The Royals have had a winning record during each month of the 2015 season. But the best month so far was the one that is traditionally known as the toughest month of the baseball season…August-AKA The Dog Days. The Royals finished the month 19-9!
With August all wrapped up, September began with good news and bad news. The good news was the return of Alex Gordon from the disabled list and the acquisition of Jonny Gomes in a trade with Atlanta. The Royals also added several players from AAA Omaha. The bad news was learning that Alex Rios and Kelvin Herrera would miss time with chickenpox.
The OTHER big news during recent weeks was an under-the-radar acquisition by John and Andy in our press dining room. A soft-serve frozen yogurt machine! It’s been VERY popular, and as you can see Denny has enjoyed the new addition. He’s not only a Hall of Fame broadcaster, but a Hall of Fame eater too…and yet he never gains a pound!
Speaking of excellent acquisitions…one of the newest Royals, Ben Zobrist, was very warmly received on our trip to Tampa Bay. He was so good for them during his nine years in St. Petersburg, that he was named a member of the Rays’ “Franchise Four.” Also while we were there, the local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America presented Ben with the team MVP award from 2014, his last year as a Ray. The award is now named for the late Don Zimmer. That same night, the Rays showed a video tribute featuring Ben’s time with TB, and Ben’s wife, Christian singer Julianna Zobrist, sang the National Anthem before the game.
It was great to see now-retired longtime Kansas City sportscasting legend, Don Fortune, while we were in St. Pete. We had lunch with him, then got to see him at the game that evening. Don is living the good life in Florida, a couple hours south of the Tampa Bay area. But he still watches and/or listens to every Royals game.
August also included the Royals annual visit to historic Fenway Park. The Royals lost the first two, but rebounded to win the next two and gain a split. It’s always great to go down on the field and soak in the history of the place. Rex Hudler has Danny Duffy’s attention here. Hud’s passion is always contagious and he loves to pass along his knowledge and energy to the current generation of ballplayers.
In mid-August, MLB Network selected a Royals-Tigers game for their Tuesday Night Showcase. The announcers were Bob Costas and the guy standing next to Denny here…former pitcher Jim Kaat. Kaat lives in the Northeast in the summer, and mostly announces games in that part of the country, but he made it a point to come do a game in KC. He pitched here many times in a stellar career that included 283 victories, beginning in 1959…and winding up in 1983.
The Royals were on a season-long 11 day road trip when August began, as they visited Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit. With a day off in Detroit, JoAnn Erickson and I headed across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, Canada for a day. Here you can see the Detroit skyline behind us. A lot of sports fans in the area either cross one of the bridges or take one of the tunnels to Detroit to cheer on the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons. The Windsor area has more than 300,000 residents and helps add to what is already a large market of more than 4.2 million people who call the Detroit area home on the US side of the river.
Before heading for Detroit, the Royals were in Toronto. Our first day there the temperature rose to 82 degrees or so. Game time temperature that night was 80. In KC, that would be considered a pleasant summer day. For Torontonians, it was HOT!
The Royals will spend the rest of 2015 in the Central and Eastern time zones, now that Seattle and Oakland are behind them. They visited Anaheim on their first road trip. In all the Royals went 8-1 in the Pacific time zone. Not bad!
Safeco Field in Seattle is on everybody’s short list of favorite ballparks. Rain in the Northwest necessitates a roof, but on sunny days, like this one, it’s hard to beat this place. Opened in the middle of the 1999 season, it’s not really “new” anymore, but still feels new. They’ve brought in the fences in recent years, but it’s still difficult on most nights to hit home runs.
One treat for the club while in Seattle, a visit by Raul Ibanez, who received his 2014 American League Championship ring from his former teammates in the clubhouse. He lives in Seattle and was instantly the most popular guy in the room.
The Central Waterfront of Seattle is just a short walk down a steep hill from downtown. Piers that have been around for centuries now feature shops and restaurants. But there’s lots of areas nearby that look untouched. You’ll find lots of hiking, biking and running trails up and down the waterfront. Major road projects are underway nearby, after an earthquake several years ago exposed that the Alaskan Way Viaduct might not survive another.
The signature landmark of Seattle is the Space Needle. The very top, the antenna spire, is 605 feet off the ground, almost the height of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Of course it’s also on top of a hill. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, you can see a lot from its observation deck. Besides the Seattle skyline, you can view Mount Ranier, The Olympic and Cascade Mountains and Elliott Bay.
After Seattle, the Royals headed south for Oakland. The Royals stay in San Francisco and with a day off in the City by the Bay, many in the traveling party headed for the water. The Sea Lions are one of many tourist attractions at Pier 39. The number of these creatures at the docks has been increasing steadily since 1989, when these docks were renovated, and boats were removed from the area. They are mammals and said to be highly intelligent. The males are much bigger than the females. Males weigh up to 770 pounds, while the ladies max out at around 220 pounds. No evidence of giant flat screens causing the males to veg out while the females do all the work.
Thousands of tourists visit the pier every day. The weather was perfect while the Royals were in the Bay Area. While on the dock, I was able to convince JoAnn Erickson to have her picture taken with me. I bribed her with coffee. Great weekend for the Royals, who swept the A’s.
The Astros showed the Royals just how much they’ve improved, sweeping KC in a three game series. My cousin Jeff Nunn, a Houston resident, has come out of the woodwork to once again attend Astros games. And he’s not alone. After several losing seasons, the Astros have seen their attendance spike this summer as they’ve now got an exciting and talented young team to watch.
And, finally a word of thanks and best wishes to Colby Curry, leaving the Royals after 9 years to return to his alma mater as a sports broadcasting instructor. Colby came here as a marketing intern in 2006 and eventually joined media relations as coordinator of communications and broadcasting.
He’s worked tirelessly and always with a smile on his face. Colby has been here through the entire Dayton Moore era, experiencing the entire stadium renovation, the All-Star Game and the 2014 Postseason.
He’s also become my conduit to this blog. So I say a personal thanks for his great work and best of luck as a Fighting Leatherneck at Western Illinois!!
The Royals visited Wrigley Field for the first time in 14 years and it was quite the party…for Royals fans. It was great to go back and see the place (I hadn’t been there in nine year) and (thanks to the Saturday rainout) we get to go back for one more visit on Monday September 28th (Chiefs are at Green Bay the same night…the sports bars in Kansas City will be hopping!)
The old place (celebrated its centennial last season) has an updated look out front, with photos of current Cubs stars. It was rainy in mid-afternoon for the Friday opener but eventually cleared up….for one game anyway.
If only the weather could have stayed THIS way the entire weekend. Once the skies cleared it was beautiful…even hot and humid. Even steamy. The four-year renovation is well underway. When the season started none of the new bleachers were open. But by the time the Royals arrived left and centerfield were open for business and looked great. The right field bleachers were not ready quite yet, but they opened June 11th, so we’ll see the completed version the last week of the season.
One major change (actually two) are the two large video boards that have brought Wrigley into the modern era. One in left-center and one in right field. Some traditionalists may not like them but I thought they looked great and did nothing to take away from the charm of the place.
These dugouts will eventually be renovated too, and for now they are cramped but I love the fact that it’s basically the same dugout that Hank Aaron used, and Roberto Clemente, and Stan Musiel, etc etc… One modern amenity….on the freezing cold Saturday and Sunday….the dugout heaters worked great. What’s really interesting is how many tunnels it takes to GET to this dugout
After you leave the tiny clubhouse (about the size of the Fenway Park visitors’ clubhouse…and it will be renovated in the next couple of years)…you come down a long flight of stairs…then turn into this tunnel
Then you turn down this tunnel…
Then you turn down this tunnel…
Then you turn down this tunnel
Then you turn down this tunnel
Then…finally….you turn right…and there’s daylight! This final tunnel takes you to the visitors’ dugout, on the first base side.
As the bleachers are being completely rebuilt, so is the area behind the third base stands. This massive construction project will include the new massive home clubhouse as well as an underground parking area…and a giant fan plaza. When it’s all completed it will be very impressive. Eventually a new hotel will go up…new suites…new concourses….restrooms…you name it…it’s all being renovated.
The right field bleachers were not quite ready yet at the end of May, but opened soon thereafter. Underneath the bleachers they’ll eventually build new bullpens, so the relievers will no longer have to warm up in the field of play.
Across Waveland Avenue from the bleachers is a Northside landmark, a bar, Murphy’s Bleachers. Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison took their show on 610 Sports Radio, The Drive, on the road for live broadcasts for all three (scheduled) days of the series. Of course Saturday and Sunday were much wetter/colder….but here you see evidence of the Royals fans “taking over” Wrigleyville. The Royals fan showing was impressive!
Another Wrigleyville staple is Mullen’s on Clark. On Saturday night, after our game was rained out, we had the chance to have dinner there. The Blackhawks hockey team was playing Game 7 of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals. And Mullen’s was in full hockey mode, right down to flashing red lights that went crazy every time the Blackhawks scored. They also cranked up the song they play at the United Center whenever the team scores on home ice in Chicago. (“Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis)
And one more shout out to the huge Royals fan turnout at Wrigley. It’s a shame after Friday afternoons beautiful weather that the cold front was SO cold…and wet. It washed out Saturday….and made Sunday miserable too. But the Royals fans, most of whom were no doubt expecting spring (rather than winter) were Royal blue loud and proud. Here Chris Young signs some autographs down the right field line in the 30-something wind chill for lots of Royal fans.
The Royals got off to a fast start in 2015, winning their first seven games. Just before the Opener, the Royals awarded American League Championship rings to the players, coaches and baseball/clubhouse staff. Even the box was great…it lights up the ring when you open the lid!
The next day, the Royals hosted a luncheon for full time employees, many of whom also received rings (or in some cases pendants if that was their preference. The rings are big!) I was fortunate enough to be one of those to receive a ring. Royals President Dan Glass, Senior VP of Business Operations Kevin Uhlich and staff members did a great job designing these mementos. The iconic KC logo with the blue backing really stands out! The generosity shown by the Glass family as they share the memories of 2014 with those in the entire organization has been unbelievable.
On one side of the ring is the American League logo, with three diamonds, emblematic of the royals three American League titles (1980, 1985 and 2014).
On the other side everybody has their name emblazoned above the the crown logo (the KC is blue by the way). The banner above the crown reads “MLB Playoff Record 8-0.” Two more thoughts on that: 1) That’s the first time I’ve ever written or used the word “emblazoned,” as far as I can remember (and I spelled it correctly on the first try!). and 2) I’m thankful that Royals legend Art Stewart spells his name the same way I do (that way there was very little danger of it being misspelled. Ha.)
Opening Day, of course, meant Denny Matthews going back to work. The Royals 47th season opened with Denny broadcasting his 47th opener. Really amazing. Royals fans are lucky to have a guy who’s been there since Day 1. And Denny has signed on to keep on keeping on through at least the 50th season of Royals baseball in 2018!
The season-opening series sweep was punctuated by a Salvador Perez 2-run homer, his first long ball of the year. The next morning the press in Venezuela took note! Love this headline…
When Oakland came to town for the second homestand of 2015, it meant the return of Billy Butler. Billy will always be loved in KC for his great play on the field and all of his great charitable work off the field while he was here. Longtime teammate Alex Gordon was part of the pregame ceremony during which Billy received his 2014 ring. The crowd roared their approval as Alex playfully removed Billy’s Oakland cap and replaced it with Gordo’s Royals cap.
The first game of the Oakland series brought the Royals second sellout of 2015, as the crowd welcomed the club home from a winning road trip and welcomed Billy back to the K. Hopefully the crowds will be big all season long!
No Royals fan (above the age of 4) will ever forget October 2014. It was a month full of highs, a few lows, one big low, but the joy the Royals brought longtime fans, and those new to the party will be hard to ever duplicate. Even while falling one win (90 feet) short of the BIG prize, the Royals reawakened this city and finally showed the under-35 crowd what an incredibly supportive and passionate baseball community Kansas City is…
One of many great benefits of the 2014 Royals and the October run was the way it brought generations of Royals fans together. My son John connected with the Royals a long time ago, of course, but it was fun sharing the postseason run with him. As a 15-year-old, he’ll always be able to remember the 11-4 month, including a 6-2 home record. As a kid I never got to experience anything like this (the Cardinals made zero postseason appearances between 1968 and 1982, which spanned my entire childhood). Let’s hope there’s more postseason fun around here in the near future!
I took so many photos from late September through the World Series, but this may have been the most joyous moment. Although it’s hard to argue with clinching the pennant vs. Baltimore. But this was the beginning of the celebration after the Royals won one of the most wildly entertaining games anyone can remember. The Wild Card win, on a national stage, helped introduce the Royals to the American public. With this win in their pocket, the Royals were off and running.
This guy got a lot of attention, and for very understandable reasons. The fans were as much of a star as Cain, Hosmer and Ventura this postseason. The most loyal fan base in baseball, many of whom had stuck with the Royals though decades of waiting, made this such a wonderful story. In such a small market, in the only major professional league without a salary cap, the Royals went toe to toe with three teams with higher payrolls. And the Angels and Giants payrolls were WAY higher than the Royals. Only question for this guy was…what happened to all those dogs?
This was the first champagne celebration…in Chicago. It was historic, the first such celebration in 29 years. The Royals were still hoping to catch Detroit and win the AL Central, but they came up a game short. Thankfully the Orioles were able to slay the Detroit “dragon” that gave the Royals problems. But the joy on this night at US Cellular Field was special. It meant that most on the roster would play postseason baseball for the first time. It ended a playoff drought and launched one of the best baseball stories in a generation. I got soaked with champagne 4 times this postseason….I came up one celebration short. That 5th party, the World Series victory, will have to wait.
After the fourth (and unfortunately) final celebration, after Game 4 of the ALCS Fox 4’s John Holt got this photo of Joel Goldberg and me after we were doused. Joel and I arrived the same year, 2008, so we didn’t wait as long as many of you, but having immersed ourselves in all things Royals, we had a good sense of the joy this postseason meant to fans throughout this region.
These 2 guys were stars long before October, but they both reveled in the most memorable 15 games in more than a generation. Eric was at many of the the games. So was Paul Rudd. They’re among many A-listers who happen to have grown up as Royals fans. We all felt great for George, a franchise icon who was so anxious to share in the postseason heroics of Royals history. The Royals don’t have a bigger fan than George.
The Royals staff had their 81 game home season stretched by 8 big postseason affairs. The 2012 All Star Game helped prepare everybody to some degree. Every inch of space in the renovated ballpark was utilized to accommodate hundreds upon hundreds of media. This hallway is the tunnel that leads to the Royals clubhouse, and down to the field. To give you some idea of the media saturation, this hallway is normally virtually empty during a regular season game, even on Opening Day. Kansas City AND the Royals made a great impression on the media that spent so much time in our town in October.
My mother, Marilyn Stewart, made it to Game 1 of the World Series. So many parents, and children, and grandchildren enjoyed the magical October ride. We had to update my mom’s Royals wardrobe. She’s been to spring training several times, but now she’s got her World Series gear as well.
When I walked into Angel Stadium for Game 1 of the ALDS, it really hit me this was the playoffs. The Wildcard Game was incredible and unforgettable, but for a franchise that had been out of the postseason for so long, it was exciting to be involved in a playoff SERIES. The Angels, of course, finished with the best record in baseball (98 wins), but the Royals won a couple of extra inning games at the Big A, and went on to sweep the Angels…winning their first ever LDS.
Baltimore also had more victories than the Royals (96), and they were AL East champs. So they had home field advantage for the first ALCS for either franchise in many years. Because of the large traveling parties and the last-minute nature of the postseason, we often stayed in different hotels than we had during the regular season. In Baltimore that meant I had a room that overlooked center and right field of Camden Yards. Having worked in Baltimore for several years, and having broadcast Oriole games, it was a fun and yet at times awkward series for me. The Orioles had a great season and should be good for years to come. The champagne celebration after that one was pretty special, as it signaled the Royals would host the World Series 6 days later.
This was the final victory celebration of 2014 for the Royals. After their Game 6 win (10-0) over the Giants, the stage was set for baseball’s biggest stage, Game 7. How incredible was Yordano in this game? Rest up Yordano! We’ll see you back here soon (perhaps on Opening Day)!
On the eve of the World Series, the Royals and Major League Baseball threw a big party at the ballpark for staff, sponsors, media and special guests. Somehow I got invited. The guy on the left is Rob Butcher, longtime media relations director for the Cincinnati Reds, a guy I worked with for several years. Like Royals VP Mike Swanson, Rob works in media relations for a lot of big events for MLB, including All Star Games and the World Series. Rob and I had to pay JoAnn Erickson a lot of money to be in our picture (not really). Rob’s wife Dana (not pictured) works for MLB.com. She’s a big reason I have this blog with the Royals (you can give her credit or blame).
Every time the Royals travel to a stadium for the first time, I like to do a blog post showing off the venue. Before the World Series the Royals hadn’t been to AT&T Park since 2005, when it was still called SBC Park (and before that, Pacific Bell Park). It is truly one of the jewels of Major League Baseball. Opened in 2000, it is built right on San Francisco Bay and it occupies a relatively tiny footprint, just 12 and a half acres. I highly recommend you go see a game there.
Of course the most famous feature of the park is McCovey Cove, just over the right field wall. So many boats, and even more with the World Series in town. The right field wall is 24 feet high, in tribute to number 24, Willie Mays. The Say Hey Kid was recognized prior to Game 3 along with fellow Giants Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry.
The Royals penultimate (I don’t get to use that word much…second-to-last) road trip of the season took them to New York and Detroit. Tough games…offense struggling to score runs…but the Royals finished 3-3 as they bid farewell to Derek Jeter and managed to salvage a win in the finale against the Tigers.
Every once in awhile the Royals get to be what I call “accidental tourists” while on the road. September 7th at Yankee Stadium was one of those days. By “accidental” I mean they’re the opposition in another team’s ballpark when something special takes place. The Royals felt lucky to be part of “Derek Jeter Day” at Yankee Stadium.
After receiving various gifts, and after many friends and relatives were introduced (parents, Reggie Jackson, Mariano Rivera, Michael Jordan, just to name a few), Jeter took to the microphone. He was very gracious as baseball fans have come to expect, thanking his parents, coaches, teammates, opponents and especially the fans. With all the other single-digit numbers now retired (most recently Joe Torre’s number 6), Jeter’s 2 is the last one in that category. And, of course, it’s only a matter of time until it’s retired as well.
Most of the Royals players grew up watching Jeter play. Many idolized him. A lot of the players and staff had their cell phone cameras out. You can see first base coach Rusty Kuntz at the bottom left in this photo as he tried to get a better/closer angle of the proceedings. It was a special day..but the best part was the fact that the Royals won! And they took 2 out of 3 from the Yankees.
The Royals then headed for Detroit for three big games with the Tigers. The Royals have an EXTRA large roster THIS September, with 36 players suiting up each night. Three of those fresh faces (facing away from us in this case) are lightning-fast Terrance Gore, 2014 first round draft pick Brandon Finnegan (who had a memorable MLB debut, retiring all six batters, including a strike out of Derek Jeter) and outfielder Lane Adams, who had an all-star season at AA Northwest Arkansas this season.
After two days of “under the weather” play by the Royals resulted in two losses to Detroit, there was much angst in both clubhouses before the final game as rain fell much of the day and early evening. The forecast did NOT look good. But after just a 42 minute delay, the Royals and Tigers got going and (despite rain off and on throughout the night) they played nine uninterrupted innings. Big Game James Shields came through with a Big Game…7 scoreless innings. The Royals won 3-0, moving back into sole possession of first place. The three Royals victories on the 3-3 trip were by the scores (in order) of 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0.
As the Royals rolled through early August they were doing a lot of things right. They finished July with a 5-2 home stand and then headed west and began August with a 5-1 run though Oakland and Arizona.
As the Arizona series began, the 100-plus temperatures dictated closing the roof at Chase Field. Opened in 1998, the first year the Diamondbacks played, Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark) offers fans an air conditioned oasis on summer days and nights. The ’98 expansion Dbacks weren’t very competitive (65-97), so some days the opening and closing of the new roof provided the most entertainment. Royals VP Mike Swanson helped get the Diamondbacks up and running, spending nine years with the franchise, before coming home to the Royals in 2007.
The Diamondbacks may be a relatively young franchise, and one of their franchise icons was already a baseball and TV icons long before they were born: Joe Garagiola Sr. Garagiola was of course a catcher, and later became a beloved broadcaster. His announcing career started with the Cardinals, as he’s shown here with Jack Buck and Harry Caray. He would go on to national broadcast fame with NBC in sports but also as a host on the Today Show, game show host. So versatile.
Joe Sr. was a TV analyst for many years with the Dbacks. It was a family event for him, as his son, Joe Garagiola Jr., served as the teams general manager for many years. Joe Sr. is the greatest story teller I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. On the broadcast level there’s a mural commemorating his great career.
The Royals swept of Diamondbacks, and in so doing they finished their western trip with a 5-1 record. It pushed their record away from home to 33-26, one of the best road marks in the American League.
When it’s 100-plus outside every day, there is ONE place that isn’t so bad. Just make sure you’ve got flip-flops to wear so you don’t have to walk barefoot on the pavement.
In the Bay Area it was much cooler. The Royals took 2 of 3 from the team with the best record i baseball. Here former Royal Chili Davis, the outstanding hitting coach for the A’s, with former Royal Coco Crisp. Coco was not on the disabled list, but was unavailable in the series with a neck injury. Coco is a major cog in the Oakland offense.
One improvement evident on our trip to the Bay Area was getting to travel on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland (and back). The Bay Bridge carries approximately 240,000 vehicles per day. The new eastern span cost over $6 billion dollars and took 11 years to complete. It is the widest bridge in the world. The old bridge (on the right), part of which collapsed in the 1989 earthquake, is being dismantled.
Near our hotel in San Francisco sits beautiful Union Square. It’s a 2.6 acre public plaza, surrounded by a major shopping, restaurant and hotel area. The name comes from the square’s original function, as it was a place for rallying around the Union troops during the Civil War.
At the All-Star break the Royals were 5 games above .500 on the road (26-21), with the final victory coming thanks to the 9th inning heroics of this guy:
There were (and are) lots of Royals fans in the Tampa Bay area…and they were out in force for the Royals series victory at Tropicana Field. Before I had the chance to do my radio interview with Salvador Perez (who had just hit the go-ahead 3 run homer in the final inning of a 9-game, 10-day road trip), Joel Goldberg interviewed him on Fox Sports Kansas City. The win made it a 5-4, winning road trip, with one of the teams leaders, Salvy, coming through. The large Royals contingent was chanting his name, “Sal-vy! Sal-vy!)
After he dazzled his former team, pitching 7 scoreless innings in a Game One 6-0 victory, James Shields had the chance to reconnect with his former teammates, including lefty David Price who’s have an excellent season. There were no complaints from the Royals side that Price pitched the night BEFORE the series began, so they didn’t have to face him.
Another ex-Ray who’s a big part of this Royals team is Wade Davis. Price spent time visiting with Wade and Florida native Billy Butler. Baseball is such a small world, and with all the movement between teams it seems that everybody knows everybody.
One pregame staple in every ballpark and every clubhouse in June and July was the World Cup. Here the Royals watched as they stretched. Baseball has become a much more international sport over the years, and soccer fits that same category as World Cup Fever hit the baseball world as it does every four years.
Even before LeBron James announced he was returning to Cleveland, the skies were brightening. While the Royals won only once in three games there before the break, at least we had beautiful weather. We can’t say that often in Northeast Ohio, so we enjoy it whenever we get the chance! Beautiful sunset near Lake Erie.
Tunnels of stadiums aren’t usually very interesting places. They are a means to an end. But at Progressive Field they’ve spruced up their tunnels with some interesting pictures and quotes. Here’s one of my favorite baseball quotes, from longtime Indians pitcher Bob Lemon, who later managed the Royals. “The two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen” Well said, Lem!
When we arrived (and when we departed) Minneapolis we were greeted by the site of the largest plane in the world that’s still flying. The Antonov An-225 was built in the old Soviet Union. It’s a cargo plane. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, it was headed to the Middle East filled with an enormous payload of air-conditioning units. The plane went into service in 1988 to transport the Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle, This was the only plane of its kind ever made, according to the newspaper. At 275 feet and 7 inches it is the longest and heaviest plane every built. It has a wingspan of 290 feet and stands 59 feet 5 inches tall. Bryan Schapiro, Joel’s pregame producer, snapped this picture for me, which was his biggest thrill of the the summer (until the LeBron news…Bryan is an Akron native…Cavs fan…and even played HS football against LeBron. Of course Bryan is MUCH more athletic than LeBron, but chose a career in TV instead….ok I’m kidding…just checking to see if you’re still reading!)
A lot of fans were disappointed Mother Nature got in the way of the final game of the Royals-Yankees series, postponing KC’s salute to future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. The 39-year-old will be 40 by the time the Yanks return to Kauffman Stadium August 25th for the makeup game. The Royals took 2 of 3 in the shortened series, and finished 9-4 in a tough stretch against Toronto, St. Louis, New York and Cleveland.
Jeter played in 2 of the 3 games. He’s always been a player most fans admire, even if they HATE the Yankees. Prior to the rainout Denny went into the visitors clubhouse to visit with Number 2, having never been formally introduced. Denny told Jeter how much he admired the way Jeter processed the game mentally, a compliment that humbled Jeter (who’s accustomed to being praised for his offensive records and championships etc.)
The Royals won both games in St. Louis. Prior to Game 2 I made my first visit to the new Ballpark Village. I was blown away. It’s sort of a baseball-themed version of Kansas City’s Power and Light District. The same company designed both projects. This is just Phase 1…with more to follow in coming years. Many restaurants are included. Rooftop seating gives it a “Wrigleyville” feel as well. Only difference is no disputes with rooftop owners like the Cubs have with theirs…for one simple reason…they OWN the rooftop.
Trust me when I say you NEED to see it for yourself, and that photos can’t do the massive structure justice. This is “Fox Midwest Live!” with a gigantic TV over the bar. But several other restaurants within the complex are also quite large.
Also within Ballpark Village is the new Cardinals Hall of Fame. Even if you hate the Cardinals (and I know many of you do) it’s still very much worth seeing. Make sure to allot enough time to go through it. Here you see a display honoring Stan the Man. But there’s a lot more to see.
During our stay in Toronto, Royals VP of Communications and Broadcasting Mike Swanson turned the big 6-0. To give you an idea of the high esteem in which Swanee is held by media not just in his hometown of KC but all over the country, when we got to St. Louis, longtime acclaimed photographer Bill Greenblatt insisted he needed to get Mike a birthday cake. So he brought it onto the field and here you see him taking a pic with Swanee and Fox Sports Kansas City Royals producer Joe Loverro holding the cake (which was delicious). Swanee shared it with all the KC and STL media. Swanee’s only complaint? “Did you have to put the number on there?!” Happy Birthday Swanee!
In Toronto, the Royals split four with the Blue Jays. One cool aspect of where we stayed this year was the fact that our hotel was so close to the Rogers Centre. And right next store…that building to the right…is CBC Headquarters. CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for more than 60 years the home of Hockey Night in Canada. Denny, Joel Goldberg and I are among those in the traveling party who are big hockey fans. That tall structure on the left is CN Tower, the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere and WAS the tallest in the world for 34 years. 1815 feet high. In between the tower and the CBC building you can see Rogers Centre.
The trip prior to Toronto-St. Louis was a brief, 3-game stay in Anaheim. Always good to see Royals Hall of Famer Mark Gubicza. He’s the TV analyst for the Angels (and his play-by-play guy is Victor Rojas, a Blue Valley High alum and the son of Royals HOF’er Cookie Rojas). Royals TV analyst and fellow Royals Hall of Famer Jeff Montgomery says he had lunch more often with Guby than with any other teammate. Two great guys and two great Royals.
Also in Anaheim, Ryan and I had the chance to meet Mike Morin, Angels pitcher. Mike is a graduate of Shawnee Mission South High School. He grew up a big Royals fan. Really nice young man. The Royals actually drafted him out of high school in the 40th round. But like a lot of high school draftees taken in the later rounds, he opted for college, and attended the University of North Carolina, where he was an All-American. The Angels took him in the 13th round in 2012. On April 27th he made his Major League debut.
As the calendar turned from April to May, we all hoped the weather would turn as well (for the better of course). That wasn’t the case, at least for the Royals. Here was the rule through the first quarter of the 2014 season: whenever the Royals ARRIVED in a city the weather IMMEDIATELY turned cold. The minute the Royals LEFT a city (or even were preparing to leave a city) it IMMEDIATELY became very pleasant.
The Royals first West Coast trip of the year is a great example. By the time the 4-game series wrapped up it had finally warmed into the 60’s…for the first time. Of course in the days BEFORE the Royals arrived it was in the 80’s…but once we landed…low 50s. Seattle is such a beautiful place to be and Safeco Field is one of the best.
For the first three games in the Emerald City, it was cold! Gloves, ski caps, long johns…the whole 9 yards. The first night the roof was closed as it rained on and off throughout the day. Having said that, I like the “open air” set up in Safeco. When the roof is open it’s spectacular.
The final game in Seattle included big homers by Johnny Giavotella and Alcides Escobar. Gio hit a 3 run shot…Escy his first career grand slam. They did it on Mother’s Day, ,which is a day when many players use pink bats, and wear pink spikes to raise awareness about Breast Cancer research. As for Joel…Jeff Davenport set him up with some stylish pink sneakers. The real question: Is Joel brave enough to wear them on any of the other 364 days of the year?
Another of the beautiful new age ball parks in the Big Leagues is Petco Park in San Diego. The Royals won 2 of 3 there. And OF COURSE it was quite a bit cooler and breezier than usual. Of all the “cold” games…it was the most comfortable…as you’d expect in San Diego. It opened in 2004 and is a real jewel. Our hotel was literally attached to the ballpark by a walkway. What a nice commute!
Before the finale of the San Diego series, a baby dinosaur threw out the ceremonial first pitch…using his mouth (I’m assuming it was a “him”…but that many not have been the case). The pitch was delivered before I could whip out my camera phone…so I got him running off the field.
And no jokes about Steve Garvey being a dinosaur! He’s retired but looks great. Believe it or not he’s 65…and looks at home in either Dodger Stadium or Petco Park. He remembered Royals VP Mike Swanson from Swanee’s many years in baseball. Swanee was also on the media relations staff with the Padres when they won their first-ever NL pennant in 1984. Swanee’s the one with his back to you in this photo.
Before the middle game in San Diego, Jeremy Guthrie preparing to take batting practice. Rex Hudler was nearby for his usual dose of encouragement. When I asked Jeremy before the game if he liked hitting he said “no not much. I was never a very good hitter.” Well an 0-for-2 night did include a sacrifice bunt. Most importantly he pitched 8 very good innings, allowing just a run. He gave the overworked bullpen a BIG break.
Before heading west we` caught a break in the Detroit series at home after a frigid series with Toronto. By the Saturday game of that series it had warmed up to 80! Before that game Dayton Moore and members of his staff were there for the presentation of Gold Gloves to Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon (who received his THIRD) Congrats to the whole organization!
Before we froze on that home stand versus Toronto, we were in Baltimore, where (typically for the Royals this year) it was BEAUTIFUL when we arrived….but a much different story once we started actually playing a game. This was the view from my hotel room when we first arrived in Charm City. We felt humidity, but not too much of it. It was baseball weather. Perfect…
But by the time the series got started the next evening it was 52 degrees and we waited out a 55 minute rain delay. By the finale of the series it was pleasant…but apparently only because the Royals were about to leave town….