a baseball should weigh. Here it is after I moved it to higher, drier ground:
I tucked it into a separate pocket of my backpack and set my sights on the M’s pitchers throwing nearby. After a few minutes Shawn Kelley tossed me my second ball of the day! It was a rubbed up (presumed former game) ball. Nice!
I looked toward home and saw the Mariners starting to hit. Ichiro and Griffey were hitting in the first group so I ran back past the batter’s eye and through the mist of the fountains to right field. After watching homer after homer pass to the left or right I tracked one and started running from the foul pole area up some some steps. I made it to the cross aisle, still tracking the ball, running as fast as I could… I wasn’t going to catch it on the fly but I kept after it, hoping for a lucky bounce.
Then something weird happened. The ball descended and hit a metal railing running parallel to the outfield wall. The ball somehow bounced not up or back to the field, but straight toward me. I had been sprinting toward the spot so the funky ricochet caught me off guard. Nevertheless, I was able to get my glove up and lean back a bit after stopping on a dime (knocking my own cap off my head in the process) and I had Ball #3 for the evening and the 90th in my lifetime total. Here’s a photo of the ball and the area where I caught it:
See the scuff mark from the pole? And there’s the silver pole it hit off of in the cross aisle…
I got a round of applause from a bunch of people nearby on that one.
After that group finished I headed back into the wetness of those Kauffman fountains and, after a while, I got Chris Jakubauskas to toss me a ball he fielded in right-center. I ended up giving that one away to a little boy.
n the left field seats I jogged down to the dugout as the Mariners came off the field. I tried to get third base coach Lee Tinsley’s attention, “Lee! Hey, Lee could you throw a ball here, please?”
And as Lee disappeared into the dugout a ball came flying at me from some player or coach still on the field. Somebody had noticed me… but I have no idea who it was. Cool! I was up to five!
And then, before the game started I got Adrian Beltre to toss me his warmup ball for Ball #6. I’d tied my season record and the game hadn’t even started yet! I had high hopes even though I knew I’d end up missing a few innings when I walked around to take photos. OK…
I took a ton of photos from the seat I found behind the M’s dugout. Here’s a panorama I did during a Griffey at-bat:
I left my super-sweet dugout seat behind in the third inning and started my tour of the stadium. First was the “elite” dugout concourse (which is below the main concourse):
Then I headed up to the 200 level:
Where the main concourse and the Team Store were located; pretty nice… and pretty empty:
Ooh… spiral walkway:
I actually took that from the escalator… before heading up to the View Level:
And out for a look at the field:
Then I headed all the way to the farthest left field seat and snapped this:
After a brief encounter with a wayward pigeon I headed down some stairs and ended up in the outfield pavilion section in right:
And I made my way along the promenade above the Party Porch and behind the fountains… there’s a mini golf course, batting cage, carousel, playground, and The Little K:
The Little K looks like an awesome place to take your kids. It’s right behind the Royals Hall of Fame Museum which is behind the left field seats.
I then took a leisurely walk past the M’s bullpen and along my oft-traveled route during BP that day, just in front of the fountains. Then I headed back to “my seat” behind the visiting team’s dugout as the sun began to set:
Kyle Davies… pitched. Kind of. He allowed eight runs over 3 2/3 innings. Ouch! And a cat got loose on the field in about the fifth… apparently that happens once or twice a year at the K, according to an usher. By the way, in most of my ballpark experiences the ushers are predominantly older folks… Kauffman Stadium had a lot of young ushers.
Later in the evening, Sluggerrr came out and danced around. Then one of his assistants handed him an air cannon that shoots hot dogs…
… which is possibly all-at-once the best
and worst invention ever. He got a couple to the upper level!
Starting in the seventh I decided to start playing each dugout for third out balls instead of just the one. So, back and forth I went, stopping to take photos along the way:
I ended up without an actual in-game ball despite my efforts but I had a good time running all around, switching hats, and scoping out a lot of details of the stadium that I was likely never to return to again (not because I didn’t want to… but when am I gonna be near KC again, eh?).
At this point (the eighth) the score was 11-6… the Royals were losing again. I stayed until the end of the game though, like I always do. I was hoping to get a ball from umpire Mike Estebrook as he left the field. He tossed three balls up but none came my way. The Mariners threw a ball up as they exited the field but I was at the wrong end of the dugout. Six balls on the night–an impressive showing, though it’s no 32. BTW, there were about eight balls in the center field gap (“the Hample gap”) and there was a ladder folded up in there, too.
But I had a five hour drive ahead of me and the game hadn’t ended until after 10:30pm. I got a kindly KC family to snap this picture:
I exited through the Diamond Club… ooh… and headed all the way around to my car at the right field side of the stadium. I took one last panorama before getting into my car:
And after ten minutes of stadium traffic I was back on the 70 heading east… I got home just after 4:00am. Woo–thanks, Kansas City. It’s a great park with some totally cool features. It’s affordable and fun and I hope your Royals get better… soon.