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….
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…
We were blessed with great weather for early spring in Chicago. Such a great place to visit!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
This is Craig Edwards. He’s the meteorologist for Target Field. Haven’t needed one of those in a generation up here.
Royals manager Trey Hillman likes the new digs. He gives reporters his own report on the tour he took of the place.
The stands filling up before the game. They should easily surpass 3 million in the first year of Target Field.
One of many statues honoring the Twins history. In their 50th year….And Target Field salutes…among others…the great Rod Carew.
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!!
Anoher Twins legend makes his mark on Target Field….Kent Hrbek…
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.
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.
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.
This is the original Stanley Cup. The whole playoff thing got too big so they needed a bigger, more ornate one.
So many displays of the sports history….including one of many to the great Wayne Gretzky.
This 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.
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.
Opening Day started out a little gloomy….but the skies would clear and the sun would shine!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
Proud papa and mama Ryan and Sarah. Mom reports Micah was a great traveller on his maiden voyage, from KCI to Phoenix.
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.
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!
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.
My son the Coyote. John saw his first NHL game…along with several Royals games…on his Spring Break.
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.
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…
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…”
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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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the bottom of the hill near Pier 66…is Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. It’s more than 100 years old.
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…
One more shot of the water from the pier. Water, mountains, blue skies. Nice place to visit…especially with weather like this!
Tigers skipper Jim Leyland has been a Major League manager for many years…but did you know there are two Jim Leylands?
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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.
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.
So 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…
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….
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.
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.
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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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.