Kansas City – Kauffman Stadium – Ballpark # 2
Ok, let me preface this by saying that I was VERY excited to get to go to a game in Kansas City. A couple years ago Chuck and I planned a trip that just didn’t work out and the thing that bummed me out the most was that I wasn’t able to get to a game in Kansas City. What’s so special about Kansas City you ask? Well, I used to live in NE Oklahoma, about 3 hours from Kansas City. In 1987 I was able to attend my first MLB game outside of Seattle and I did so in Kansas City. The following is from my “About Me” page here on SeeAll30.com: “In 1987 as we were visiting family in Northeast Oklahoma a group of us decided to go to Kansas City to catch a Royals game. It’s a 3+ hour drive from Picher, OK to Royal Stadium and I couldn’t hide my excitement. Until that day I had never thought I’d get to see a game anywhere else besides the Kingdome. The experience was incredible! It was hotter than blue blazes, but we had a great time. We sat in the front row, down the 3rd baseline directly by the foul pole. Bo Jackson was playing left for the Royals then and I got a great picture of him waving in our direction. All I recall of the game is that the Royals beat the Twins and Dan Gladden hit a HR for Minnesota, but I can remember the beauty of the ballpark vividly.” It’s been 25 years since I last saw a game in Kansas City, but that changes today…
We got to the airport in Seattle a couple hours before our flight. The only ‘glitch’ we had with security is that they wanted to open my carry on bag to see what the ‘mass’ was at the bottom. What they found was a gallon sized zip lock bag filled with mainly quarters, but also dimes and nickels. I was asked what it was for and I replied with 1 simple word: “Tolls”. That was good enough and we headed towards our gate to await our flight. Our first flight was to Minneapolis, about 3.5 hours and thanks to a couple pills my wife gave me, I was barely awake when we took off and slept just over the first 2 hours of the flight. That is so unlike me, but I loved it! After a quick stop in MPLS, we were on to Kansas City. The airport in KC is one of, if not the smallest (major) airport I have ever flown in/out of. This is not a problem though as you can get in/out in a hurry. The game plan here was simple, I will wait for my luggage, Chuck will go get the truck. This plan was executed to perfection!
After picking me up in a bright red Dodger Ram pickup, we hit the road headed to get some lunch at “Oklahoma Joe’s“. It’s a BBQ place that my buddy Doug Miller had suggested I try. It is actually in Kansas, not Missouri (or Oklahoma lol). I am by no means a BBQ fan, but my theory is “When on the road, you eat the best of the local area”. I gotta say that Doug nailed this one! Holy cow it was awesome! Oklahoma Joes is in a gas station. Yes, you read that right. It’s a BBQ place that is INSIDE of a gas station. It also has several aisles of different BBQ sauces. I had no idea there were that many different kinds, to be honest. Once we got there we had to get in line. I wasn’t sure if we would have enough time to be able to wait, but Chuck was trying to get a hold of the “Air Miles” people, so that bought us some time being able to do both things at once. The big line we were in moved a long pretty quickly. We only waited about 20 minutes and the payoff was well worth it. I opted for the “Z-Man” sandwich which is Brisket, smoked provolone topped w/ two onion rings on a kaiser bun. The sandwich by itself was awesome, but when you add to it the great Oklahoma Joe’s spicy BBQ sauce… HOLY COW! The homemade potato salad that I also tried with it was pretty good, not as good at my wife’s, but it was quite tasty and went well with the Z-Man. Thanks again for the suggestion Doug!
Something I noticed just before we got to Oklahoma Joe’s was that my GPS wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure what the issue was, but had to use the GPS on my iPhone to get us there. I was able to get it working to get us to Kauffman Stadium, but was able to determine that the charging unit wasn’t working and I NEEDED A NEW GPS! There was no way that I would be able to do this entire trip without a working GPS. I know several of the parks really well, but not with everything else I would be doing. Luckily from KC-Chicago was easy, so would be Chicago-Milwaukee, so we were set for a couple days. I learned a very valuable lesson from Chuck at that moment: “When you are on the road. Get mad, then get over it and move on!” I was pissed that my GPS had died. But I realized that I can get me a new one from Costco, then just take it back when I got home if needed. I got mad, I figured out a way to fix it, got over it and moved on!
Once we hit I-70 I knew where we were. I had been to KC back in 2003 with my nephew, but we were unable to catch a game. Unlike today, we had time to visit the Negro Leagues Museum though. As you travel I-70 East bound the ballpark just jumps up on you and BAM! There it is. Sitting with it’s sister, Arrowhead Stadium, in the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex.
Even though it’s been almost 25 years to the day since I last went to a game there, somethings never change. I can still picture us back then as we pulled in to park. We were in my cousin Bub’s Mustang, I was crammed in the back seat, and we had the brand new Bon Jovi cassette, “Slippery When Wet”, blasting. Ironically, just after Chuck & I got parked, the next song being blasted from the PA system in the park during BP was “Living On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi, from Slippery When Wet. It’s little things like that that I notice that crack me up.
Once the gates opened up and we were able to go in, Chuck’s first stop was at the nearest hot dog stand as it was $1 hot dog/sm pop/popcorn/peanut night. There was a limit of 5 items per transaction, so he got 4 dogs and a Pepsi before we headed to the bowl area to watch some BP and take our pictures. As you can well imagine, I was smiling like a school girl with her first crush! I couldn’t believe that after 25 years, I was finally back in Kansas City for a game. What seems so trivial to some people, was a big deal to me. As I sat there looking around I noticed all the changes from the last time I was there. Be that the upgraded seats, the better jumbotron, or a number of different things. With teams getting new parks all over the country, Kansas City (a very small market team) couldn’t afford that, so they did a bunch of upgrades and you can really tell. As I looked around I thought that this jewel will really be on display for this years All-Star game in July and I cant wait to watch it.
The coolest part of getting to the park early, though my wife would disagree, is that you get to take time to walk around and see the park from all over. I love doing this, even if I have been to that park several times. It seems you will always catch something new that you have never seen, plus it is fun to just simply “People Watch”. While walking around Kauffman Stadium I was able to pay $10.50 for a nasty micro brew (a warm pale ale that was just terrible), meet the Royals Mascot “Sluggerrr” (he gave me crap about my M’s hat til I told him that’s where I live), see the field from all sorts of different angles, view the water fountains up close, enjoy a couple $1 hot dogs and see the statues on the outfield walkway up close. The statues are for George Brett, Frank White, Dick Howser & the Kauffmans. They were pretty cool to see and again, most certainly new since I was last at a game in KC.
Our seats were upper deck seats, but I had a feeling that since we were in KC, we should have no problem getting a lower seat if we just took some time to make it happen. As luck would have it, on our walk around, just before the game started, we spotted seats in the “Miller Light Fountain Bar” in LF/CF. We grabbed a couple of those at the counter top that wraps around it and watched most of the game from there. The game itself, well, since it was Kansas City vs Toronto, it was as expected for the most part… a snoozer. It was so much a snooze fest that I don’t believe many fans there tonight actually saw something really cool when it happened. Let me set it up: bottom of the 3rd, score tied 0-0, the Royals Alex Gordon leads off with a 2B to right. That was followed by a Yuniesky Betancourt walk on 4 straight pitches. This brought up Eric Hosmer who lined a 2-2 pitch to Blue Jays 1st baseman Adam Lind. Lind catches it, tosses it to Jays 2nd baseman Yunel Escobar to double off Gordon. Escobar then tosses the ball back to Lind who tags first for the out on Betancourt. End of the inning. I saw it myself. I watched it with my own eyes, but wasn’t really sure of what just happened. I looked to Chuck, he looked at me, both of us smiling and saying, “Was that a triple play?” Not a soul in the Miller Light Fountain Bar, except for us, was even paying attention to the game. Not a one of them made any comment on what just happened. It’s not like you see a triple play every day either. We looked over my score book: Double, Walk, end of inning. It HAD to be a triple play. Still not a single mention of it from anyone or over the PA system. Finally Chuck tells me to “Take it to Twitter”, so I post the question about it there and within a couple short minutes we have confirmation back that indeed I had just seen my first live triple play!! I can mark that one off my “Baseball Bucket List” now. I was so freakin’ excited and it happened in KC, where the special night just got even more so for me!
The rest of the game was pretty blah, as baseball games go. By the top of the 7th we got up from our seats and started walking back towards the gate where we came in. This would make for a much quicker getaway. Tonight happened to be “Fireworks Friday” so we knew we should be able to get out and on the road pretty fast for our drive to Chicago via St. Louis, but why risk it. On our walk back around this allowed us time to see the park lit up at night from different vantage points as well as take in the glory of the statues as they were all lit up. We eventually found ourselves over by the gate as the top of the 8th was starting, Royals leading 2-1. The Blue Jays proceeded to tie it up, 2-2, making us sweat thinking that this game might run long. Knowing that we had a 540 mile drive to do over night to get to Chicago (both of us having been awake since 2am minus a couple hour nap on the plane), so we can get to O’Hare to drop this truck off and pick up another car (that I would have for the next 28 days) and get to Wrigley Field, hopefully in time for some pregame beers at Murphy’s Bleachers with my brother from another mother Bob De Vries so we couldn’t have an extra innings game tonight! It wasn’t long before all of our worries were put to rest and the Jays plated 2 more runs to take a 4-2 lead. I waited with Chuck til the middle of the 9th, then I headed out to the truck (I left a bit early because I am slow). This allowed me time to hit the head once more, change into my crocks outta my shoes and leg brace and get ready for him to come running. Come running he did. As soon as the game was over, he came sprinting out, jumped in the truck, reminded me that he has full coverage on the truck, and started going! I think he even went over a curb or two on the way out of the parking lot lol. Even though the truck was handling weird, and taking not even sharp corners it sounded like it was gonna fall apart, we got outta the lot and on to I-70 just as the fireworks were starting. A well executed plan it was and as we were East Bound and Down, we watched the fireworks in the rear view mirrors. So long Kansas City, it was fun… I hope it’s not another 25 years before I get to come back again!
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Here is a link to my pictures from Kauffman Stadium.
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