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A ROYAL VISIT TO WASHINGTON

For the first time since Richard Nixon was president, the Royals played a series in Washington D.C, The highlight, of course, was handing pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg his first loss as a Major Leaguer. The last time the Royals had played in D.C. was during the 1971 season, before the second Senators franchise relocated to Arlington, Texas and became the Rangers. (The original Senators had relocated to Minnesota after the 1960 season.) 

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Nationals Park opened in 2008. A beautiful new ballpark in Southeast D.C., it replaced antiquated, multi-purpose RFK Stadium, where the Nationals played their first three seasons after moving from Montreal in 2005. Note the Caoitol dome over the left field wall in the distance. 

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A closer look at the dome. Due to some buildings that have gone up beyond left field, you have to be up high to see the Capitol building. A beautiful site! Several Royals players and staff members took a field trip to the Capitol and had the chance to visit with Missouri Senator Kit Bond. Bob Davis also had the chance to catch up with Kansas Senator Sam Brownback.  

 

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The beautiful Presidents Club serves those with the seats right behind homeplate. Along the wall of the entrance hall are photos of presidential first pitches through the years. Here President Truman does the honors.

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An entire wall of the Presidents Club displays a photo of Dwight Eisenhower’s Abiline (KS) High School baseball team. Ike is shown here in uniform along the top row on the right. 

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One of the fun traditions the Nationals started when they came to D.C. is the Racing Presidents. Every game it’s a competition among the likenesses of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

THE COUNTDOWN IS ON!

Even though it’s two years away, you get the feeling it will be here before we know it. The 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City will be huge for this region and this franchise.

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Commissioner Bud Selig officially announcing the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, etc all coming to Kansas City in July of 2012! Denny was the emcee of the big announcement. Royals Chairman David Glass is to the right of Denny.

2-2.jpgAfter the announcement, the skies opened up and we got quite a bit of rain, delaying the start of the game with Houston. During the rain delay, Denny had the chance to interview the Commissioner. Mr. Selig talked about his friendship with the man who founded the Royals franchise, Ewing Kauffman. The Commissioner reminisced about his earliest memories as a young baseball fan. And, no, Denny did not convince Mr. Selig to ban the DH. But he gave it another try!

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 After an 85 minute rain delay, out came a couple of rainbows! At the end of the rainbow? The 2012 All-Star Game! The first for Kansas City since 1973. And the third such event in Kansas City history.

Tour of First Place Cities

Anytime you can visit two teams that are in first place at the time you’re playing them, and split six games, you’ll take it. The Royals did just that on their trip to Minnesota and Cincinnati. 1 of 3 visiting the Twins, 2 of 3 visiting the Reds. In April I gave you a look at the Twin’s new ballpark, Target Field . Here are some images from this trip: 

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Other than visiting the new baseball park and the new college football stadium at the University of Minnesota, you can do almost anything in this city without going outdoors. There are “skyways” connecting almost every major building throughout downtown Minneapolis.

 

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The hearty Minnesotans have beaten Mother Nature. When the Royals are in Minneapolis and it’s rainy or cool…we can walk from our hotel over several blocks into any number of stores or other business without bringing a jacket or an umbrella. A maze of skyways makes people into human hamsters…but when the weather is not inviting…everyone is grateful!

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This is Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati…on the banks of the Ohio River. It opened in 2003. I worked here from 2004-2007 and made many great friends. 
 

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My son John lived in Cincinnati from kindergarten through third grade. He had the chance to see old friends and see his two favorite teams do battle. We had lunch at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Northern Kentucky, right on the Ohio River, across from downtown Cincinnati.

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John and I joined here by Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman. Marty is a one-of-a-kind broadcaster and person. Like Denny, Marty is a Ford Frick Award winner…I’ve learned a lot from both Marty and Denny. Some of it even about broadcasting! Seriously they’re two of the best announcers in the game.

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I worked with, and “replaced” the most beloved person in the history of Cincinnati. The late Joe Nuxhall is most famous for having played in the big leagues at the age of 15, youngest to ever do it. But the Hamilton, Ohio native (who spent one season with the Kansas City A’s) was a Reds pitcher and broadcaster for more than 60 years. A statue of Joe stands outside the ballpark. The street the stadium sits on was renamed “Joe Nuxhall Way” after his death. The signature on-air sign-off used after every game by “The Old Lefthander” adorns the side of the ballpark. “Rounding third and heading for home.” We miss you Joe.

 


 

Royals Gain Split Before They Split











Boston is always a travel highlight on the Royals schedule, especially since we went in late May after the weather had warmed up. Win a couple, lose a couple. Winning a series would have been great, but a split at Fenway is solid. Now that the Metrodome no longer houses the Minnesota Twins, Fenway is MLB’s most formidable home-field advantage…for my money.

Two years ago, I gave you a tour of Fenway Park. A few images from our 2010 visit.

 

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…..Fenway will always be cozy. Don Free’s perch high above the field, and the broadcasters. 

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 When you broadcast here you are right on top of home plate. Notice Frank White and Joel Goldberg making a cameo blog appearance on the monitor, inbetween Denny and Bob. Frank coached for the Red Sox for three years.

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One perk of my job is going down to the field to do a postgame interview. On this night, with the Royals ahead, I find an empty seat to watch the final three outs before heading onto the field.

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This is Copley Square in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. It’s a park that’s close to our hotel and is in full bloom with the Farmers’ Market open for the summer and fall. History surrounds you in Boston.

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The obligatory photo of the Green Monster before a game. 37 feet high. Looks so innocent but it can wreak havoc on a baseball game.

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 This is Wally the Green Monster. Fortunately he didn’t wreak havoc with me.

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 …..Before every game Manager Ned Yost meets with reporters (after games also). Answering questions from the media is a huge part of the job of manager. Dick Kaegel, Bob Dutton, Ryan Lefebvre, Joel Goldberg and Royals V.P. Mike Swanson get the latest from the skipper.

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This is Yawkee Way, within the gates of the ballpark, but right outside the stadium itself. It has much of the flavor of the what the Royals have in their Outfield Experience.

 

photo 11.jpgOne of the reasons the Red Sox and Yankees have such a financial advantage over the rest of the clubs is the highly profitable networks they own. for the Red Sox it’s the New England Sports Network (NESN). They televise the games (as well as the Boston Bruins hockey games, among other events). If you wondered where Peter Gammons went, since he’s not with ESPN anymore, he’s working for NESN, among others. They do their pregame shows from Yawkey Way.

 

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These are some of the the Duck Boats for the “Duck Tours” around the city of Boston. They’re good on land and in the water. As Yogi Berra once said “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”

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 Once the Royals arrived back home, it was time for the pitchers to do some hitting. Interleague play means pitchers batting in nine upcoming road games. Here a guy who loves to hit, Zack Greinke, takes his hacks.

CHANGE IN THE WEATHER

As my sickness finally began to leave my system after a month (from strep to stomach to cough….you name it). The Royals began to play better…experiencing their first winning road trip of 2010.

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Our “retro-stadium tour” began with two quick games in Baltimore. Rain…cold. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. We’d had plenty of it, at home and on the road. Oriole Park at Camden Yards…where I once worked…was its usual beautiful self…just not the weather. Royals split two games.

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But when we woke up in downtown Cleveland for another two-game series…skies were bright. Here you see the historic Terminal Tower  From the time it opened in 1930 until 1964, it was the tallest building in North America outside New York City. It’s connected to a train station…part of what’s known as Tower City Center. It’s attached to two hotels, a mall, as well as being the hub of Cleveland’s three rapid transit lines.

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So for both games in Cleveland it was beautiful. Even more beautiful, the Royals won both games to gain a series sweep, a winning road trip (3-1) and move from last place to third place in one day!

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My son John and his proud papa as he graduates from elementary school. My baby is going to middle school! Attention all the people who told me “they grow up fast.” You’re right!

 

 

 

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Before a Saturday afternoon game with Colorado the ’85 Royals and ’85 Cardinals played a softball game…2010 being the 25th anniversary. Here Dennis Leonard and Danny Jackson greet their teammates upon their introductions.


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Jackson was the pitcher, Jim Sundberg the catcher. And, for the first time maybe ever, former pitcher John Tudor bats leadoff. John Wathan went deep in this game.

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Former Royal Willie Aikens did not play in the game. By 1985 he was a Blue Jay, not a Royal. But he was there to cheer on his old teammates. Royals won the game (appropriately enough). Final was 4-1.

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Here’s our Micah Lefebvre growth chart. Two months ago we showed you a one-month old Micah. Now Ryan and Sarah’s boy is three months. Like I said…they grow up fast!Royals Celebrity Golf Tourney.jpg

 

We had a great time at the Royals Celebrity golf outing at The National in Parkville.  It benefits Royals Charities.  I played with three great guys (notice I didn’t say great golfers…haha…ok they were better than me)…Craig Carter, Frank Scimeca and A.J. Mertens.

AN ILL WIND

It was the longest road trip of the year for the Royals, and boy did it feel like it! What started with such promise with a split of four games in St. Petersburg, took a bad turn once the club left Florida.

Like the ballclub, I struggled on the trip. Was sick the previous homestand, and most of the 11-game journey. Happy to say I got over it after a couple of weeks feeling awful.

And while the trip didn’t yield much success on the field, we visited three great places….and I was just healthy enough to snap off a few images….

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Downtown St. Petersburg is a nice, laid-back place. As someone who felt like death, I was fortunate that there’s a bench to sit on at almost every downtown corner. I needed the break…

 

 

 

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At our hotel on the St. Pete water front, a wedding party makes its way toward the water for more photos of the happy couple and the wedding party. What a beautiful setting!
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“Hog Butcher for the World.
Tool Maker. Stacker of Wheat.
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, hulky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders.”
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We were blessed with great weather for early spring in Chicago. Such a great place to visit!

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful architecture, beautiful day. I’ll repeat my theory about Chicago: It’s such a great city, that if it weren’t for the brutal winters, there might be 30 million people living there. It’s still huge, but Old Man Winter scares away just enough people to keep it from becoming TOO big.

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By the time we got to Texas, I finally was on the mend. After (finally) seeing a doctor my last day in Chicago, I actually felt like a human being by the time we got to Texas! And yes, the weather was perfect! Here my foot makes a cameo. Proof I finally felt better!
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Producer/Engineer Don Free had a couple of helpers for the final night game of the trip: grandson Jaxson (almost 2) and granddaughter Jordan (almost 5) keep Don’s already-full hands REALLY full.
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A great salute to a true sporting legend, a Texas legend. Byron Nelson was one of the greatest golfers of all time. While we were there, they were preparing the adjacent golf course for the PGA’s Byron Nelson Championship.

Nanook of the North

The Royals first road trip took them to three northern cities: Detroit, Minneapolis and Toronto.  In the past I’ve shown all three ballparks from our vantage point: Comerica Park, the Twins former home, the Metrodome, and Rogers Centre.  

But in Minnestoa, it’s a whole new world….Target field on beautiful day.jpg

 

 

This is our view of new Target Field.  First outdoor baseball since 1981 in the Twin Cities.  Amazing what $545 million will buy these days.  Beautiful ballpark. 

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 You see the skyline of Minneapolis down the right field line.  The Twins were blessed with perfect weather on their first homestand.
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This is Craig Edwards. He’s the meteorologist for Target Field. Haven’t needed one of those in a generation up here.

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Royals manager Trey Hillman likes the new digs. He gives reporters his own report on the tour he took of the place.

 

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The stands filling up before the game. They should easily surpass 3 million in the first year of Target Field. 

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One of many statues honoring the Twins history. In their 50th year….And Target Field salutes…among others…the great Rod Carew.

 

 

 

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Here’s Bob with Harmon Killebrew (briefly with the Royals, but a Twins legend and Hall of Famer.) Notice Don Free up top. For 28 years Don could never see a game in the Metrodome. He was blocked by the announcers. That problem has been resolved. He’s been producing/engineering our games since 1986 and now can finally watch the game in Minnesota!!

 
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 Anoher Twins legend makes his mark on Target Field….Kent Hrbek…

 

 

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In their 50th year and in their new ballpark, the Twins break out the old logo and sign. It’s 60 feet high in centerfield. Minnie and Paul shake hands in the Twin Cities once again.

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We also traveled to Toronto…where the Hockey Hall of Fame is located just a few blocks from our hotel. It’s tremendous. I mentioned previously, but I “Rip Van Winkled” on hockey for more than 20 years…but I’m back as a fan. It’s a tremendous sport…and no one treasures it more than those in Canada, where the sport was invented.

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This is me with Lord Stanley’s “other” Cup. The most famous trophy in sports is the Stanley Cup. There are two of them. This one is on permanent display at the HHOF. The other is on permanent tour and goes to the winning team at the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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This is the original Stanley Cup. The whole playoff thing got too big so they needed a bigger, more ornate one.

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So many displays of the sports history….including one of many to the great Wayne Gretzky.

Mask.jpgThis is a mask worn 50 years ago by Montreal goaltender Jacque Plante. He, in 1959, became (believe it or not!!) the first goalie to EVER wear a mask during a hockey game! Coaches thought these things would obstruct the goalies’ view of the puck down at their feet. One night Plante had his lip split open. Between periods they stitched it up….and when he came out for the next period…he wore the same mask he had been wearing in practice. Over his coach’s objections. Fortunately he won the game…and the next 9. And a goalie wouldn’t think about playing without headgear.

 

 

 

 

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

The opening week of baseball at Kauffman Stadium did not produce as many wins as the fans would have liked…but the fans were happy to welcome the Royals home for Season 42…and Year 2 of the New K.

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Opening Day started out a little gloomy….but the skies would clear and the sun would shine!Bob, Whitey and Denny.jpg
 
 
Before the game a real treat.  Former Royals Manager Whitey Herzog stops by the booth for a visit.  Whitey, already in the Royals Hall of Fame, will be inducted in Cooperstown in July.   The former skipper threw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Here he visits with Bob and Denny.
 
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The crowd lets out an extra cheer on Opening Day as last years player of the year, Billy Butler, is introduced.  Billy had a two-run single on Opening Day.  Unfortunately it was not enough, as Detroit came from behind to win.Zack's Cy Young Ceremony.jpg
 

 

On the first Friday night game of 2010, the Royals honored Zack Greinke for his 2009 Cy Young Award.  His teammates, Royals alumni and his family all took part in the pregame celebration.  Ryan was the emcee.Soria on Opening Day.jpg
 

 

Later that Friday night, Joakim Soria took the mound in the 9th against the Red Sox.  He recorded a scoreless frame and his first save of the season.son John pitching.jpg
 

My first sign of spring was seeing my 11-year-old son John’s baseball practice. The Smash Burger Heat play in the Blue Valley Recreation League.  John’s always been a strike thrower.  My favorite player.  At any level.
 
 

A FEW SURPRISES IN SURPRISE

Spring Training is always a time of hope, a time to be optimistic.  How will this year go for the Royals?  Hard to say.  It will be an adventure we’ll all experience together.  But 2010 began with another solid spring of hard work by the players and staff. 
 
Here’s a taste of some of the things that were happening on the field and off the field (and largely off the field) as the Royals prepared for the regular season.

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Arizona was a great host as always.  I had the pleasure of having a total of 15 relatives visit Surprise and the surrounding area.  Some made the trip to the Grand Canyon.  Here I am with my cousin John McGinty.  My son John is on the lower left, my nephew Charlie is lower right.Suprise Stadium.jpgBrett & Frank 2010.jpg
 
I think you know these guys.  George Brett and Frank White play catch as each will throw a round of batting practice as they do so often during Spring Training.  Once again the Royals utilized alumni on the field.  John Mayberry, Dennis Leonard, John Wathan and Willie Wilson are among those who also sported Royal Blue this Spring.Rain Tarp.jpg
 

Over my first three years with the Royals, I’ve spent a total of more than three months in the Valley of the Sun.  On the first Sunday of Cactus League games I saw a tarp on a baseball field…and rain…for the first time.  The game originally scheduled for March 7th with the Giants was made up a few weeks later.Trey with Reporter in Surprise.jpg
Rain may be an unfamiliar site, but this is not.  Manager Trey Hillman meets with the media at least twice each day.  Here he answers questions from Bob Fescoe, Dick Kaegel, Robert Ford and Bob Dutton.  This was before the Royals last game at historic Hi Corbett Field, the spring home of the Colorado Rockies (and before that the Cleveland Indians.  Spring Training for the film “Major League” was filmed here).  The Rockies and Diamondbacks are vacating Tucson and will henceforth train in the Phoenix area.

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Here’s the Royals Rookie of the Year!  Micah James Lefebvre.  Born only weeks before, he made his first visit to Spring Training in late March.  Hey Micah…baseball’s an exciting sport!!  Really…you’ll see!!Micah's parents.jpg  
 

 

Proud papa and mama Ryan and Sarah.  Mom reports Micah was a great traveller on his maiden voyage, from KCI to Phoenix. 

 

 

 
 
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As Royals team photographer Chris Vleisides and receptionist Lisa Hemly check on a computer issue, you see the new addition to the wall in the lobby of the Royals Surprise offices.  A giant version of the Kansas City Star salute to the 2009 Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke.  Lisa, by the way, did an amazing job singing the National Anthem before one of the Royals games.

 
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Eat your heart out cold hockey cities!  Hockey may not be the first thing you think of when you see palm trees, but inside this building it’s very cold!  And very loud!Coyotes Rink.jpg
 
The Phoenix Coyotes have had a great season after almost moving out of town last summer.  I was a huge hockey fan growing up…before I “Rip Van Winkled” on it for oh….about 28 years…but I’ve rediscovered it the last couple of seasons.  This was a sellout and a shootout victory in March. 

  
 
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My son the Coyote. John saw his first NHL game…along with several Royals games…on his Spring Break.

 

 

 

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 The Royals prepare for their final game in Tucson.  As previously noted, the D-backs and Rockies will leave Tucson behind (no more 2 and a half hour drives.  I’ve made the trip 7 times the past three springs).  They’ll be in a more convenient spot.  But Tucson is a good town with a long history as a spring training city.  
 
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We drive by Picacho Peak State Park one last time.  When you go to Tucson for a game from Surprise it makes for about a 12 hour day.  Our boss, Mike Swanson, spent 14 Springs in Tucson, in his days with the Diamondbacks, and before that, the Rockies.  That’s a lot of long drives…
 
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Don Free drives us home from Tucson one final time.  Beginning next year no “road” trip should last more than an hour or so.  Most are 30 minutes or less.  The convenience of the Cactus League is amazing. 

THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT

The last week of the season the Royals finally visited New Yankee Stadium for the first time.  At a cost of 1.5 billion dollars, it’s an attention-getter.  Last year I gave you one last look at the old place. 

CLICK ON ANY PIC TO ENLARGE
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During batting practice the skies were getting dark.  Here Ryan Lefebvre and Fox Sports Kansas City producer Kevin Shank catch up with former Royals Manager Tony Pena, now the Yankees bench coach.  Notice the big HD screen in center.  It’s big, but not quite as big as CrownVision at New Kauffman Stadium.Yankee Stadium -first base shot.jpg
 

 

Great sightlines, wider concourses, a wide variety of cuisines, all the modern amenities.  Better be nice, for a billion and a half!
 
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This is the signature image of the new park, the Great Hall.  Here people enter in grand style, where giant banners honor of Yankee greats.  Very impressive.Sultan of Swat.jpg
 

 

There’s a Yankee Museum in the new stadium.  Here fans learn about the man who got it all started, the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth.Yankee Stadium -club.jpg
You may have heard the most expensive seats cost 2500 dollars behind homeplate.  Well, that price didn’t go over very well.  They slashed prices in half, to a still-exorbitant 1250 dollars a seat.  You do get to eat in this beautiful club located behind home plate for all that coin.  And of course servers bring whatever you want to your seat.Joe Girardi Media Session.jpg
 

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi meeting with the media before a game.  Most Major League managers draw between 5 and 10 reporters for most pregame news conferences.  With the Yankees, it’s as though every day is the World Series.  Just the way George likes it.
 
 

 

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