8/13. Game time- 7:05 PM
Matchup: New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals
Pitchers: Dustin Moseley vs. Kyle Davies
Results: KC 4, NYY 3, W – Davies (6-7), L – Moseley (2-2), S – Soria (32)
Ticket purchased: Upper Box Infield ($22)
Beer of choice: Boulevard Pale Ale ($7)
Food: BBQ Pulled Pork Dog ($6)
Travel cost: $10 in gas, $10 parking
Other: Kauffman Stadium All-Star tour ($20), Negro Leagues Baseball Museum/American Jazz Museum tours ($10)
Total spent: $95.00
The footage above was captured by my iPhone as part of the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame’s 14-minute video introduction to baseball in Kansas City. It is splendid. It is magnificent. It manages to make no mention of Arnold Johnson. Not that it matters, the presentation rocks – in particular because the technology used is not a projector but rather a large LED display, or a scoreboard/video board in layman’s terms. The colors are so vibrant, the video so crisp, the screen so wide, that it’s a visual feast. Every team, every major league city deserves this kind of tribute. I fortuitously got this clip as it has some relevant history for A’s fans.
No matter where I travel, I maintain a place in my heart for Kansas City. Maybe it’s the barbecue. Or the shared history with the A’s. Or the general friendliness I always encounter. Whatever it is, the city’s Kauffman Stadium has always been lauded for being a postmodern relic that has managed to stand the test of time. No need to couch the praise anymore, as Kauffman is as good as any of the new ballparks built in the last twenty years.
Every single thing a modern ballpark has is now in place. A concourse that allows fans to walk completely around the stadium? Check. Wider concourses with weather protection? Check. New press box? Check. Multiple clubs and restaurants? Check. Improved suites? Check. A museum? Check. Incredible video board? Check. It was always a comfortable place to watch a game. Now it’s comfortable and up-to-date. Sadly, a refreshed stadium is not the same thing as a new ballpark in terms of fan perception, and the revamp can’t fully cover for a crappy team, as 2009’s attendance didn’t surpass 1.8 million and 2010 looks to be a drop from that.
As part of the post-war sprawl trend, the Truman Sports Complex was built in the middle of nowhere. 40 years later and it’s still in the middle of nowhere. You want in, you gotta drive. Parking is $10 and there’s plenty of it. Prior to the remodeling of the ballpark, local business interests spurred an effort to bring the team downtown. That effort went nowhere as the Royals’ interest was tepid at best.
I figured that a Yankees game might be somewhat impacted. Silly me. I was able to score a $23 seat in the front row of the upper deck. The deal proved too good to be true, as the ticket seller neglected to inform me about this:
Then again, it started raining shortly after I took my seat, so I headed back to the concourse to get some cover from the rain coming through the area. That’s when the improvements at the stadium really started to shine. Simple things, like better traction on the steps and a weatherproof coating on the concrete, combined with a large, high roof covering the concourse made things bearable. It used to be that the only thing that helped previously was the back of the upper deck cantilevering over the concourse, which really wasn’t much protection at all.
After the 2 hour, 15 minute rain delay, it was easy to find a good seat as two-thirds of the crowd cleared out. I didn’t even stick around for the whole thing as I needed to take an early train the next day. I wiped off a seat about 22 rows up on the third base side, and that’s when the place felt familiar. The seating bowl’s signature contours are still there, and the layout hasn’t fundamentally changed other than the outfield.
I left in the middle of the 7th, rain cleared out but constant thunder and lightning in the distance. My biggest regret was not being patient enough to capture lightning on camera as it lit up the ballpark. During the rain delay, I stopped at a picnic table to tap out the Day 4 post. Several other people were there, waiting out the rain. Two young girls from Wichita asked me what I was doing, and showed them the iPad’s MLB app. They asked if I they could see some highlights from the Wichita minor league club, I replied that it’s not ready yet. As the concourse filled up, the view to the field was blocked and I could no longer see if the grounds crew was working with the tarp or not. I scooted over to make room for an elderly gentleman. I asked him about the tarp and he ignored me, or so I thought at the time.
Turns out that the man and his wife were both deaf. As he saw me showing the MLB app to the kids, he started scrawling on a scrap of paper, which he laid in front me. It read, “Cardinals 6, Cubs 3. Box Score.” I quickly tapped the STL-CHC score, and the newspaper like box score opened in front of us. I quickly gestured to him how he could navigate the app, and he started smiling. Apparently he was really looking for Adam Wainwright’s line for the game. After he was done, he explained to me that he had season ticket to the Cards and was in KC visiting family. We “talked” some more and exchanged pleasantries. Okay I lied, I have one other regret, that I wish I had let that one girl I was dating in college teach me ASL.
Seems like all over the Midwest ballparks are doing the gourmet dog thing. It’s a good way to charge an extra two bucks for a dog, a suppose. I figured I should try it once, and it was okay, not worth $6 but okay nonetheless. It was washed down with a Boulevard Pale Ale, KC’s most famous craft brewer. Strangely, the Pale Ale that cost $7 on the main concourse cost $7.50 on the upper concourse.
The tour enters the ballpark at the main level. Behind home plate on the main level there is the Diamond Club, which despite its name is not the most exclusive club in the park. That honor would go to the BATS Club for the 100 or so seats directly behind the plate. Branding has gone way up since the last time I was here, over 10 years ago.
Now there’s proper room for escalators and those familiar circular ramps. Even with 20,000 people fleeing for the main concourse during the rain delay, it never felt cramped. The team administration building is physically separate from the rest of the ballpark, linked by a series of footbridges at each level. In doing this they allowed more natural light and air into the space. Very smart move.
The outfield area, which was once off limits, is now vast and spacious. There are special bars, a team store, frozen custard stand, fried chicken stand, play areas, and even a couple of mini golf holes. The piece de resistance is the Hall of Fame, which is tucked into the LF corner. It’s really lovely, covers over 50 years of baseball history without sounding bitter, and when coupled with a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum near downtown, makes for a really fun and educational day trip that also happens to include a major league game. If you go to KC, do all three. You’ll get the video, you’ll get a sense of justice, you’ll feel good about humanity.
- Billy Butler was in the cage behind the dugout and taking extra BP. It must’ve worked because he hit the winning home run that night.
- As impressed as I was by the Cowboys Stadium video boards, the single huge board at Kauffman rates nearly as high. The vertical orientation allows for an uncompromising combination of video and text information. It proved extremely useful during the rain delay as well, because it has plenty of space to support two simultaneous video feeds: the Red Sox-Rangers game and Chiefs-Falcons exhibition.
- The bad seat I had was due in part to the way the new press box cut into the original upper deck. I’ve incorporated such a feature into some of my sketches. Now I know what to watch for.
- Maybe BBQ is old hat in KC, maybe not. Whatever the case, it wouldn’t hurt to have one of the well known pit masters have a stand of their own in the ballpark, whether it’s Arthur Bryant’s or Gates. I had an Arthur Bryant’s “sandwich” before the game, and it heaven wrapped in butcher paper.
- The team offers four different grades or levels of tours, based mostly on access. The cheapest tour offers basic info and access. The tour I took at $20 provided a free Kauffman Stadium hat, team magazine, and a longer running time. The most expensive tour allows fans on the field to watch batting practice.
Kauffman Stadium rocks in many ways, even if the team doesn’t. If you’re planning a ballpark trip or even have already been there prior to the remodel, it’s worth going. It’s not garish or overstated, it’s family friendly, and it’s a great educational opportunity when coupled with the Negro Leagues Museum or even the American Jazz Museum, which is in the same building. This is my first true endorsement on the trip, and it’s a full one.