On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, we woke up for the last time in our St. Louis area Caboose and hit the road for Kansas City. The drive to KC was pretty easy, just a few hours. Nothing like our 550+ mile trek from Minneapolis to St. Louis.
However, we had put the wrong address in our GPS, which resulted in us driving right by our hotel (literally right by it, it was right off Exhibit 18 on I-70), right by Kauffman Stadium…
…and all the way into one of the least desirable sections of Kansas City. After figuring out our mistake and backtracking 20 minutes, we found our hotel and just rested in our room for several hours. But our hotel time, I reconnected by phone with Royals season-ticket holder and myGameBalls.com member Garrett Meyer. We’d met Garrett last season at Ballhawkfest. Garrett knew we’d be at this game. After catching up a bit, Garrett and I discussed gate times and the Royals “early-bird” tour.
After discussing it with my dad, we opted to meet up with Garrett and do the early bird tour, which gets you into the Royals…
…Hall of Fame (where we saw some cool stuff like this…
…) and then it gets you into BP way before the rest of the public.
Besides getting in early, the normal BP people have to stay in the outfield for a while once they are let into the stadium. Meanwhile, the early bird tour people stay on the infield, behind the dugouts. We set up shop behind the Orioles’ visitors’ dugout on the 3B line:
It was beautiful. Our view looked like this:
At the beginning, Garrett was on the Royals side (where the Royals pitchers were warming up). A bunch of fans wearing Orioles gear were on our side and they all seemed to be either autograph collectors or folks who just wanted some extra time to see the Orioles. No one seemed to have any interest in getting a baseball tossed to them. Also, if foul balls are hit into the stands down the foul lines, the usher will let you run down and grab it. It was a crying shame that ZERO baseballs were hit into the foul seats (which is amazing).
Anyway, while the Royals were taking BP, several infields took grounders at SS and 3B. The first group of infields included Alcides Escobar…
…and the second group included former-Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt. Both the tossed stray BP balls to us on their way off the field.
Thanks, Alcides and Yuni!
A few Orioles were hanging around in the bullpen below us. Since people were asking for autographs, I asked Tim if he wanted to get one of our new baseballs signed. He did. Dana Eveland was happy to oblige Tim’s request:
During much of BP, Tim played with ants that were crawling out of a little hole in the cement…
…and Kellan just walked up and down the rows like walking was going out of style.
At some point, Garrett came over to the 3B dugout. I hadn’t even seen him yet when I noticed an Orioles coach standing by the Orioles BP ball bin start tossing balls out in the crowd. He must have thrown 6-7 baseballs in a row.
Moments later, Garrett walked over to me and Kellan and said, “That Orioles coach is tossing a Camden Yards Commemorative to anyone who asks for one!
Kellan and I high tailed it down there. He was no longer throwing baseballs, but was still standing at the ball bin. I called out to him and when he looked up I was happy to see the face of former-Mariner Jim Presley looking back at me.
I asked for a OPACY commemorative ball, he dug around in the bin until he found one (I saw it too), and then he tossed *a baseball* to us:
(Photo taken after the game started)
I was thrilled! I shouted out a big:
And then Garrett whispered to me, “it is not commemorative!” He could see in my glove as I thanked Presley and saw the MLB logo on the ball he’d thrown. I was utterly confused because I *saw* Presley grab a commemorative baseball and throw it to me. Or at least I thought I did.
Garrett and I exchanged puzzled looks. And then I got bold. I called out to Jim again and asked (paragraphing), “Hey, Jim. I don’t mean to be annoying, but is there any way I could trade this baseball for one of the Camden Yards baseballs?” He looked up at me with a confused look and asked, “That one wasn’t one!?”
I tossed it back to him. He put it back in the bin and he tossed me a pearl of a Camden Yards commemorative baseball.
Thanks again, Jim!
Presley then walked away from the bin. My dad and Tim had not heard or seen what was going on. When Garrett, Kellan and I went back down toward the OF end of the dugout, I told my dad that he and Tim should give it a shot if Presley wandered back over to the bucket.
Well, wouldn’t you know, he did…
…and they did, and he hooked them up to!
Quadruple thanks, Jim Presley!
It was our first Camden Yards baseballs and my dad’s first baseball of the trip. So it was a very special interaction with a first class former Mariner.
Moments after Tim and my dad returned with their Camden Yards baseballs, an Orioles fan was getting an autograph from Brian Roberts at the camera well at the end of the dugout.
Tim and I swooped in and capitalized big time:
In one fell swoop, we accomplished three things: (i) Tim got Roberts to sign his new Camden Yards baseball, (ii) he got his picture with Roberts (first ever picture with an Oriole!), and (iii) Roberts held the baseball and gave a thumbs-up in the picture so it qualified for five points in the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt!
Tim was in a thumbs-up mood. So he got a thumbs-up picture with Garrett too:
While the Orioles pitchers warmed up down the LF line (where we could only go if a foul was hit into the stands), three set of Orioles position players played catch right in front of us at the dugout. When the final group was finished, Chris Davis tossed us his warm up baseball before walking back into the dugout.
Earlier in BP, my dad and I had a little bit of discussion with former-Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair. Tim and I have had several nice discussions with Adair at Camden Yards since he joined the Orioles’ coaching staff.
Well, after all of the Orioles pitchers had warmed up down the LF line, I saw Rick down the line chatting with an O’s pitcher and tossing a baseball back-and-forth from hand-to-hand. He was probably 150 feet down the line. When he finished chatting with the player, I called out, “Hey, Rick!” and I flashed him some leather. I was hoping he would make a big long toss throw to me.
Instead, he walked toward us. He was on his way to the dugout. It was clear he was going to give us the baseball, but he wasn’t into the long toss idea. As he got closer, he was into Tim’s catching range, so I pointed to Tim.
Adair made a good toss, but Tim botched the catch. It fell to his feet and he picked it up. He’s actually botched the toss from Jim Presley too. So he wasn’t having a gold glove day so far. But he got the ball on his own, so it was all good.
Big thanks to Rick Adair!
Eventually, a friendly female usher who was chatting with us behind the dugout told us that the entire stadium was open so we could move around wherever we wanted to go. My dad went to the team store to buy some baseballs (he buys a team or stadium baseball at each stadium he visits), Garrett went out into the outfield where we saw several Orioles air mail baseballs over his head, and Tim, Kellan and I headed down the LF line, but stayed in foul territory. We took up a spot on the wall and watched BP:
Orioles pitcher Luis Ayala was running around LF wearing a huge, oversized glove. From myGameBalls.com and other mlblogs, I know there are several guys around the country who use a “big glove” like this. So I scanned the crowd, and soon we met Minnesota’s own Big Glove Bob:
I love that picture of Tim and BGB. Bob has the face of a man stuck in the middle of Tim unfolding a long and overly detailed story. I believe this particular story was about how Shawn Camp tossed Tim two baseballs the day before in St. Louis. That was a story with which Tim regaled anyone who would listen while at Kauffman Stadium – notably, Garrett about five times or so.
Kauffman Stadium was great, but the setup of the seats down the LF line was frustrating me while we were down the line. At some stadiums the seats in the corner are situated diagonally so the end seat in each row butts up against the fence. In that type of row, I can block Kellan into a defined space. But none of the seats down the line at Kauffman Stadium butt up against the fence. In fact, there is a huge amount of space in front of the seats. So it was very difficult to keep Kellan near us without chasing him back and forth.
I decided we should go out to LCF so I could block in Kellan at the end of the bottom row next to the batters’ eye. We ended up going out there for a very brief time, but the sun was right on us and it was too hot.
While we were there, Ronnie Deck and someone named “Flaherty”…
…were shagging fly balls in CF and LCF.
I placed my third or fourth call of the day to my “Orioles guy,” Avi Miller. The call went like this:
Todd – “Hey, Avi, what is Flaherty’s first name”?
Avi – “Ryan.”
Todd – “Oh…wait, I gotta go.”
I called him back about 30 seconds later. That call went like this:
Todd – “Ryan Flaherty just tossed us a Camden Yards commemorative. Thanks for the assist!”
Avi – “Any time, sir.”
If you’re visiting Camden Yards or seeing the Orioles on the road, Avi is a good guy to know. Well, he’s a good guy to know in general, I guess.
Thanks, Ryan and Avi!
That was it for BP. Thanks for the early bird tour, we snagged 7 baseballs with almost no effort. Not too shabby.
As we made our way toward foul territory, we stopped briefly at the bullpen. One of the Orioles coaches was crossing the warning track grabbing stray balls. Totally out of view, he tossed one right over me. I didn’t see it in time to get my glove up and it sailed right into the fountain.
While we were out in LCF, me and the boys met up with my dad and Garrett. After BP, Garrett offered to take us to the only “Kauffman Stadium” sign in the ballpark, which is above the Royals dugout on the 1B side, so we could get a Kauffman Stadium bonus picture for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt. Because of the Diamond Club, you cannot get from the 3B side to the 1B side on the field level without going up into the concourse. While we were passing through the concourse, Tim and Garrett posed for a picture with the Royals pig:
There were a bunch of kids in the first row above the dugout and it was far from an ideal situation to get a picture featuring the Kauffman Stadium sign. This was as good as we could do with Garrett’s assistance:
I took a second picture of Tim from the first row just in case the last picture came out horribly:
Then, we split off from Garrett and the boys, my dad and I headed up to the upper deck to try again from up there:
That one isn’t ideal either, but it was better. Tim was pretending to be scared his heights while up there. That’s why he isn’t smiling in the photo.
While up there, I also got this panorama from the front of section 420:
And then we walked the concourse a bit. All the way down the LF line, we could see a classic spiral ramp and the KC Chiefs stadium next door:
We all headed down to the field level for the beginning of the game. We got some great tickets on stubhub for way under face value. This was our excellent view from section 112:
And this was the view of the first pitch of the game:
Fairly quickly after the game started, Tim wanted to go see the kids play area that I’d mentioned was behind the scoreboard in CF. I didn’t know what all was back there, but I was up for checking it out. On our way, we met Sluggerrr:
As passed behind the Royals Hall of Fame, we noticed that the crown on top of the scoreboard had little spikes on it. We figured we ought to take a picture of it:
We also figured we should take some panoramas from the top of section 202 in LF:
And from down at the bottom of section 202, just above the LF fountains:
As we made our way to the play area, we ran into the Kauffmans…
…who were apparently very enthusiastic with their waving.
On the back of the scoreboard, the Royals have a big “KC” logo instead of a “Kauffman Stadium” sign:
There was one big problem with the play area: it had too much fun stuff. Literally, it was just too much. Tim was really excited about it. But I quickly realized we could end up spending the entire game there. And I wasn’t too excited to spend our only game at Kauffman Stadium behind the scoreboard where I couldn’t see the game.
Here are two of the things we didn’t do:
On the left, that is a miniature golf course. See how the ground is all wet in front of the mini-golf? Well, we didn’t notice as we made the approach. And then a huge blast of water flew straight up my pants. I walked over a fountain set into the walkway exactly when it went off. My shorts were completely drenched.
It was funny, but I could have lived without the comic relief.
Tim was really excited to play, but I had to limit him to the play fort thingy. Mini-golf just takes too long!
The play area would be great if this wasn’t our first game at Kauffman Stadium. It would be ideal for the down time between the end of batting practice and the beginning of the game.
The other non-ideal thing was that the play fort was a bit too advanced for Kellan. So Tim played for a bit while Kellan and I just roamed around. And I got this panorama from behind the scoreboard:
And soon enough, it was time to head back into the infield and grab some dinner:
We go the nachos and grandpa got the BBQ sandwich. In retrospect, I wish I would have tried a BBQ sandwich too, but I missed out.
Actually, I basically just missed out on dinner because this was going to be our only game in KC and I needed to run around and see the stadium. So the boys ate dinner with Grandpa and I took off.
I started by heading the LF corner and I got this panorama from behind section 104 – just on the CF side of the Royals bullpen:
Then I checked out the fountains…
…and the trough behind the CF wall, where a few people have jumped down to grab homerun balls. I could see several baseballs down there.
I got this panorama from the walkway behind section 101:
Then I walked through the area behind the batters eye and below the scoreboard, and I popped out on the other side in the party porch:
I walked across the party porch and got another panorama from RF:
Behind the Orioles bullpen in RF, there is a bar thingy that I didn’t go inside…
…and I’m not sure if it is open to the public.
There are more fountains and less seating in RF than in LF. There are also more statues in RF than in LF:
Here is one of my favorite panoramas that I got at Kauffman Stadium, from above/behind the fountains in RF (the thing on the far upper right is the bottom corner of the scoreboard):
I circled around that bar thingy and got this panorama from section 248:
Then I headed up to the 300 level (which I would naturally call the “second” level). It seemed to be a suite and club type level, but it seemed that they let anyone walk through it.
I had a funny interaction in the suite level concourse. I ran into a super-drunk Orioles fan who was also walking around the stadium taking pictures. He saw me walking with my camera and thought it was hilarious. We chatted a bit, and he had previously also lived in Pennsylvania. He ended up taking a picture of the two of us. I gave him a hugely over-exaggerated thumbs-up in the picture. I imaged that the next day he probably scrolled through his pictures and scratched his head thinking, “Wow – I drank too much. Who in the world is this guy!?”
Anyway, I got panoramas from section 321:
And another from the stairway between sections 315-316:
I noticed that this would have been the ideal spot to get our picture with the Kauffman Stadium sign:
Maybe next time!
By the way, although I never tried to walk into the Diamond Club, it seemed as if anyone could sit in any seat at Kauffman Stadium without an usher ever asking to see your ticket.
Next, I headed up to the upper deck and got a couple shots before my dad texted that Kellan was asking for me. First, I got this panorama from section 419:
And this one from section 417:
After twirling my way down the spiral ramp, I noticed that there was a cool “Royals” sign on the exterior of the stadium:
When I got back to the seats, it was reaching twilight. The scene in the outfield looked pretty cool with a pink water show going on in the RF fountains:
By the way, I should mention the game was 0-0 through four-and-a-half innings. In the bottom of the fifth, the Royals finally found the plate, twice, on the strength of a Humberto Quintero single to CF. That made it 2-0 Royals.
Soon, it was time for ice cream. Tim, Kellan and I went in search of some ice cream helmets. We finally found them behind 3B. I was surprised to find that the Royals only offered vanilla soft serve. I thought that was odd. And it was outside of Tim’s chocolate wheelhouse. But the Royals made up for it with a strong showing on the toppings front. Tim got crushed Oreos and Tim got chocolate chip cookie dough topping. And the toppings looked and tasted GREAT!
Here’s a pretty sight:
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to share in much more than a single bite. I used the ice cream time to finish my tour of the stadium.
I started by running up to the .390 Bar & Grille on the second deck. It was a nice looking restaurant with a big sign “NOW OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.” Unfortunately, all but one of my pictures in their came out completely blurry. But the one that came out clear was the most important. Here is clear was the most important. Here is our view if you choose to dine at the .390 Bar & Grille:
Wait, I got one more good picture from the restaurant:
That’s my dad holding Kellan as he scarfs down some ice cream. We had the first four seats in the row and Tim is off-camera eating his ice cream in seat number 4.
I left the restaurant and got this panorama from section 401:
I already had a panorama from the front of section 420, so I went for another from the back row:
As I circled behind the first base dugout, a Royal (I think it was Francouer, but I’m not certain) smoked a foul ball right to OUR seats. I zoomed in to see if I could see if my dad got it…
…, which would have been really hard while holding Kellan.
He didn’t get it. Actually, if you look right between the ballboy next to the “Firestone” sign and my dad and Kellan, you can see a guy (two rows in front of my dad) in a blue shirt and light colored shorts. He is leaning forward with his hands over his head. In his left hand, you can see him holding the foul ball. That is darn close!
I kept moving and got this shot from the stairs between sections 425 and 427…
…this one from between sections 435 and 437…
…, and this one from the very last seat at the end of section 439:
My tour was essentially complete, but I got a couple more pictures as I made my way back to our seats. I got this shot from section 230:
And this one admiring the big World Series trophy that is part of a sign for the Royals team store:
By this time, it was official, I was hardly spending any time at all in our seats. And, frankly, it wasn’t going to spend much more time there. It was very late in the game by this time. Like the 7thor 8th inning.
Kellan had been in the seats most of the game and he was ready to move around. Mere minutes after returning to the seats, Kellan and I headed to the cross-aisle. We ended up stopping in a huge tunnel behind section 118 (right behind 3B):
Kellan had a great time running around in this cross-aisle. It was pretty clear that the Royals ushers didn’t care what fans did in this huge open area. Kellan was sprinting back and forth across the big piece of cross-aisle/tunnel real estate, and all we got were “oh, that’s adorable” looks from the ushers.
After a while, Kellan decided it was time to continue his hanging from railings strength training:
The game was still tight. In the top of the 8th, the Orioles finally got on the board on an RBI double by Nick Markakis. That made it 2-1 Royals heading into the bottom of the 8th.
But the Royals got the run back pretty quickly. After two quick outs, Billy Butler hit a single. He was then replaced by pinch runner Mitch Maier. Moments later, Maier motored around the bases and beat the tag…
…on a double by Alex Gordon.
That made it 3-1 going into the top of the ninth.
With three quick outs and the Royals could tuck the win into their back pocket.
We decided to get a closer look. Garrett had texted and mentioned he was in the fourth row in section 118. I noticed that the usher were not checking anyone’s tickets. So as the teams made the offense-defense switch before the top of the ninth, Kellan headed down the stairs and met up with Garrett.
This was our view:
Garrett was sitting with fellow myGameBalls.com member Leiming Tang. Like the seats, Leiming was very nice too.
But you know what wasn’t nice? The Royals’ decision to bring in Jonathan Broxton to close out the game. Living in the Phillies’ television market, I know a thing or two about Broxton. Well, really I only know one thing, I HAVE NEVER SEEN HIM CLOSE A GAME SUCCESSFULLY. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, there is a chance that I have seen him do it. But I seriously do not remember that ever happening.
Guess what? It didn’t happen at this game.
You know, I said bringing in Broxton “wasn’t nice.” I take that back. I had wanted to see two games in Kansas City, but the length of the drive to Denver wouldn’t permit it. And, frankly, I had missed a lot of this game because I was touring around the ballpark.
So I think the Royals were actually doing the nicest thing they could for me. They extended the game, and almost let me see two games in one.
So, I guess you can tell by now, Broxton blew the save. He blue it BIG TIME.
He coughed up the first run on a homerun by Wilson Betemit:
That made it 3-2 Royals.
He then gave up singles to Chris Davis, Xavier Avery, and J.J. Hardy. Hardy’s single was of the RBI variety.
Tie ballgame, 3-3. Extra innings on their way, and so was a huge dose of hitting futility (or pitching dominance).
In the top of the 10, we were happy to see 5’7” Royals pitcher Tim Collins. Like Tim Cook, Tim Collins also sports number 55:
He sat the Orioles does in order.
After the 9th ended, Tim and my dad came down and met up with us in section 118.
Tim entertained Garrett with story after story after story. Every fifth story, it seemed, was about how Shawn Camp tossed Tim two baseballs the day before in St. Louis.
Garrett was great. He handled Tim’s shower of stories like a champ:
A friend of mine from New Orleans had told me a day or two before this game that a local guy named Johnny Giavutella had just been called up to the Major Leagues by the Royals. Well, Giavutella pinch hit in the 10th inning:
He came up empty in the 10th inning, but eventually went 1-3 on the night.
We had lots of time to chat and take random photos, like these shots by my dad:
In the 13 inning, Nick Johnson hit a double for the Orioles. For some reason, the ball was thrown out of play after the hit, and it was eventually tossed into the stands. Johnson’s double-ball now resides at my parents’ house!
Sluggerrr came and visited our section to keep the game entertaining (just in case the duel of the relievers wasn’t entertainment enough for some of the fans):
Heading into the 14 inning, Kellan was ready for more baseball!
In the top of the 15th inning, Adam Jones took matters into his own hands:
He hit a solo bomb to LF (way out of there) to break the 3-3 tie.
Kellan continued to clown around with Grandpa during the top of the 15th inning:
And then Tim, Kellan, and I moved into the first row with Leiming during the bottom of the 15th inning:
Actually, Tim had already been down there with Leiming and Garrett – and he had been having a blast hanging with the guys. They were both awesome and really made Tim feel like one of the guys.
It just so happened that we were directly above the umpire’s tunnel. Our friend (well, we don’t know him, but he’s been friendly to us in the past) Angel Hernandez was behind the plate. We were in absolutely ideal post to get an umpire baseball. Leiming, Tim, Kellan, and I all had our gloves ready when the final out was recorded. (By the way, Garrett had moved to see if he could get the final out baseball – he was unsuccessful).
As we prepared for the final out, I told Tim he needed to be sure he squeezed that ball tightly if Hernandez tossed him a baseball because it would fall back down into the umpires’ tunnel if he missed it.
After the final out was recorded, Angel Hernandez walked right to us. We all called out to him. He then looked at me and Kellan and said, “Let’s let the little guys get one first!” and he flipped a ball to me. He then flipped a second ball to Tim, and Tim caught it! Success!
Finally, he tossed a third baseball to Leiming before ducking into the tunnel.
With these two baseballs, Angel Hernandez has now tossed us a baseball on each of the last three Cook GFS Roadtrips.
A few minutes later, we got a late night photo of four happy Cooks:
What a night! Tim and I tied the longest game of Tim’s life, and Kellan set his new longest game record as well.
As we drove back to the hotel, I looked back, snapped this photo…
…and wished The K a good night. It was a great one.
The next day would be a travel day. A long one, we would be driving all the way to Denver.
2012 C&S Fan Stats
|8/7 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|12/11 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals|
|11 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2|
|42 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 5, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 2|
|6 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3|
|7/6 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird|
|3/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Brian Roberts; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist|
|2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck|
|4 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts|
I have a few things to report from the desert, courtesy of my mom and my boyhood newspaper.
You might have heard before that Ken Griffey, Jr. is quite the prankster. He loves to have a good time and get a laugh. If you live outside of Seattle or you are not a Mariners fan, you might have missed his latest prank against long time friend and Mariners catchers coach, Roger Hansen.
Here is a picture taken recently by my mom at the Mariners main practice field in Peoria, AZ…
My folks actually got to participate in Griff’s recent prank of Mariners pitching coach, Rick Adair.
Here is another photo from my mom…
My mom saw Griff walk into the stadium carrying a big stack of shirts (although she didn’t know they were shirts at the time). When he started handing them out behind the M’s dugout, she ran over and got one. My dad wore it with the rest of the prank accomplices when Adair arrived at the dugout.
Fun times…and what an awesome souvenir for my folks!
I am living vicariously through my parents and wishing we could have made it to a little spring training this season. Oh, the joys of being in Peoria, AZ in February and March…
Maybe in 2011.