My night with the Kansas City Royals – April 22, 2016

Seven-plus years after my first visit to Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., I returned for my second game and first opportunity to write about my visit to the ballpark.  In 2008, I attended an end-of-season game between the White Sox and Royals just as the stadium started to undergo major renovations.  Due to the renovations and the fact that I hadn’t begun blogging about my stadium visits yet, this trip was my first opportunity to write about Kauffman Stadium.

Usually when I write about baseball early in the season it involves me attending the AAG Annual Meeting, but that was not the case here.  I attended the conference, which was in San Francisco, but did not get to any of the exhibition games hosted in the Bay Area while I was there.  Instead, my first MLB game of the season was a Royals game in tandem with an invited lecture at Missouri Western State University (read about it here).

So after my presentation and lunch in St. Joseph, the friend who invited me to give the presentation and I booked it down to Kansas City to watch early-bird batting practice.  While many fans had not even made it to the stadium or were setting up their grills in the parking lot, we got to enter the stadium and watch batting practice with a few less people in the stands.

After scurrying around the stadium to arrive at Gate A, which is the only gate you can enter through if you have early-bird ticket.  Once we got inside, we made our way down to the first base line and watched as the Royals took BP.  While I don’t typically take photos during batting practice, I felt it was appropriate to include them here.

Royals players during batting practice.
A coach throwing BP.

Once all the gates were opened, we explored the outfield and I got to take in the statues honoring the three Royals who have their numbers retired along with another notable duo.

Manager Dick Howser (1981-86) was inducted into the Royals’ Hall of Fame in 1987,
and led the franchise to its first World Series victory in 1985.
Third baseman George Brett (1973-93) was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1994,
and into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
Second baseman Frank White (1973-90) was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1995.
Owner Ewing and his wife Muriel Kauffman were inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1993 and 1996, respectively.

Usually before a game, I take some photos of the stadium exterior, but because my friend and I arrived later than expected at the stadium I did not get too take many photos before entering to watch early batting practice.  So shortly after the game got underway I explored the exterior of the stadium and snapped a few pictures of the exterior.

Outside the main ticket windows before sunset.
Main ticket office just after sunset.
Back of the dugout concourse.

Back inside the stadium before the game my friend and I explored the outfield amenities and saw the newest addition to Kauffman Stadium…

On the back of the regal jumbotron the Royals added some text to celebrate their second World Series championship.

In right field though is one of the key additions the Royals added to the stadium during the renovations they started in 2008: a Hall of Fame.

Outside the Royals Hall of Fame.
Inside the Royals Hall of Fame fans are met by a display detailing the history of baseball in Kansas City along with mock lockers featuring jerseys of the Royals’ three retired numbers: George Brett, Dick Howser, and Frank White.
Me with the Royals’ Statue of Liberty that was part of the 2008 All-Star Game festivities,
which was hosted by Yankee Stadium.

There is a lot of memorabilia detailing baseball in Kansas City, but the Hall of Fame filled up pretty quickly once the gates opened.  So I opted to be super selective about the photos I took.  I also opted to skip the line and not have my photo taken with the 2015 World Series trophy.  I can’t dismiss the significance of getting a photo taken with a World Series trophy, but as I do not identify as a Royals fan it did not seem worth waiting in line.  So while preparing to exit the Hall of Fame, I took a picture of the one thing that is especially unique to the museum.

Plaques honoring the members of the Royals Hall of Fame.

After touring the Royals Hall of Fame, we headed checked out some of the food options around the stadium, but ultimately ended up having a beer in Craft & Draft.  As someone who loves craft beer, I had a difficult time deciding what to drink, but opted for Boulevard Brewing’s Crown Town Ale.  Boulevard is a well-known craft brewery with a wide distribution, so I debated against having something from them, but the Crown Town Ale is a special release which cinched the decision for me.

Following a beer, we opted to visit the Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen Links, which is located by Gate D near the first base entrance to the stadium.

Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen Links concession stand.

So after getting a Canteen Dog, which is an all-beef hot dog with cabbage slaw, roasted vegetable mayo, grain mustard, and topped with pickled jalapenos, we headed for our seats in the upper deck behind home plate to watch the game.

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Chris Young delivering the first pitch to Baltimore Orioles left fielder Joey Rickard.

With the game under way I decided it was time to chow down on my Canteen Dog and snap the standard food photo.

The Canteen Dog is served with cooked chips.

The Canteen Dog was delicious, and the kettle-cooked chips were good.  I would definitely get it again, even though it doesn’t meet my usual standard of eating unique food that reflects the local cuisine.

After finishing my food, I took advantage of my seat on the Hy-Vee Level and captured some scenes from around the ballpark.

View of left field, which features the Royals Hall of Fame.
View of right field, which features the famed fountains.
A closeup of  the fountains.

I also got a shot of the Hot Dog Derby, which features a race between ketchup, mustard, and relish.

The condiments making their way toward home.

I didn’t get many action photos while the Royals were putting up three runs in the first because I was busy eating the Canteen Dog, but I did get some late-inning action.

Baltimore relief pitcher T.J. McFarland getting ready at the beginning of the fourth inning.
Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas facing Oriole reliever T.J. McFarland in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Royals dugout in the fifth inning.

One of the coolest things about getting to watch the Royals play at home on a Friday was the special jerseys the players wore, which have gold numbers to celebrate the team’s 2015 World Series victory.  And because the Royals were leading by two, I got to watch their closer take the mound.

Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis on to pitch the ninth.

After three easy outs, the Royals clinched the 4-2 win, which led to the usual post-game celebration by the players, mascot, and concluded in hanging the “W” in the outfield.

Players celebrating with the traditional post-game high fives.
Sluggerrr waving the flag after the 4-2 win.
Hanging the “W” after the game.

A big problem when you arrive later than planned and rush into a stadium is that you don’t always pay close attention to where you parked.  Unfortunately, my friend and I did not pay as close attention to our parking location as we thought, so we left later than expected.  Regardless of our extracurricular wandering, I had a great experience at Kauffman Stadium.

I could definitely tell the difference from my initial visit in 2008 to this visit.  While the structure was unchanged, the renovations definitely provide fans with a lot more amenities.  As a a beer drinker, I thoroughly enjoyed Craft & Draft and encourage beer AND spirit drinkers to check it out.  The Hall of Fame does an excellent job of preserving and presenting Kansas City’s baseball history, and not just the Royals’ time in town.  The food and beer choices throughout the stadium are diverse, but could use some more local flavor.

Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

Following his departure from the presidency in 1953, Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess returned to Independence, Mo.  So it was only natural that his presidential library would be built in the city where he lived most of his life.

On a hill overlooking the Kansas City, Mo., skyline, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum was dedicated on July 6, 1957.  The dedication included the Masonic Rites of Dedication, as Truman received the 33rd degree of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite.  Former president Herbert Hoover along with Chief Justice Earl Warren and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended the ceremony.

In addition to the library and museum, Harry and Bess Truman are buried in the courtyard.

Main entrance to the library and museum.

A copy of Harry S. Truman’s official White House portrait.

Statue of Harry S. Truman.

Harry S. Truman Burial Place in Independence, Mo.

Following his departure from the presidency in 1953, Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess returned to Independence, Mo., where they lived at the house owned by Bess’s mother.  He penned a two-volume memoir that were a commercial and critical success.  Truman remained active in politics and campaigned for Democratic senatorial candidates on a regular basis.

In December 1972, Truman was admitted to a hospital in Kansas City, Mo., after suffering from pneumonia.  He died weeks later on Dec. 26, 1972, from multiple organ failure after being in a coma.  He buried the following day at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Mo.

Overview of Harry and Bess Truman’s graves.

Grave of the Trumans’ only child, Margaret, and her husband Clifton Daniel.

My night with the Springfield Cardinals – July 25, 2013

Like my visit to Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark., I wanted to visit Hammons Field because of my impending move out of the region and I expect it would be difficult to make a trip back with the primary purpose of watching games at each stadium.  After packing up my apartment in Stillwater, Okla., I ventured toward Springfield in pursuit of my summertime goal.  Before arriving in Springfield, I explored some other sights in southwest Missouri like Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site, which allowed me to complete my trifecta of Truman presidential sights by visiting his birthplace.  However, that’s another story for another time.  I’m here to talk baseball, which was the primary purpose of the trip.

So after checking into my hotel and dropping off my bags, I headed to the ballpark a bit before the gates opened because I wanted to get the snow globe giveaway item.  I made plans to attend this particular game because the Springfield Cardinals celebrated Christmas in July and the exclusive giveaway item was a snow globe that contained a replica of the team’s 2012 Texas League championship trophy (more on that later).  So I wasn’t totally shocked, but was a bit surprised by the lines I saw when I walked up to the stadium.

Main entrance to Hammons Field.

One advantage of entering a stadium shortly after the gates open is the opportunity to walk the entire park and scope out food and drink options.  So after claiming my snow globe, I did just that.  As I wasn’t particularly hungry at that point, I visited the team store and sat down to watch the start of the game.

Springfield Cardinals right-handed pitcher Seth Blair delivers the first pitch to Northwest Arkansas Naturals center fielder Brett Eibner.

Before setting off to find food, I took a photo of the snow globe giveaway.  After all, a baseball game on July 25 practically screams to be part of a team’s “Christmas in July” promotion.

The snow globe with replica 2012 Texas League championship trophy.

It was “Johnsonville Buck a Brat Night,” which is something I’d normally indulge in very quickly.  However, I wanted to be more selective in my dinner choice.  I wanted to be sure that I experienced something unique to Hammons Field.  After walking around the concessions and debating it over, I decided to purchase my typical encased meat at The Doghouse.

The Doghouse features a variety of encased meats, but not the night’s featured “Buck a Brat.”

I’m not sure why the team offers a Chicago Dog, as the Chicago Cubs are a major rival of the Springfield team’s parent club – the St. Louis Cardinals.  I thought I might betray the home team if I ate a Chicago dog, so I opted for the Missouri Dog.

The Missouri Dog, which is a hot dog served with melted American cheese and topped with grilled sauerkraut.

I added ketchup and yellow mustard to the hot dog.  The hot dog was OK, but nothing special.  I didn’t ask what made it unique enough to earn the moniker “Missouri Dog,” but I can only presume that it’s a staple of Missouri ballpark cuisine.  Perhaps the best part of my meal was a local craft brew: Paul’s Pale Ale from Springfield Brewing Company.  The beer was a very good American pale ale, and a nice compliment to the sauerkraut on the Missouri Dog.

I saw something unexpected at the ballpark when I saw a concession stand that offered a funnel dog.  I did not inquire about why it was available, but I expect it was a specialty item on the menu because the Cardinals were hosting the Northwest Arkansas Naturals – the team that made the funnel dog famous.

I’m usually content with a hot dog and a beer, but my stomach needed more this night.  In hindsight I should’ve gotten the Texas League Dog, but instead I took advantage of the “Johnsonville Buck a Brat” promo and had a bratwurst with another regional craft brew.  For my second round, I had Urban Chestnut Brewing Company‘s Zwickel lager.  The beer was a delicious, and reminded me of the German lagers I home brewed with my dad.

Although I saw the popcorn stand and ice cream station, I wasn’t in the mood for any desserts.  So I didn’t get a mini helmet full of ice cream, and I didn’t experiment with the popcorn flavors.  Instead, I turned my attention to the game and the promotions.

While the Cardinals featured a Christmas-related give away item, the on-field promotions did not show any hint of Christmas.  A great example is the Bob Ross Paint Off, which took place in the middle of the 4th inning.  I loved watching  “The Joy of Painting” on PBS, but I don’t understand how it helped celebrate “Christmas in July.”

The scoreboard featuring the Bob Ross Paint Off competition in the middle of the fourth inning.

There were a handful of Christmas songs played during the game, but there were no unique on-screen graphics, no Christmas-themed skits, and there was no appearance by Santa Claus or his eight tiny reindeer.  When my schedule changed and I knew I’d be attending the Christmas in July game, I was excited because I anticipated a game filled with Christmas-related promotions, prizes, and more.  Instead, I had an experience that lacked almost any hint of Christmas.

I did capture photos with the team’s two mascots: Louie and Fetch.  I also made sure to vote for Louie in MiLB.com’s Mascot Mania with a post on Twitter and through the web site.

Me with Springfield Cardinals mascot Louie.

Like many teams, the Cardinals have two mascots.  On Louie’s first birthday, fans presented him with a puppy: Fetch!

A closeup of me with Springfield Cardinals mascot Fetch.

Since April I’ve become more conscious of taking a photo with the team mascot(s), so I’m happy I got photos with both Louie and Fetch.

While planning my visit to Hammons Field, I looked over a handful of online reviews.  Many articles described the experience as a “mini major,” which means that the stadium and the experience is similar to attending a major league game, but at a mini park.  In general, I’d have to agree with that critique.  The ballpark is beautiful and it feels like a Major League stadium, but a few minor league twists like the on-field, between-innings promotions remind fans that this is not The Show.  Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo., may not be The Majors, but the team shows visitors to this corner of Missouri a great time with a dash of local flavor.

Final: Northwest Arkansas 6, Springfield 0
Box Score

Harry S. Truman Birthplace in Lamar, Mo.

On May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Mo., John and Martha Ellen Young Truman welcomed their first born child into the world. Harry S. Truman was named after his mother’s brother Harry Young, and received a middle initial “S” to honor his paternal grandfather Anderson Shipp Truman and maternal grandfather Solomon Young.  However the letter “S” did not specifically stand for either Shipp or Solomon.

The Truman family moved to Harrisonville, Mo., ten months after Harry’s birth.  The Trumans never resided in the house again, but Harry returned in 1959 when the State of Missouri dedicated it as part of Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site.

Exterior of the Truman family home.
First-floor bedroom where Harry was born.

Marker dedicated to Harry’s accomplishments on April 19, 1959, when his birthplace became a state historic site.