As one last hurrah to 2022, I signed up to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Kauffman Stadium today. The weather was about as good as one could hope for on December 31st, but it was still pretty chilly, and I was glad I bundled up for this experience. My tour guide was an older gentleman named Michael, whose daughter also works for the Royals. According to Michael, one month after he retired, his daughter insisted that he needed something to do and helped him get set up giving tours of Kauffman during the off season and working in the Royals Hall of Fame during the season. He’s been working in this capacity for the last eight years, and he certainly knew his stuff.
This post is going to be predominantly pictures, but I’ll try to include explanatory captions where appropriate.
Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri first opened as Royals Stadium on April 10, 1973. Construction for the stadium began in June 1967, when a $102 million bond was issued by Jackson County for construction of two sports stadiums. One of those stadiums was for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League. The other stadium, meanwhile, was intended for the Kansas City Athletics.
The Philadelphia Athletics, owned by Arnold Johnson, had moved to Kansas City in 1955, bringing Major League baseball to the city for the first time. The Athletics moved into Kansas City Municipal Stadium, a facility originally built in 1923, which was then rebuilt and expanded for the A’s. Johnson passed away in March 1960, and on December 19, 1960, Charles Finely purchased a controlling interest in the Kansas City Athletics from Johnson’s estate.
In the early 1960s, Finely began looking to move the team to a new city. In an effort to keep the Athletics in Kansas City, the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority was established to oversee construction and funding for a new sports complex for the A’s and the Chiefs, who also shared Municipal Stadium. Original plans called for a multipurpose stadium, but these were scrapped due to design and seating capacity issues. Going against the trend in other cities that were building multipurpose stadiums at the time, the county decided to build two new stadiums, one for the A’s and one for the Chiefs.
Charles Finely, however, did not want to wait for the construction of a new stadium, and in October 1967, Finely took the A’s to Oakland, California, where a new multipurpose stadium had just been erected. After the move, United States Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri threatened to press for the revocation of baseball’s anti-trust exemption if they did not give Kansas City a new team. The MLB responded by hastily granting expansion franchises to four cities, including a Kansas City team owned by a local pharmaceutical magnate, Ewing Kauffman. The new teams were scheduled to start playing in 1971.
However, pressure from Symington and other officials prompted the MLB to allow the expansion franchises to begin playing in 1969. The new club in Kansas City was named the Royals, and they played their first four seasons in Municipal Stadium. Meanwhile, construction on the Truman Sports Complex, including the Royals’ new stadium and the Chiefs’ facility, Arrowhead Stadium, began on July 11, 1968. The Royals played their first game in their new ballpark, originally named Royals Stadium, on April 10, 1973 against the Texas Rangers.
Royals Stadium was the American League’s first ballpark with Astroturf as the playing surface. It held 40,793 seats, which all faced second base and were arranged in three tiers featuring maroon, gold, and orange seats. The stadium’s most unique feature, however, was the display of fountains and a waterfall beyond the outfield fence. Stretching horizontally for 322 feet, it remains the largest privately-funded fountain in the world. The fountains are on display before and after the game and in-between innings, while the waterfalls are constantly flowing. A twelve-story scoreboard, in the shape of the Royals’ crest, was placed beyond the center field fence.
In 1993, the stadium was renamed in honor of Ewing Kauffman. Two years later, the Astroturf was replaced with grass. Then, after the 1998 season, Kauffman Stadium was given a full makeover. The renovation included the addition of Crown Seats, Dugout Suites, new clubhouses, and an exclusive restaurant and lounge known as the Crown Club. All of the formerly-brightly-colored seats in the stadium were replaced with blue seats.
Then, on April 4, 2006, Jackson County, Missouri voters approved a 0.375% sales tax increase to fund plans to renovate the Truman Sports Complex, including a $256 million renovation of Kauffman Stadium. Along with this, the Royals committed to a lease that will keep them in Kansas City until 2030. The renovation included a reduction of capacity to 37,903, a new high-definition scoreboard in center field (known as “Crown Vision”), new bullpens perpendicular to the field, expansion of the seating in the Crown Club and Dugout Suites, and new fountain view terrace seats in the outfield. New fan attractions included a kids’ area known as “the Little K” and a new Royals Hall of Fame in left field.
Four statues stand in the outfield concourse behind the fountains. Three of the statues are located in right field (featuring George Brett, Dick Howser and Frank White, all of whom have had their numbers retired by the Royals), and in left field is the former Royals owner Ewing Kauffman and his wife Muriel.
Quite the accomplishment for Matt Davidson, for sure, especially when you consider that Kauffman Stadium is not the most home run-friendly ballpark in the league.
As a Royals fan, however, this is the kind of statistic one dreads to see making headlines.
Davidson has had three multi-home run games already this season, and all three of those games took place — you guessed it — at Kauffman Stadium. And since the Royals and the White Sox are division rivals, Davidson will have six more games at the K (including today’s doubleheader) to add to his record.
Royals fans already knew this would be a long season. Now we’re just throwing salt on the wound.
Baseball statistician, Bill James, spoke at the University of Kansas last night as part of the James Naismith Lecture Series. I had the privilege of attending the lecture, which centered around “Transitioning from Naïve to Professional Research.” The talk was delightfully engaging, thought-provoking, and amusing.
If you’ve never seen him in person, Bill James is a big man. He stands over six feet tall with noticeably broad shoulders, and he a full head of hair and a large beard that only seems to add to his enormity. He is, of course, even bigger in the baseball world.
But James actually didn’t talk a lot about baseball. He couldn’t entirely avoid it, being such a prolific baseball writer and the founder of sabermetrics. He did talk about the determination of strong versus weak MVP pools, mentioning this article, which, among other things, argues that Eric Hosmer deserves to rank second in the AL MVP race over Aaron Judge. His statement noticeably surprised a lot of folks (and delighted a lot of folks; Lawrence is only about an hour from Kauffman Stadium, after all). “Eric Hosmer’s contribution to the Royals,” James said, “was greater than Aaron Judge’s contribution to the Yankees.” When he puts it that way, it makes sense.
James’s primary discussion, however, revolved around ideas. He compared ideas to seeds on a tree. The seeds of a tree scatter, and though there are thousands upon thousands of seeds that can come off any given tree, if just one of them takes root and becomes another fully-grown tree, that is an astonishing percentage. 99.9% of tree seeds scatter and all they do is become food for animals or clog our sewers and gutters. In the same way, we as human beings come up with hundreds of ideas every single day, and the vast majority of those ideas are throwaways. But if one of those ideas takes root, it can potentially change the world.
Everything around us, he said, once started as an idea. “The Kansas Union was once an idea that somebody had. The University of Kansas was once just an idea that somebody had.” It’s a perspective-altering thought.
This thought has direct relevance to James’s own life. When he graduated from KU in the 1970s, James says he knew his job prospects weren’t great. More than anything, he just wanted to find a job “that didn’t involve taxi cabs, heavy lifting, or armed robbery.” Spending his spare time working with baseball statistics, he said, was something that folks around him would comment was interesting, but that not enough people in the world were interested in it enough for him to ever make a living off it. We know now that those folks’ assessment was proved wrong, and James’s work with statistics became the idea that not only changed his own life, but revolutionized the world of baseball.
This isn’t everything that Bill James spoke about last night, but these are the ideas that particularly struck me. It was one of the more engaging lectures I’ve had the opportunity to attend, and I like to attend these kinds of things whenever I can. The fact that I’m a baseball fan certainly influenced my perspective, but as you can probably tell, it was the kind of talk that even non-fans could appreciate.
Though it took me until late-August to finally make it to a game, I suddenly seem to have made quite a shift in my luck, as the other night I made it to my second game in two weeks. This past Wednesday night was Bark at the Park night at Kauffman Stadium, and the ballpark was full of our furry friends.
We arrived early enough to take a detour through the Royals Hall of Fame. We’ve seen much of it all before, so we didn’t linger too much, though I had yet to see the short film the Royals had created chronicling their journey to the 2015 World Series championship. Watching it turned out to be a moving experience, almost like reliving the whole trip in a Reader’s Digest format. It was enough to make me wish the Royals would hurry up and have a repeat season.
The gal who invited me to come along to the game with her had some impressive seats, so I was able to enjoy being in closer proximity to the field than I was last week.
Unfortunately, the Royals were unable to pull off another win with my presence. I suppose I can’t be lucky all the time, eh? Jason Vargas gave up three home runs, and even Whit Merrifield’s 3-run homer in the bottom of the third wasn’t enough of a spark to keep the Royals in it. The Royals are now 11 games out of first in the AL Central, and our chances at a Wild Card slot are starting to look a bit slim. Then again, these are the Kansas City Royals, and as we all know, you can’t count them out even in the bleakest of circumstances.
Yours truly finally made it to Kauffman Stadium for a Royals game this year! My first of the season — yes, I’ve been slacking. Need to get back on that. A lady at work had tickets, but then realized she had another obligation, and was kind enough to pass them on.
Yesterday had been a challenging day at work, which gave me the perfect excuse to splurge on a dog and an overpriced beer.
The crowd was small, just over 25K, as it usually is at Kansas City baseball games — unless, of course, they make it into the playoffs. I had forgotten what a stress release being at the K always seems to be for me. Even though I am very much an introvert, sometimes being in a crowd can be nice. I think I like the opportunity to blend in and become relatively anonymous.
I enjoy some of the distractions that being at the stadium can present. The hot dog derby, for example, never fails to bring out my inner little kid. Relish won this round, but ketchup is still leading the standings — at least at Kauffman. Go ketchup!
I love being able to see I-70 from the stands:
And the fountain display at the K is always worth taking a look.
However, none of this beats the excitement of sticking around to watch Eric Hosmer blast a walk-off home run off Greg Holland. No, I didn’t get any pictures of the celebration that followed that event. I found that I was much too happy and excited to do anything other than grin like an idiot and cheer. I will say, though, that oftentimes when I go to Royals games, I feel like I rarely get to see a win. It sure was nice to feel like I brought them a little bit of luck for once.
When I heard about the passing of Yordano Ventura, at first I wasn’t sure the headline I saw was accurate or true. A quick Google search proved that it was, and my emotions ran from disbelief to shock, then quickly to sadness. Obviously, I didn’t know Ventura personally, never met him in person, and had he opted to do something with his life other than play baseball, would likely never have heard of him. Even knowing all this, upon reading the news of his death, I couldn’t help but feel a genuine sense of loss. After all, I had watched this young man pitch through some of the best seasons I’ve had the privilege to watch as a Royals fan. In spite of his temper (or maybe because of it), he was a fan favorite in Kansas City, and many of his fans continue to grieve as the week goes on.
It’s one of those events that gets me thinking about baseball, about sports in general, and its role in our world. When the Chicago Cubs visited the White House last week, Barack Obama commented, “Throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together even when the country is divided.” The fact that baseball’s popularity grew exponentially following the American Civil War is a testament to this. During both World War I and World War II, baseball became a form of entertainment that provided Americans a much-needed escape from the realities of being a nation at war. Jackie Robinson’s journey into the history books shows that baseball can even impact the social climate of our country.
For me, personally, the world of sports continues to provide a sense of balance and purpose to my day-to-day life. I am a notoriously active person, which helps to offset the forty-plus hours a week I spend sitting at a desk at work. I love the competition of running road races, the challenge of tackling obstacle course races, and the feeling of accomplishment when I have become strong enough to need to go out and buy a new set of dumbbells. In the past, I’ve slid into bases, played tackle football in the backyard with my brothers, and had my ass kicked in martial arts studios. The benefits to my physical and mental health are too numerous to list here (though that might be a worthwhile topic for a future post? We’ll see…). Then, when the workday is done and the chores are finished and the day’s workout is completed, there’s the escape of turning on a Royals game or a Packers game and getting lost in watching others compete while I unwind.
For kids and adults alike, there are organized recreational teams to encourage a sense of community as well as to promote our overall well-being. And, again, we also find community in the teams we root for (or against), and in the time we can spend in watching those teams and players compete. We become so engrossed with these games that we become emotionally involved in them. We sometimes become obsessed. We track our favorite players, we feel anxiety or elation over the performances of our teams, we buy their jerseys and wear caps bearing their logos and we do so with pride. Hell, the Super Bowl has become such a big deal that we throw house parties, complete with booze and a junk food feast, sometimes just so we can watch the commercials.
The death of Yordano Ventura revealed the incredible sense of community among Royals fans. The way my Facebook feed exploded with shock and grief revealed just how profound an impact this one man playing for this one team really had. The tributes in memory of Ventura made at Kauffman Stadium are overflowing onto the parking lot. Baseball, and sports in general, they mean something to us, and they impact us on a deeper level than we oftentimes acknowledge. In a time of tremendous political and social turmoil in our country, maybe it is time for sports, whether it is baseball or football or hockey or whatever, to exercise its power of healing yet again.
The Royals-Cardinals series, also known as the I-70 Series thanks to the interstate that connects Kansas City and St. Louis, is generally touted as a big rivalry. It is a showdown between the two MLB teams who call the Show-Me State home. Ticket prices are generally pretty outrageous for this series (this year, the cheapest tickets available were $42). As a result, I had never attended one of these games in person. So when I was offered a free ticket to attend last night’s game between the two teams, I naturally jumped on the opportunity, expecting a high-energy and intense experience.
Boy, was I disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the game. I have a hard time not enjoying any Royals game that I attend, and I’m always willing to cheer them on. I felt sad that the Royals lost, but really, it was the crowd that proved so disappointing. Admittedly, it’s hard for the average fan to stay involved in a game in which the home team isn’t doing so well. The Royals’ struggles of late haven’t been very easy to swallow. But when you have a crowd of almost 33,000, and it feels like none of them are paying attention to the field… well, that’s just upsetting. The sound guys kept playing all kinds of pump up music and prompts, trying anything to get the crowd fired up, and most of it fell flat. The Hot Dog Derby brought on more cheers than most innings.
There were a few bright spots. The Royals rally in the sixth inning to score a couple runs did raise the energy level a bit. And when they managed to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth, the whole stadium — those who stayed, at least — was on its feet. The rest of the game, though, felt pretty blah. I’m not a very loud person, but for much of the game, I was easily one of the loudest folks in our general area.
I realize that much of this post is pretty whiny, especially considering that I don’t have any solutions to offer, other than asking folks not to attend a ballgame they intend to ignore. We live in a world where everyone is plastered to their phones, even at the ballpark, which is the whole reason stadiums are expanding their protective netting — to protect those who won’t see that foul ball coming as they focus on their next selfie. In the last couple years, attending a Royals game for most folks has been more about showing off to others their presence there than it has been about watching the actual game. It seems that you can either have a winning team with a crowd of bandwagon fans, or you can watch a losing team surrounded by fans who actually care about what’s going on. You just can’t have both.
I’ve been in the process of moving these last few weeks, which left me without internet at home for a good chunk of time. This has made it difficult to keep up with things, including baseball and this blog. I did have the opportunity to attend my first Royals game of the season this past Thursday, April 21st, and I witnessed the Royals’ 4-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. I intended to write something of more substance about the occasion, but as it has now been a few days since that game, I will instead settle for merely posting the pictures I took.
For starters, we wandered through the Royals Hall of Fame. Here are a handful of the bobble heads on display. My own collection needs some work…
I also had the opportunity to see the World Series trophy. In retrospect, I regret that I didn’t jump in the line to get my picture taken with it.
It was great to be back in Kauffman Stadium with the beautiful fountains. The strong winds of the day caused the water to blow all over.
The game itself was a blast, and we were lucky in that the fans around us weren’t too obnoxious. Plus, the weather that night was absolutely beautiful.
And, as always, it’s always fun to watch the home team win!
The sea of royal blue reflected what one would expect to observe in the crowd at a typical Kansas City Royals game. The warmth of the progressing day had already begun penetrating the cool morning air as my stepmom, Dawn, and I stood in the parking lot of the Truman Sports Complex. Carefully, I pinned the blue and white paper bib to the front of my tank top as Dawn surveyed the crowds filing towards Kauffman Stadium. Already, I could feel the inserts in my running shoes digging into my heels, but according to the podiatrist, they would help ease the strain put on my Achilles and knee. After sustaining an Achilles injury (which subsequently also became a knee injury) in a four-mile race I ran in early-July — and finding myself unable to run at all for a solid month — I wanted to take every precaution. Still, it made me nervous that I had only resumed running less than two weeks ago, and here I now stood, preparing to take on another race.
I learned about the Royals Charities 5K a few months ago, sitting in Kauffman Stadium and watching pre-game entertainment as the Royals went through their warm-ups. Even though I’ve been running on and off since I was thirteen, I only made my debut into the world of racing last summer, and I discovered that I loved it: the competition, pushing oneself in spite of the elements and the obstacles, the training and the culmination of that training in a race-worthy performance. The ad for the Royals 5K particularly caught my attention when it mentioned the opportunity to run on the field. I typed the address to the website into my phone and pulled it up as soon as I arrived back home that evening.
The first thing I looked up was the course map, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I would sign up:
The fact that all the money raised would go towards a good cause (most races are also well-intentioned fundraisers) provided icing on the cake. I submitted my registration and continued my training. Given the timing of the race, and knowing that the course would be a relatively-flat one, I anticipated that this would be the race where I would set a new personal best.
The injury threw up a huge roadblock towards this goal. The course for the four-mile race I participated in on July 4th did not have quite-so-flat a course — in fact, much of the time, we ran at a slight incline. A month later, the podiatrist confirmed that this likely caused the strain and inflammation on my Achilles, and possibly my knee as well. He recommended that I invest in the shoe inserts and prescribed an anti-inflammatory, but otherwise said that I was okay to resume running. My Achilles, while still not 100%, no longer ached and had regained enough strength from all the rest I’d given it. While my knee continues to remain touch-and-go with regards to the pain, upon resuming my street running, I discovered that so long as I keep my steps short, the pain in my knee diminishes greatly and I can otherwise continue running like normal.
Unfortunately, I also discovered that in my time off, I had also lost a lot of cardiovascular endurance, and this was my biggest concern going into Saturday’s race. The farthest distance I ran since my return was the 2.5-mile run I completed last Wednesday, and that last half-mile left me huffing and puffing like a heavy smoker on a treadmill. Still, I had finished the run without stopping, my knee and ankle were feeling great, and I felt ready to take on 3.1 miles.
We arrived at the stadium about 7:30 a.m., and I warmed up in the time remaining before the 8:00 start. With about ten minutes until race time, I made my way to the starting line with the other runners. I found the sign that indicated “8 minutes” (meaning an 8-minute-per-mile pace) and lined up a little behind it. I realized that this was an optimistic estimate, given my time off, but I also knew that in a crowd of 2,500 runners, the pace was likely to start slow regardless. Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports Radio served as emcee for the race proceedings. We were treated to a phenomenal performance of the national anthem, which was capped by a flyover treat.
Then finally, the gun was fired and the race began. As I anticipated, the starting line was so crowded that I walked a good part of the way towards the actual starting line. But much to my delight, I was able to start jogging in the last few feet leading up to the chip timing sensor and settled into a comfortable pace shortly thereafter.
After the race, Dawn commented on the wide diversity of runners that she observed participating, and there’s a lot of truth to that observation. You find people who live and breathe running, casual competitors like myself, people who are trying to lose weight and get in shape, and plenty of people who participate simply for the experience of walking the course. And when you observe a race with a particular overriding theme, you even find some interesting racing get-ups, such as this Mike Moustakas fan:
Much of the course turned out as expected: a relatively flat, giant loop around the parking lot of the Truman Sports Complex. It proved itself a good course for my joints and for my recovering cardio, and I managed to maintain a respectable pace throughout. However, going into the race, I had wondered how we were to enter the field for the final leg of the course, but I didn’t find out for certain until that moment came. That part of the race proved a blessing at first, but ended as a curse. We entered the stadium through a gate in the right field corner, which then took the runners down a ramp. Going down the ramp provided a momentary respite, allowing me the opportunity to glide at the same pace on less effort. Returning to charge back up the ramp later, however, I cursed my luck as my legs burned and my lungs cried.
Once we had descended the ramp and ran through the stifling hot tunnel that followed, however, we finally entered the field for the lap around the warning track. And what an experience! The warning track felt solid beneath my feet, in spite of the dirt. The Royals mascot, Sluggerrr, stood in the middle of the track, high-fiving runners as they passed. Looking down to my left, I could see the meticulous upkeep of the grass, each rich-green blade perfectly trimmed to the specified height. Looking up, I found myself wishing I had a camera on me to take pictures — some people stopped their run to do just that — but I knew that no photo I could ever take would capture the magnitude of what I found myself experiencing right then.
I’ve heard that the experience of standing at ground level in a baseball stadium is like standing in a cathedral, but the truth and depth of that description never sank in like it did as I jogged around that warning track. Sure, I’ve been to Kauffman Stadium and various other baseball venues numerous times, and one of my favorite experiences is sitting the stands at the K while they are still fairly empty, soaking in the atmosphere as I study the field, the stands, and the players. But being on the field itself is a different experience altogether.
I have had the opportunity in my life to see some pretty fantastic cathedrals, to experience the grandeur and the beauty of those spaces and what they stand for. This experience reflected that feeling in a myriad of ways. The size of the field and the size of the stadium around me as a whole made me feel like an insignificant being on its own. Then, when I considered what it all stood for — the Royals, the history, the game of baseball itself — I felt absolutely dwarfed by comparison. A part of me wanted to yell something to see if my voice would echo through the empty stands, but one does not call out so audaciously in a temple such as this. I tried to imagine the experience of standing on that field with the stands full of roaring fans, but failed to fully form the image in my mind. The experience of the stands sitting empty around me overwhelmed my senses enough on its own.
All good things must come to an end, however, and I came to the end of my lap around the warning track. In my reverie, I nearly missed the one last treat provided to runners before I exited the field. A camera set up near the dugouts projected the images of runners as they passed onto Crown Vision, and I turned just in time to see my giant form run by on the screen overlooking the stadium. I passed through the steaming tunnel once again and then turned up the ramp for the laborious trip back up to street level.
Upon reaching the summit of the ramp, I still had a few hundred feet to go to reach the finish line. In most races, this is the point where I break into an all-out sprint, but my final kick was delayed momentarily as I struggled through the residual pain of that up-ramp battle. I worked through it, however, and — reminding myself to keep my steps short — picked up the pace until I was running as fast as I could across the finish line, the struggle apparently showing all over my face.
The festivities did not end there, however. This guy stood at the finish line, congratulating runners on their victorious finishes:
Runners were treated to a remarkable spread of food, provided by Hy-Vee, in the post-race proceedings. I finally removed the inserts from my shoes, which made my shoes feel strangely loose around my feet. I also acquired a stress ball from the University of Kansas Sports Medicine & Performance Center, another race sponsor, which looks like a baseball.
Dawn and I stuck around long enough to find the results being posted along the gates. Given the injuries and the time off from running, I had kept my expectations for this race relatively low. I made it my goal to finish in thirty minutes or less, and my official time turned out to be 26:48. It is still a good minute slower than my personal best, but all things considered, I felt very pleased with this result.
It probably goes without saying, but this event proved well-worth the time and the registration fee that I put towards it. Besides, I also received this awesome T-shirt out of the deal, and who am I to complain about that?