April 2008

I Lived to Tell About It!

Tuesday night I was a little nervous…well, more than a little nervous…I was asked (no, I didn’t volunteer) to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch of the series opener versus the Cleveland Indians. 
 
(Quick aside…Paul Splittorff asked me “who asked you to do that?”  He wanted to avoid whoever that person was, or at least be on the look-out for her.  Turned out it was Kasey Schweitzer, who is the Coordinator of Game Entertainment.  I, of course, was quick to put Kasey on Paul’s trail.  He says he’s too busy during his telecasts to get on the roof of the Royals’ dugout and sing.  Another quick aside:  How does having ME sing qualify as entertainment??  But I digress.)
 
I was nervous, yes, but it had more to do with being shown on the world’s largest HD TV screen…108 feet high…than it had to do with singing (not that I do a lot of singing in public…I’m not the type that normally jumps to the front of the line on Karaoke Night…or even the back of the line.)  But I’ve certainly gotten up in front of large audiences before.  The picture is so sharp on that screen…YIKES! 
 
During the early stages of the game, I was thinking “do I know all the words to this song?  I’ve only sung it/heard it a couple of thousand times…”  So I “gargled it” as we like to say in the radio booth..and found two or three versions.  “For it’s root, root, root.”  “And it’s root, root, root,”  “let’s all…” etc..
 
I figured I’d just sing whatever came to mind…I should know it by now…I knew the words would be on the other new video board in left center field…(the fancy name is LED Left-Field Video Display…nickname: Lefty…Who knew that video boards had nicknames?) but that I wouldn’t be able to turn around and read it.  Had to face the masses…
 
Kasey introduced me to Kauffman Stadium organist Sam Beckett.  He’s in his tenth year at the ballpark, so this wasn’t his first rodeo.  He talked me through how it would go…what I would hear, etc.  He made it much easier…
 
hallway.jpgSo in the 6th inning, Kasey came to escort me down to the first row behind the first base dugout.  It was sort of like the executioner arriving at dawn.
  
I look really happy, don’t I?  Sort of like I was on my way to get a root canal.   “Quick, get this man a blindfold!” It’s the sixth inning, time to head downstairs…kids.jpg
 
 
These kids happened to be sitting in the seats next to me during the top of the 7th inning.  9-year-old Dawson and 4-year-old Drew.  Two thoughts:  these kids are very lucky…great seats AND a school night.  Also, kids and animals always make for a picture better.  And no animals were seated nearby…dugout.jpg
 
 
I was told “as soon as the third out is made in the 7th…climb into the saddle.”  You can see how excited I am…Kasey took the picture.  So I was grimmacing at her and at you…haha.  I kept thinking “if I fall off the dugout roof, I’ll be on YouTube within minutes.”organist.jpg
 
 
 
Sam Beckett was the man in control.  I sang to what he played.  I had the headphones on…heard his introduction…and his key…and started belting it out…close up.jpg
 
 
 
 
 I’m singing the song and thinking “I can’t hear anybody else, only myself.  Please, Lord, let these fans drown me out!”video board.jpg
 
 
As I mentioned, I was nervous about being displayed on the big board (even though I spent many years on television…it was never waaaaaaay larger than life).  It was nice to see in this picture that they showed others on the board during the song as wellfinale.jpg.
 
“at the OLD….BALL….GAME!!!”…It’s over!!! Hurray!! I didn’t fall off the dugout…and I didn’t forget the words!  And there I am on that big board.  Of course in this picture it looks like a very small board.  Soon thereafter, my boss, Mike Swanson, asked me “hey, can you host Royals Weekly?  It’ll be on cable TV…and we’ll be showing it on the big board here at the ballpark too.”  Gulp…oh well, better get used to it…
 
 

Cali Road Trip

A 2-5 road trip was not what the Royals had in mind when they hit the road last week, especially after winning 2 of the first 3 on the West Coast.  The weekend in Oakland was even more frustrating, of course, getting swept by Oakland.  It was even, well, ludicrous, you might say…or should I say “Ludacris?”…More on that in a moment…
 
Thought I’d share a few shots from Anaheim and Oakland.  One beautifully renovated ballpark, and the other park, well, let’s just say it’s not beautiful or renovated.  The A’s have a new ballpark planned for 2012 in Freemont, California, which is closer to San Jose than it is to Oakland.  But they have had a lot of success in the home they share with the Raiders…and they had a lot of success there over the weekend.
 
The rapper “Ludacris” was on hand Saturday, taking batting practice and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.  How did I live so long and not hear of Ludacris before Saturday?  Well, I’m not a teenager, and I don’t have kids who are teenagers.  That was the explanation I got.  He, as I’ve learned, is the rapper with the most Top 40, Top 25 and Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 Hits of all time.  He was born Christopher Brian Bridges…I certainly saw a lot of bridges in the Bay Area…and he made one more….but seriously folks….
 
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Anaheim
 
Sam Abrarmson of the Royals’ TV crew enjoying the pool at our Southern California hotel.  After so many frigid stops, it was nice to finally be somwhere warm.  Sammy enjoying the pool with all his friends (just kidding, Sam).
 

 
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Royals Sr. V.P. of Business Operations Kevin Uhlich oversaw the renovations of “The Big A” several years ago.  Although it’s not a new park, it looks like one.  They did a great job.  And as he’s reminded us, the Royals renovation has twice the budget, which means what we’ll see at Kauffman Stadium next year really will be something special.

 
 

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First game this year (other than in the Metrodome) in which I didn’t have to wear a coat.  Very pleasant atmosphere at Angel Stadium, where the Angels now draw better than 3 million a year.  The three Southern California teams combined to draw 10 million fans in 2007.

 
 

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The Rock Pile in left center field.  A fountain shoots out of it when something good happens.

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Oakland
 
When the Raiders returned to Oakland from L.A., “Mount Davis” was born.  Those upperdeck seats, covered for baseball, took away what used to be a nice view for baseball.

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The scoreboards are on top of the upper deck in either end zone.  Waaay up there.  You can see the years Oakland won the World Series (72, 73, 74, and 89).  Kansas City A’s fans saw some of those young Athletics when they first came to the big leagues, before the team moved west.Ludacris on field.jpg
 
 
 
 
There he is…Ludacris.  He’s sold more than 13 million albums in the United States alone.  I can’t find any in my collection.  I’ll keep looking…
 
Luda signing.jpgThey gave him his own special jersey.  He was able to hit a single during batting practice.  When his first first pitch didn’t make it to home plate, they gave him another chance.  I’m so old school, I remember when MC Hammer was the A’s favorite rapper.  He had been a batboy for the Athletics as a kid.  Reggie Jackson claims to have given him the nickname “Hammer,” because he closely resembled Hank Aaron.  Hammer’s real name is Stanley Burrell, but I digress.
 
 
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Travis Buck knew who Ludacris was.  In fact, Travis stole the show Saturday.  It was Travis Buck Bobblehead Day.  He wasn’t in the lineup, a little banged up.  But he did sign his likeness for the fans.stands.jpg
 
 
While we’re on the topic of Oakland employees-turned-celebrities….Tom Hanks sold peanuts, popcorn and soda at the Coliseum while in high school.  He grew up a big A’s fan.  Perhaps these guys will one day win an Oscar…if not, they’re assured of getting their share of Oscar Mayer products….hardy har har…

Siberian Express

As the West Coast trip started for the Royals, things changed.  Time zone, city, division, etc.  One thing that didn’t change….WEATHER!  45-ish degrees for both games at Safeco Field in Seattle.  Beautiful city, beautiful ballpark, freezing weather.  So the Siberian Express (aka the Royals’ season so far) went from Milwaukee to Detroit, to Minneapolis (where it really wasn’t THAT cold), to KC and on to Seattle. 

It’s a pretty park, but with raw, cold, rainy weather, the roof had to be closed.  It’s an open-air park, so the good news is you don’t have rain delays.  The bad news is you can be very cold.  The Royals split the two games, winning Monday, losing Tuesday.  The only stop in Seattle all year, unfortunately…because it’s a great place.  So in my limited, chilled day-and-a-half in Seattle, here are a few images:

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Down the street from our hotel…Puget Sound…

 

 

 

 

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Just to prove the sun was shining very briefly in our all-too-brief stay in Seattle…

 

 

 

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Starbucks…..What a shock!  A Starbucks!  We had one right across the street from the hotel….that’s true at every hotel here, by the way.

 

 

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Roof closing…..Hey…that roof saves a lot of games.  Here it was closing prior to Tuesday afternoon’s series finale…

 

 

 

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Ballpark shot….Looking forward to seeing a sunny open-roof day here next season….but nice to know you’ll always start on-time.  Beautiful park.

 

 

 

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April 15th was the 61st anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut.  They etched his number on the infield dirt.  Trey Hillman, Luis Silverio, Jose Guillen and Joey Gathright all donned the number “42″ in Jackie’s honor.

Home Opener

Opening Day in Detroit was great, as the Royals beat the Tigers and got off to a good start in a hostile environment. But having been at both events, I can safely say, the home opener was even better.

Despite the raw, cold, rainy day, there was a festive air at Kauffman Stadium, which is a construction zone in some areas. The new HD board in centerfield, the world’s largest, is really unbelievable. And the game was great for the home fans, as Brian Bannister survived some early command problems and hung in there for five solid innings against an excellent Yankee lineup. The bullpen did what it had done on the road trip…shut down the opposition.

I took my camera with me as I wandered through “The K.” Hope you enjoy my view of the Royals 40th home opener.

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Royals Sr. VP of Business Operations Kevin Uhlich tells Bench Coach Dave Owen, Tony Pena and John Buck about the 9000 square foot HD board before the game.

 

 

 

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The grounds crew squeegies off the tarp as it rained all morning. Notice the other new animated board in left and left-center field. It’s the out-of-town scoreboard a lot of the time, but it can do a lot more.

 

 



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The “weapons of choice” for Royals hitters, quiet before the game…

 

 

 

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John Madden likes to say “there should be a head for every helmet.” Not sure exactly what he means…but it sounds good when he says it…

 

 

 

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Prior to the game, Trey Hillman facing the KC media as well as New York reporters. Prior to his time managing in Japan, Trey spent 12 years as a minor league manager for the Yankees.

 

 

 

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Yankee radio broadcaster John Sterling stops over from his booth next door to visit with Denny prior to the start of Opening Day.

 

 

 

 

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The new HD board takes a small army to run from “Mission Control.” Here are a few of the fine people who operate the the great “wall” of video.  

 

 

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More of the folks who run the board. It takes 17 people to run the 8.3 million dollar monster. I have no idea what any of the buttons do. I can operate a toaster, that’s about it.

 

 

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Player introductions took on a much more vivid scale. Alex Gordon being introduced with a youngster. The children escorting the Royals players are kids whose parents are stationed at Fort Riley and currently deployed in Iraq.

 

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Out beyond the right field wall, lie the pieces of the old crown that sat atop the scoreboard for so many years. It will be utilized in the newly renovated outfield area in 2009. No where else to store it. Bob Davis says “it looks like the pieces you’d use to build a giant dog house.”

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Speaking of Bob, KU football coach Mark Mangino stopped by and visited with us on Opening Day. He threw out the first pitch. He’s a big Royals fan (converted from his childhood team the Cleveland Indians).

 

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Even the enemy looks good on the new big board. When you come to the park, you might want to make sure you don’t have chocolate stains on your face. Crowd shots can multiply the size of your head to 60 or 70 feet at times! You’ve been warned!

 

Royals Win!.jpgAnd Here’s something we hope to see a lot of this season, as a perfect Opening Day ended with a 5-2 Royals win.

We have a winner…

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We received the correct answer from my question about that metal “thing” from the last blog entry. It is, in fact, a hat stretcher. Still looks like something that could be painful if used incorrectly.

Sweep



Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Tarp.jpgWhile the Royals were in the process of sweeping the Tigers, a couple of images got my attention, and so I thought I’d share them…

First of all, when we arrived at Comerica Park early Wednesday morning…there was ice covering the tarp. Temperatures in the mid-20′s turned the soaking wet tarp into an ice rink, so the grounds crew had to squeegee all the ice off the tarp…leaving piles of ice on the grass. I thought the ice dispensed in the media dining room tasted little funny……



Thumbnail image for Contraption.jpgAnd here’s a little pop quiz for you. I was walking through the Royals clubhouse in Detroit and happened upon this contraption. It looks a little like a toaster they might have used in medieval times, or perhaps with the “teeth” in the middle of it, you could use it to crack really stubborn walnuts…

Let me know what it is…although I would guess one of you will provide the answer before I get the chance…

Season Opener

Could the Royals 40th Opening Day have gone any better?  Well, we could have done without seeing David DeJesus leave after reaggravating his ankle injury.  But other than that, it was close to perfect.
 
No rain (that we noticed anyway), no delays.  And a win over a team many think will win the World Series this year.  Gil Meche and the bullpen were tested by an offensive lineup many believe will score 1000 runs this season.  Gil outpitched Justin Verlander, and kept his team in the game.  The bullpen did its job.  The other guys scrapped their way to just enough offense, while playing very good defense, to come away with a 5-4 win in 11 innings.
 
Of course for Royals fans, April 8th will be the day the team opens its season at Kauffman Stadium against the Yankees, but I wanted to share a few scenes from the season opener (that is until my camera battery gave out just before the start of the game…apparently my camera wasn’t prepared to make a quality start, the way Meche was).
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It was very un-Arizona-like at Comerica Park Monday morning…but could have been worse.  Even with a coat, hat, and gloves, Joey’s still the fastest guy around.  Here he is with Royals Special Advisor Kazuyuki Shirai before batting practice.
 
 
 
 
Trey and reporters.jpgFor Trey Hillman, it was Day One (after 17 years of managing in the minor leagues and Japan).  The media “horde” pelting him with questions before the game.  He’ll have to do this 161 more times (as well as after each game.)  Of course, he’s also got a radio interview with us each day.  It takes a lot of patience to be a big league manager.  A lot of questions to answer.

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General Manager Dayton Moore spends a lot of time answering reporters’ questions too. Here he is with FSN’s Joel Goldberg on Opening Day.

 

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 No they’re not forming a marching band.  The Royals stretch each day before batting practice.  Never more important than on a chilly, damp April morning.

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Cold on the field, but a little “help” in the dugout.  Heaters make it a little more comfortable.

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Up on the broadcast level, three legends: Denny, before his 40th Opening Day, Bob Davis, and longtime Tigers’ voice Ernie Harwell.  He wasn’t sure how many Opening Days this one made, somewhere in the 60-ish range.Ryan and Paul.jpg
 
 
 
 
Lights, camera, action!!  I don’t have an HD still camera, but it looks, to me, like Ryan Lefebvre and Paul Splittorff, in full TV regalia.
 
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