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.
 
 

 

EMOTIONAL NIGHT

While the Royals were in Detroit, we were lucky enough to be on hand when legendary, longtime Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell came to the ballpark to say “thank you” and, sadly, “so long…”

CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE

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Ernie is 91 and was recently diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  He visited the Ernie Harwell press box.  Here flanked by, among many others, current Tigers broadcaster Dan Dickerson on the left and team President Dave Dombrowski on the right.  Ernie looks great and was in great spirits.

 

 

 

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A Detroit Free Press photographer captured Ernie leaving our radio booth after he came in to greet us.  The nicest man you could ever meet.  He gave Don a big hug.  That’s Don on the left.Harwell on field.jpg

 

In the middle of the third inning he addressed the crowd.  He was in full voice, no notes.  He was probably the only one without a tear in his eye.  Ernie…we all love you…(speaking for baseball fans everywhere….not just in Detroit).

MOVING RIGHT ALONG…

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If the game is moving slowly, there is one proven method to make it speed up:  give George Brett a microphone!  George recently joined Denny and Bob to promote Royals Fantasy Camp next February.  The game had been played at a leisurely pace until the 4th.  That’s when Number 5 sat down.  Total pitches needed for a pair of 1-2-3 innings?  20.  For six outs.  Every time he stops by, it seems, his visit is cut short by quick innings.  I couldn’t get Bob to smile, he was busy working.

THE BLUEST SKIES

On one of our broadcasts in Seattle, Bob made a reference to a song Perry Como performed many years ago, “The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen Are In Seattle.”
Hard to argue.  In four days there, we had a couple of brilliantly clear days…and the retractable roof was open for three of the four games.  Sure beats last year.

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Safeco Field is celebrating its 10th anniversary as one of the most beautiful of the retro ballparks built since Camden Yards opened.  Sure beats the dear, departed Kingdome.Safeco Booth.jpg

 

Joining Bob, Don Free and me was Royals fan Kevin Koopman (lower left).  He made the three and a half hour flight from Anchorage to see the Royals.  He saw Zack’s one-hitter.  Kevin grew up in Freemont, Nebraska and is a lifelong Royals fan.

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Looking back at part of downtown Seattle from the pier.  Breathtaking.  Of course the flip side are the dreary winter days (and spring…and fall…and occasionally summer).  But when it’s not cloudy, not many places in America are more beautiful.Seattle Market.jpg

 

 

 

At the bottom of the hill near Pier 66…is Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. It’s more than 100 years old.Market Inside.jpg

 

 

 

It’s always crowded inside the market.  On rainy days it helps that it’s covered!Pike Place Fish Stand.jpg

 

This is the famous Pike Place Fish stand…where the employees throw fish.  Just my luck, no throwing fish while I was standing there.  You know what they say…people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw fish….not sure who “they” are…but seriously…View from Pier in Seattle.jpg

 

 

 

One more shot of the water from the pier.  Water, mountains, blue skies.  Nice place to visit…especially with weather like this!

 

BODY DOUBLE

Tigers skipper Jim Leyland has been a Major League manager for many years…but did you know there are two Jim Leylands?  

CLICK ON ANY PIC TO ENLARGE

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Actually there is only one.  But as you can see in the photos above, a Comerica Park security man is a dead ringer for the Detroit skipper.  On the left, Jim Leyland visits with Royals Bench Coach John Gibbons and Manager Trey Hillman.  On the right is John (didn’t get his last name). He has the same glasses and mustache.  Apparently the “Leyland look” is all the rage in the Motor City. 

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Here’s proof that Jim and John are not the same person.  Leyland leans over the railing, talking with Dave Owen and Gibbons (below with catchers mitt).  You can see security man John standing watch behind the railing to the right.


Detroit Security2.jpgSo we salute John.  No, he doesn’t have a multi-million dollar contract like his lookalike Jim Leyland.  But he could prove valuable to the home team.  Next time Leyland gets thrown out of a game, perhaps John would lend Leyland his shorts.  The Tiger skipper could stay in the game, incognito.  And his disguise would be a LOT more convincing than Bobby Valentine’s was years ago…

GOODBYE TO INDOOR BASEBALL

The Royals will finish their season at the Metrodome, the home of the Minnesota Twins (and Vikings) since 1982. The Vikings will remain in the dome for the foreseeable future.

Some mixed emotions both in the Twin Cities and around the baseball world.  The new ballpark, Target Field (seen here on the Around the Horn Blog!), will open in April of 2010. The Royals will be the last regular season opponent in this building in October.  The Royals were also the final opponent for the last outdoor game at old Met Stadium.

On the one hand, with the beautiful Minnesota summers, who wouldn’t love to play outdoors?  On the other, there’s April…and May…and potentially late October for a chilly World Series.  But it will be a much nicer, baseball-only facility. 

So this post is mostly about things we won’t miss about the Metrodome…and yet in many ways it’s been great seeing games there.  No rain (or snow) delays…perfect (indoor) weather.  Courteous people that work there….

Anyway…without further ado…here are some things that we will not miss….

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Of course everybody prefers baseball to be played outdoors…weather permitting of course.  The Twins will surrender one of baseballs great home-field advantages when they move down the street.  It gets REALLY LOUD in there.  Just ask the Royals…or the 87 Cardinals…or the 91 Braves.  Very hard on the opponent.Radio Booth at Metrodome.jpg

 

Don Free with Denny and Ryan in the visitor radio booth.  It’s small, but with a good view right on top of the field.  Have to be careful if you stand up too quickly you can hit your head on that overhang.  The overhang is only about 5 feet 6 inches off the ground.  At least radio’s version is padded.  TV’s is concrete.  Ouch.Bathroom door.jpg

 

 

 

Great, you’re thinking, a picture of a bathroom.  Well as you may notice, it’s for both men and women.  It’s a unisex restroom.  They have one on the broadcast level and one downstairs in the press box.  Maybe those fears about the Equal Rights Amendment forcing men and women to share restrooms carried over into the 80′s as they were building the dome…which was completed in 1982…

 

 

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Metrodome construction predated the Americans with Disabilities Act…so there is one tiny, phone-booth sized elevator.  But everybody gets plenty of exercise on these stairs…as well as another staircase you’ll see below.  These stairs take you from the press box down to the tunnel that leads to the clubhouses and the media dining room (which we’ll also miss…good food in that place).Trunks in tunnel.jpg

The Metrodome apparently offers its tenants precious little storage space.  In these trunks in the aforementioned tunnel, the Twins store batting helmets, uniforms and other equipment.  This isn’t just the way it looks on a travel day.  It looks this way all the time!  Presumably Target Field will have more storage space.Dugout Stairs.jpg

 

 

Another long set of stairs…from the tunnel down to the dugout.  It’s 4 sets of 8 stairs (if I counted correctly).  Ryan tells us that Cal Ripken legendarily used to hike these 32 steps in just 8 steps!  Hard to believe…but hard to doubt the Iron Man.

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s one guy we WILL miss at the Metrodome.  John Kinderman has been the the man guarding the door to the visitors clubhouse for 19 years.  Before that he was a policeman for 31 years. He says 50 years is enough, so he will not make the move to Target Field.  John always seems to have my favorite old TV show on…Hogan’s Heroes.  He must watch the all-Hogan’s Heroes channel.  He notes that former Twins GM Terry Ryan is also a fan of the show…so apparently great minds do, in fact, think alike.

Gopher Locker Room.jpgThis is the locker room used by the University of Minnesota football and (occasionally) the baseball team too.  The football team is moving to a new on-campus outdoor stadium set to open in September.  Baseball will still play a few games here.  Ryan Lefebvre has changed and showered in this room many times.  But no more football players in this locker room.  The Vikings will basically have the dome to themselves after this baseball season ends.


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Here’s a sign that won’t be necessary in a couple of months.  And, no, I didn’t try to steal it.  (It was really stuck to that wall!)…Ryan with Soria Pitching.jpg

Royals Director of Media Relations Dave Holtzman took this photo of Ryan in the building in which he’s spent so much time, as a player, an announcer for the Twins and, of course, an announcer for the Royals.  This is the area behind home plate where the air blows very hard, apparently to help keep the roof inflated.

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Dick Bremer, the TV voice of the Twins has a great saying about the unusual “suction” that you feel as you exit…”The game isn’t over til you’re sucked out the door.”  Farewell Metrodome.

 

 

YOU WILL LOVE THE ROYALS HALL OF FAME!

The Royals Hall of Fame opened after the All-Star break…and the reviews are in.  Everybody who’s been through it that I’ve talked to has given it two thumbs up.  If they had 3 or 4 thumbs…they’d give it 3 or 4 thumbs up.

 

I will attempt to give you a taste of it…but to truly appreciate it you need to check it out for yourself.  And allow yourself some time.  It’s free with your game ticket by the way.  And it is open year-round.

 

CLICK ON ANY PIC TO ENLARGE

 

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Located in left field…the first thing you see when you walk in is a giant wall that salutes Kansas City baseball history.  On display are lockers with uniforms of the three Royals retired numbers: George Brett, Dick Howser and Frank White.
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Also in the lobby of the HOF is this photo of Harry Truman throwing out the first pitch at Municipal Stadium on Opening Day for the A’s in 1955, their first of 13 seasons in Kansas City.
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The first thing many rave about is the film you view before seeing the Hall.  It’s in the “Dugout Theater,” an exact replica of the actual Royals dugout except that there are two rows of benches and not one (to accommodate more people).  The film gives you the history of baseball in Kansas City, going back to the 19th century…right up to today.
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And a wonderful touch, down at the end of the dugout, in the theater, sits a statue of Kansas City treasure, the late Buck O’Neil.  The smile and twinkle in his eye will never fade.
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Once inside the gallery, there’s so much to see.  This is a popular attraction within the Hall.  Fans can design their own ballpark.  Of course, you have to pay for the ballpark yourself…Pine Tar Display.jpg

 

 

 

 

Among the many displays:  the “Pine Tar Bat” that George Brett made famous 26 years ago.  George actually owns the bat, but it’s normally on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  It is currently on loan to the Royals Hall of Fame until the end of this calendar year.GB 5.jpg

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

Here is a great salute to Brett:  a giant number “5,” made up of 3,154 baseballs, one for every hit in his great career.  Within the “5″ is the bat he used when he recorded his 3000th hit.  Upon seeing that bat, George noted that his 3000th hit bat actually has more pine tar on it than his “Pine Tar Bat!”
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Another cool feature is the Royals Radio Network booth, with a large window looking out on the field at New Kauffman Stadium.  Fans can record their own play-by-play.  Sorry, Don Free is not included.  He’s the one that makes us look good.  Seriously, it’s a fun feature of the new Royals Hall of Fame.Royals Academy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

This display is a salute to the “Royals Academy,” a revolutionary concept in the early years of the franchise.  The idea was to take athletes and turn them into baseball players.  Frank White is one of many Academy graduates.  In this display case, you can actually read the scouting report on Frank before he became a Royal.

 

 

 

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The man who led the Royals Academy was the late Syd Thrift, a longtime baseball executive.  Here’s a photo of Syd’s son, Jim, (on the right) with the Director of the Royals Hall of Fame, a guy who did a super job in putting it together, Curt Nelson.  Jim Thrift is currently a scout for the Baltimore Orioles.  He and his mother have donated several items to the Hall.World Series Trophy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on display in the Hall is the World Series trophy from 1985.  Perfect spot for you to get your picture taken with it.HOF Gallery.jpg

 

 

 

At the end of your walk through the Hall, is the actual Hall of Fame gallery, with all the Hall of Famers properly honored, each of them with their portrait and information on their career.Thumbnail image for George at HOF Classic.jpg

 

 



 

 

 

 

On the day the Hall opened, the Royals played in the Willie Wilson Hall of Fame game.  Among those who played was George Brett, here talking with former Royal Willie Aikens.  The Royals Hall of Famers were decked out in powder blue from head to toe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While our radio booth is not a hall of fame, we now have chairs that are “hall worthy.”  Here Don Free wheels in one of the new chairs in our radio booth.  Pretty nice, eh?  They were provided by John A. Marshall Company.  It’s the Aeron Chair.  We all got chairs that are just the right size for our frames.Barry and Stephen.jpg

 

Here are the gentlemen who brought them over:  Barry Scogin and Stephen Marshall, who’s the great grandson of company founder John A. Marshall.  We’ve now test-driven our personalized chairs…and it’s unanimous….like the new Hall of Fame…two thumbs up! 

 

 

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