9/23/12 at Kauffman Stadium
My day started here . . .
. . . with this . . .
. . . where I saw this:
(I really love bad haircuts. Heee-HAWWW!!! Three outta four’s purty doggone good!)
Robin and her mother had joined me for breakfast and taken me to the flea market, but they didn’t attend the baseball game. Instead they dropped me off at the stadium, and as I hurried across the parking lot, this was the scene:
It was 11:20am — only ten minutes until the gates were gonna be opening. I ran to the nearest one and found myself at the end of a long line:
I always like to be first, but in this case it didn’t really matter. This was a Sunday afternoon game. The Royals and Indians had played the night before. Both teams were well out of playoff contention. No chance of batting practice, right?
Well, look what I saw when I entered the seating bowl:
Batting practice! Wow!
I got an Indians coach to toss me a ball in left-center field . . .
. . . and then BP ended. Just like that. I hadn’t even been inside the stadium for ten minutes, and the Indians started jogging off the field. (WTF?!) I raced over to the seats behind their dugout . . .
. . . but didn’t get any baseballs from the final few players.
There was *no* action for the next hour, so I sat here . . .
. . . and read the previous day’s box scores.
Finally, when there was a sign of life in the left field corner, I headed over to take a peek:
In the photo above, do you see the kid with the “ODORIZZI” shirt?
“Odorizzi” might sound like an Italian cleaning product (“Try-a Odor-Easy inna our new-a zesty lemon-a-lime scent!”), but in fact it’s the last name of a top Royals pitching prospect, who was going to be making his major league debut. Jake Odorizzi. Remember that name. He’s a former first-round draft pick out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers — supposed to be the real deal. I almost skipped this game, but once I learned about this guy and heard that he was going to be starting, I decided that I had to be there.
Here’s a photo of him stretching:
I wonder what was going through his mind.
I would’ve stayed in left field and watched him throw, but my odds of getting a toss-up seemed better on the Indians’ side, so I headed to the other bullpen.
Ten minutes later, here’s what was happening:
In the photo above, pitching coach Ruben Niebla is watching David Huff get loose. When Huff finished, he tossed the ball to Niebla, who flipped it up to me. Here it is:
I kept that ball in a separate compartment in my backpack because . . . who knows? Huff might’ve pitched a perfect game, and it would’ve been REALLY cool to know that it was The Ball.
When the game got underway, I stayed in the outfield and ran all over the place depending on who was at bat. The basic strategy was to be in left field for all the right-handed hitters and in right field for the lefties, but I cranked things up a notch. You’ll see what I mean in a bit, but first, here’s a photo of me with my buddy Zachary, who’d brought his copy of The Baseball:
If Zachary looks familiar, it’s because I met him (along with his father and brother) on 9/17/11 at Kauffman Stadium and signed his copy of Watching Baseball Smarter. Remember? Here’s some photographic evidence.
Several innings later, Zachary’s father, Tom, offered to take me inside the Diamond Club for a quick tour. He knew that I wanted to stay in the outfield and try to catch a homer, but he also knew that I love exploring stadiums and photographing them for my blog. I was torn, but ultimately decided to take a look at the club; Tom and I timed it so that we went there when the bottoms of both teams’ lineups were going to be hitting. Here he is leading the way . . .
. . . and here’s what the inside of the club looks like:
Here’s are a couple rows of table seating . . .
. . . and here’s the view of the field:
That’s a pretty good spot for foul balls, but why waste time chasing those when you’re in the best stadium for catching home runs in the major leagues? That’s right. You heard me. THE best stadium. Camden Yards is also incredible, and if the attendance at AT&T Park ever drops below 20,000 per game, that’ll be up there too, but whatever. I don’t want to talk about those (or other) places. Even though I’ve never caught a home run during a game at Kauffman Stadium, I’m still claiming that it’s the best, and you’ll soon see why.
Here’s the Diamond Club bar . . .
. . . and here’s a closer look at the baseball stools:
In the photo above, did you notice the baseball bat lamp on the upper right? No? Well, here’s a closer look at that:
Tom pointed out the baseball card ceiling . . .
. . . which, I’m ashamed to admit, I hadn’t yet noticed.
Here’s the final photo that I took inside the club:
The whole club was extremely basebally (which was cool) and moderately fancy (which made me feel awkward). I was glad to get a glimpse, but it’s not a place that I ever need to visit again. And now let’s get back to the outfield . . .
In case you’re not familiar with the right field layout at Kauffman Stadium, there are two levels where fans can hang out. The lower level (which has a row of assigned seats) is directly behind the outfield wall, and the upper level is standing room only. Now that you know that, it’ll make a bit more sense when I say that I positioned myself in right-center on the lower level for all of Alex Gordon’s at-bats. Why? Because he had 49 doubles, and I thought it’d be cool to snag No. 50. This was my view of the field . . .
. . . and here’s what it looked like on my left:
As you can see, there wasn’t much room to run, but I knew that if I stayed on the upper walkway, there was no chance of catching a double.
In the middle innings, I ran into a couple of familiar faces — folks whom I’ve gotten to know because of my frequent trips to this incredible ballpark. In the two-part photo below, I’m with Kent on the left and Bob on the right:
In the 7th inning, I saw a kid with a cute sign . . .
. . . and in the 8th inning, I saw a guy with a not-so-cute belly:
Here’s why I insist that Kauffman Stadium is as good as it gets — check out all the room (and lack of competition) that I had in the top of the 9th inning:
I know, I know . . . it takes a 400-plus-foot blast to reach the walkway, and the Royals have very few players who can actually hit the ball that far, but hell, that’s what visiting teams are for. (Just not the Indians.) Catching home runs is all about having room to run, and when the attendance is low at Kauffman Stadium (which, let’s face it, is pretty much always the case), it can’t be beat.
In the middle of the 9th inning, I got my 3rd ball of the day from Indians bullpen catcher Armando Camacaro. He had just finished playing catch with Shin-Soo Choo, and when he walked back into the bullpen, I got him to hook me up. Here’s a photo of him that I took moments later:
What’s that? You want MORE proof that Kauffman Stadium is the Promised Land of ballparks? Well, in that case, look how much room I had in right field during the bottom of the 9th inning:
Yes, okay, the Royals were getting blown out, 15-4, and it was September, and the game meant nothing, but still. To have THAT amount of room in an area that’s well within home-run range is practically unheard of. I suppose Coors Field also has to be included in the Top Few stadiums for home runs because of that absurdly awesome “handicapped” aisle directly behind the outfield wall, but I’d still take Kauffman over Coors in a heartbeat.
Remember those dead crickets that I mentioned in my previous entry? Here’s a photo of them . . .
. . . which I’d like you to click for a closer look. Go ahead. Do it. Click the photo. They won’t bite. They’re dead. And it’s nasty. And I’d really like to see the Royals do something about that.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about our man Jake Odorizzi. Given the fact that the Indians scored 15 runs, you’re probably thinking that he got lit up, but that wasn’t the case. Yeah, he took the loss, but he started the game with five scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the 6th and getting pulled. Not bad.
I should also mention that there were three home runs during the game — one by Carlos Santana that landed in the right field bullpen, another by Santana that scraped the right field foul pole, and a 437-foot blast by Adam Moore that I sorta/almost (but not really) snagged in left field. Click here for the video highlight, and you’ll see me running along the walkway in front of the fountains.
Rather than going for an umpire ball after the final out, I went to the home-plate end of the Indians’ dugout and asked manager Manny Acta for the lineup cards as soon as he poked his head out. Here he is walking onto the field . . .
. . . and here’s what happened when he made it back:
Here I am with them . . .
. . . and here they are close-up:
How cool is that All-Star Game logo on the upper right corner of the Royals’ card? How about the modified MLB logo on the upper right corner of the Indians’ card? What about Manny Acta’s artsy signature or the fact that these cards are from Jake Odorizzi’s debut?
The back of the Royals’ card is also pretty neat:
That’s the end of the story from Kauffman Stadium, but keep scrolling past the stats for a few more bonus photos . . .
• 585 balls in 73 games this season = 8.01 balls per game.
• 865 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 390 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 30 lineup cards (or pairs of lineup cards); click here to see my full collection
• 6,404 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)
• 45 donors
• $2.72 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $8.16 raised at this game
• $1,591.20 raised this season
• $20,748.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
After the game, Tom (and Zachary) gave me a ride back to Robin’s mother’s place — very kind of him given the 20-minute duration of the trip. And then? He and I (and Zachary) said our goodbyes, and then it was time for an outdoor dinner with Robin and her parents and a few of their friends. Here’s what it looked like on the patio . . .
. . . and here’s the main course being grilled:
That’s pork tenderloin, and yes, it was divine. Here are a few slices on my plate:
The salad had mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, and bacon. The whole-grain bread had been baked earlier in the day by Robin’s father. The asparagus had been drizzled with olive oil and then grilled. The couscous had sun-dried tomatoes, olives, chick peas, and feta cheese.
And then there was pie:
Robin’s mother baked those — pumpkin on the left and apple on the right.
After dinner, there was a fierce game of Apples to Apples . . .
. . . during which I had a companion (named Honey) on my lap:
Good times in Kay-Cee.