Rule #42 – When in doubt, do it for the fun of it.
Next stop on the Great Baseball Tour:
The alarm went off way too early on the fourth day of the tour. We were snuggled in at our hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota. Ahead of us was another long day on the road. Our drive took us due south, through the state of Iowa.
|We were in I-o-Way - channeling the "Music Man"|
This was my first time crossing the border into Iowa, too. I half expected the whole drive to be one corn field after another. This was a baseball tour, right? If they build it, we will come, right? Not quite. The terrain was flat, but you could tell this area had more than its share of rain from the spring storms. The crops looked as if they were doing all right. But we passed many a “rice paddy” created when sudden rain formed a small pond, where there was none before. This section of our country is our bread basket and many of our grain crops come from this area. It was time for a quick, silent prayer for all of our farmers and their crops.
The bus stopped at a restaurant off the Interstate for lunch. Note to tour planners everywhere – One hour is not enough time to serve lunch to a bus load of 57 people. McDonald’s excluded, but I don’t consider MickyD’s a restaurant anyway. We had a decent meal, but the whole experience seemed rushed. It could be that we were all a bit more tired and needed to stretch our legs more than we had a chance to do.
|Kauffman Stadium - Home of the Kansas City Royals|
We got to Kauffman Stadium, a.k.a. the “K”, with plenty of time on our hands. The gates opened about 15 minutes after we queued up. So out in the heat we stood… and I do mean heat. You wouldn’t think that Kansas City got as hot and humid as it does. We went from cool in Minnesota to very hot in Missouri.
Every other stadium I visited up until then was in a downtown area. Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park is within walking distance of population and the old Philadelphia Navy Yard. Oriole Park, Nationals Park, Target Field, and the “Cell” are all plopped into the city landscape. Not the “K”. The closest landmarks are Arrowhead Stadium for the Chiefs and I-70. The two stadiums share the same parking facilities. Then there’s a whole lot of nothing. I’ve seen that a lot on my baseball travels and it makes me grateful that I’m not in charge of Major League Baseball game scheduling!
|Party Porch in right field|
|View from center field fountain area|
Once in the stadium, the fan has a great experience waiting for them. The main concourse is easy to navigate. There is one continuous loop that is open and well-signed. The requisite Budweiser outfield party bar is in place in right field. There are plenty of charging stations for you and your pet electronics. You continue on the concourse to the outfield fountain area. This is where you find the Hall of Fame statues, the Kids Zone, and the K.C. Hall of Fame museum.
|George Brett statue along Hall of Fame Row|
|Inside the Kansas City Baseball Hall of Fame|
|K.C. Monarchs were a premier Negro league team, thanks to Jackie Robinson and friends|
|Costumed interpreter welcomes you to the museum|
|Buck O'Neill offers advice and shakes your hand from the dugout bench|
The statues are of Kansas City Royal’s recent Hall of Fame inductees. The Hall of Fame museum, on the other hand, covers all of Kansas City’s baseball past. K.C. has a rich baseball tradition in both the white and Negro leagues from the early 1900’s. A period costumed gentleman greets you as you enter the left-field building. Then, it’s into a 15-minute film, in a theater with dugout seating, about the history of baseball in Kansas City. Many prominent players, including Monarch’s Jackie Robinson, were mentioned. At the end of the dugout bench is a statue of Buck O’Neill, Monarch’s manager and Cubs scout. Any visitor can shake Buck’s hand as you leave the theater area. In the main museum room, you can find displays of giveaways, George Brett’s bat and ball from his "Pine Tar Game", white and Negro league photos side-by-side, and the World Series trophy.
|Royals give-aways - from hot dogs to bobbleheads|
|World Series trophy|
|Little K's Kids Zone|
Across from the Hall of Fame is the Kids Zone. This area is a family friendly area with a lot more to entertain the young-uns than I’ve seen in any other park. Kids can play some miniature golf. There is a batting cage and a miniature sized field for an easy preschool pick-up game. Kid-friendly concessions are all over in this area, too. Take you child for a merry-go-round ride or let them cool off in the splash pad. It makes for taking a soggy bottomed child to the seats, but well worth the effort in the heat.
|Paul Rudd playing in the Celebrity Classic|
|Watching the game on the big board|
The day we visited, Paul Rudd, who was raised in the K.C. area, was back in town with a pre-game charity softball game. Early fans got to see many of the celebrity players on the field with Mr. Rudd. The event was on the main scoreboard in center field. The players were still able to do their pre-game warm-ups in the outfield. None of the hits from the celebrities made it that far.
|View from the great seats|
Our seats were in the lower level, just beyond first base – prime foul ball territory. We had a great view of the honoree that got to sit in the Buck O’Neill Legacy seat behind home plate. The home team just went home that night, while the Seattle Mariners went home happy. We all went “home” happy after some fantastic fireworks at the end of the game.
|Fireworks after the game|
|More fireworks behind the scoreboard|
This is a ball park I must revisit, preferably in cooler weather. The park itself has lots to offer a visitor; so much that it takes multiple visits to see it all. Also, I never got to have some official K.C. barbecue. There wasn’t any tourist time in the city.
|I was there!|
Ahhhh…. Time now for some serious rest. The bus call was not as early for Day 5. We were just heading to St. Louis. Ok, it’s across on the whole other side of the state, but it’s still a straight drive on I-70. Can’t wait to see which team gets the St. Louis “blues”.
To be continued – still…
Photographs by Marge McGugan. No reuse without permission.Video courtesy of YouTube.