Major League Baseball Park #7 out of 39
Friday, July 1, 1994
Kansas City 4, Toronto 3 (12)
W– Steve Montgomery
L – Woody Williams
Attendance – 19,374
Saturday, September 7, 2002
Seattle Mariners 9, Kansas City 2
W– Ryan Franklin
L – Miguel Ascencio
Attendance – 19,775
Sunday, September 8, 2002
Seattle 16, Kansas City 9 (11)
W– Doug Creek
L – Blake Stein
Attendance – 11,442
Kansas City, Missouri, has enjoyed pro baseball for over 80 years. The Monarchs of the Negro Leagues reigned from 1920 to 1962 -- and the Negro League Museum can be found in downtown Kansas City. The Philadelphia Athletics briefly settled in Kansas City during the 50s and 60s before moving on to Oakland. Ewing Kauffman bought the expansion Royals in 1968 and, over the next 25 years, watched the team win six division titles, two American league pennants and one World Series (1985).
When Kauffman Stadium opened in April of 1973, AstroTurf™ was installed. For several reasons, this was a curious decision. Kansas City gets sufficient rain throughout the year to keep grass growing. It's an outdoor stadium. George Toma, one of sports' best groundskeepers, spent decades working for the Royals. I guess he was also good with the vacuum cleaner. The stadium does feature a 322-foot-wide fountain in the outfield and it's always something interesting to watch between innings. Of course, fans have little choice as the park feels like it's out in the middle of nowhere. No view of a downtown skyline in the distance, no river running alongside, just some low, brown hills and a few hotels across the way. The stadium does have sufficient parking space. Of course, part of the necessity for that is a football arena (Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL Kansas City Chiefs) a block away, but you can't see it while you're watching the baseball game.
Kauffman Stadium was the first stop on my 1994 trip and the weather couldn't have started out better. The temperature around 6 PM was in the mid-80s. I also managed to get my hands on a foul ball (hit by Toronto second-baseman Roberto Alomar) during batting practice. The ball flew over my head and bounced around some seats and I noticed no one running after the ball so I decided to see if could get it. Tim Harrison (a friend of mine and the driver on this trip) told me later that while I was walking toward the ball from one direction, he spotted a kid running toward the ball from the other direction and Tim thought it was entirely possible I couldn't walk to the spot as fast as the kid could run. I ended up with the ball and felt pretty good about it -- until Tim caught a batting-practice homer in St. Louis the next day.
Another reason I enjoy outdoor baseball is the effect of the weather on the game. This was the first time I had taken slides during a vacation and the pre-game pictures show a cloudless sky. That's the way I thought it would stay throughout the night (based on my California experience the previous summer), but as we were headed back to the car after the 12-inning game, it started to rain lightly. Our motel was in Lenexa, Kansas, about 40 miles away from the stadium and I figure by the time we were halfway there, the weather changed to torrential rain and dangerous winds (I say dangerous because Tim said he was having trouble keeping the car on the road). There was so much lightning in the area that I wouldn't even get out of the car to get something to eat on the way. When we finally made it back to the motel, I spent a couple of hours in our doorway watching the trees blowing around outside. There was a graphic in one corner on the television screen (while a late-night soap opera was showing) that I eventually figured out was a multi-county area around Kansas City and colored to show either a tornado warning or a tornado watch. We were in the only county not under a tornado warning.
I returned to Kansas City with my wife in September of 2002 because she hadn't seen the park yet. The Mariners happened to be in town (we don't usually plan our trips around Mariner road games, but it's a nice bonus when it occurs) and the weather was once again very nice and this time, it stayed that way. We stayed at one of the hotels across the street from the park, but rented a car so we could visit the Negro League Museum and find a decent steakhouse. It turned out that we were there on the same day that three Mariners (outfielders Mike Cameron and Ichiro Suzuki, and manager Lou Piniella) received Negro League Museum awards, but they left shortly before we arrived. We found all of this out when we told one of the museum's employees that we were from Seattle.
As for the two games that weekend, the Mariners won both and we wondered how much longer the Royals would be able to stay in Kansas City. Less than 12,000 people showed up for the Sunday game and there appeared to be as many Mariner fans as Royals fans. Hopefully, the Royals will contend soon because Kansas City has a great baseball tradition. As for the park, I rate Kauffman Stadium an 8. It would get a 9 if there were some scenery. Below is a night shot from the 2002 trip. I've got better ones elsewhere.
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