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Tag Archive: Kansas City Royals

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 3 — Baseball—it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it? First published May 13, 2010, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Baseball–it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

“Baseball? It’s just a game—as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It’s a sport, a business, and sometimes even a religion.” –Ernie Harwell, The Game for All America, 1955.

There is something certain and steady about the game of baseball. It’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

Poet and author Sharon Olds wrote in “This Sporting Life” in 1987, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up”.

I know what she means. Baseball helps us forget our troubles, but why is that?

Maybe it is the reassurance of the stats that make us love it so much, and as we know, diehard fans love baseball stats, good or bad.

Stats are a sure thing. We can rely on them.

Baseball, according to baseball owner and mastermind Bill Veeck, is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world, and yes, indeed, it could be the stats.

Veeck explains, “If you get three strikes, think about it, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”

Or when the numbers in your own life are not adding up so well, we would do well to remember the old adage, “Things could be worse. What if your errors were counted and published every day like those of a baseball player.”

Now, that puts life in perspective.

There is an opposite to bad baseball stats, however, as Ted Williams once quipped, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

I like those odds.

In 1970, Mickey Mantle said this about baseball stats: “During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.”

And Norm Cash, legendary Detroit Tiger power hitter and first baseman after his 1,081st strikeout, noted the same thing happened to him: “Pro-rated at 500 at-bats a year, that means that for two years out of the fourteen I played, I never even touched the ball.”

Perhaps it is, in fact, the rhythm of baseball. The repetition, steadiness and the absolute sureness it provides during the summer months that make us love it so much.

After all, it is our national summer pastime, and we watch game after game after game, never tiring of it.

Baseball is always there, and so are its stats.

I am wondering. Is baseball indeed a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend, unlike the stat sheet in front of us?

Even though stats are the lifeblood of baseball, could baseball really be more likely about relativity, or molecular attraction, or theory or timing?

Whatever baseball is, it has a lot to do with the fundamental nature of the universe, the grand scheme of things; or if you will, the idea that things are much different than the world we see.

“More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood,” –Thomas Boswell, Inside Sports.

Quantum physics?

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 4 — A lone Royals fan at Fenway Park. First published June 3, 2010, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

A lone Royals fan at Fenway Park

“This is the place to be. Baseball town. The intimacy of Fenway, the toughness of it…I like the edge.”—David Cone, former Kansas City Royals ace pitcher.

The Boston Red Sox played the Kansas City Royals last week at Fenway Park, and I was there. I guess you could say, I count my self–lucky.

And as a result, I know why David Cone loved it.

It’s that first moment as Jason Stark, ESPN sports analyst, commented: “That moment, when you first lay eyes on that field—The Monster, the triangle, the scoreboard, the light tower Big Mac bashed, the left-field grass where Ted Williams once roamed—it all defines to me why baseball is such a magical game.”

And why Fenway Park is such a revered ballpark.

It is the fact that you feel as though you are playing the game itself, not just watching. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn once said, “As Commissioner, you’re supposed to be objective. It wasn’t much of a secret, though, that I loved Fenway—especially how it made you a participant not a spectator.”

That’s it. The field is close and no seat is far from Big Papi warming up before the game on the green grass. At Fenway, it’s the history, the players who once played there, the hallowed ground, the Green Giant, and, not to go without saying, the aromatic Fenway franks and the free-flowing Dunkin Donuts coffee.

But of course, there is the energy of the fans at Fenway. My goodness, the fans cheer, no erupt is more like it, when an outfielder catches a meaningless short fly ball. At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, you might hear golf claps.

In Kansas City, fans excuse themselves to the hip, new outfield entertainment area when the game gets boring. At Fenway, no one ever leaves one’s seat except to stand and cheer, which they do constantly. Fans would never leave, they might miss a called strike.

Although we have a brand-new remodeled and up-to-date ballpark in Kansas City (“everything is up-to-date in Kansas City), we don’t have anything akin to the magic that happens at Fenway.

Perhaps, no other ball park does.

Forgive me Royals fans, I’ll quit waxing poetic about Fenway. Back to my experience at the game.

Admittingly, I was worried at first, to be one of a handful of Royals fans, attired in powder blue and lost in a sea of red-shirted Boston fans.

I spotted one man in a bright blue Royals shirt just inside the park gates but never saw another Royals fan after that, although I am told there were two behind the Red Sox bullpen.

Texting from Fenway, I posted on my Facebook page, “At Fenway and may be the only Royals fan in New England ! Sure to be a good story to follow. For self-preservation, buying a Red Sox hat to wear with my Royals jersey!

I did, in fact, purchase one immediately upon entry into the park, a Red Sox hat, one that stood out noticeably, a hat with bling sporting glittery bright red socks. I wasted no time donning it in an attempt to make my Royals light-blue jersey less noticeable.

Honestly though, the fans were great to me with very little heckling and only a few puzzled questions.

The fan in front me appeared slightly incredulous, “So, tell me again, why are you here? Seriously, are you really following the Royals to Boston? Who does that? I am serious.”

The comments continued and were always followed by raucous laughter, “You may be the only Royals fan here ya’ know; you may be the only Royals fan anywhere. Ha ha ha.”

“Did you see the movie ‘Fever Pitch’? There was this scene in it when the guy with the season tickets gave his buddies tickets to the Red Sox v. Royals games as punishment. Ha ha ha.”

And so the game went, until the eighth inning. Everyone there, and it doesn’t matter which team you cheer for, comes alive with joy and happiness that is difficult to describe.

You’ve seen it on television, but that does not do justice to the Fenway Park crowd singing loudly and by heart, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”.

It gives me goosebumps still, because at Fenway Park, everyone sings loudly in unison and by heart and sometimes without music. They are really singing a love song to Fenway, their beloved historic ballpark.

“Where it began. I can’t begin to knowin’, but then I know its growin’ strong. Was in the spring and spring became the summer…hands touchin’ hands, reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin you…Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good, so good, so good!”

Ah yes, Fenway, just might be the eighth wonder of the world. The magic of Fenway is a site to behold, and that is why people love it.

But did I mention my Kansas City Royals won the game? Ha, ha, ha.`

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 5 — A surprise in Surprise. First published March 10, 2011, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

A surprise in Surprise

A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz (any old day). ~Humphrey Bogart

Hello Kansas City.

There is a surprise in Surprise, Arizona, and it is your Kansas City Royals and their breathtakingly beautiful spring training stadium.

If you have not been there dear readers, go if you can. Add it to your bucket list. It is that good, and I do not say this lightly.

I was in the land of the Cactus League this week visiting relatives and used the opportunity to take in as much of the spring training atmosphere as I could.

We watched the Kansas City Royals play a little ball and in the process discovered the joys of spring baseball training.

In the Phoenix metro area, there are 10 spring training ballparks shared by 15 Cactus League teams, and that means there is a lot of ball to see.

Besides, it is March and if one travels to Phoenix in March, it is written somewhere that one must see some spring ball.

We did our best to oblige.

Our plan, our personal baseball trifecta, was to see three games in three days.

On Day One, the Giants versus Mariners; on Day Two, the Royals versus Diamondbacks; and on Day Three, the Angels versus Rangers.

On Day One, we struck gold at the Scottsdale Stadium as we watched the world-champion Giants defeat the Mariners while Tim Lincecum pitched. We had no idea he would be pitching when we bought the tickets online. They don’t tell you these things in the spring. You may remember that Lincecum is the two-time Cy Young Award winner with a 25-mil contract who blew out the Rangers in last year’s World Series.

Skipping to Day Three, we watched the Angels beat the American League champion Rangers at the Tempe Diablo Stadium in a game that was mostly defense, a rarity in spring ball. Most of the games have more home runs than base hits, along with a high number of errors. But hey, it’s pre-season, and no one cares.

But let us go back to Day Two and the team we came to see—our Kansas City Royals.

My expectations were not high as we drove along Bell Road after eating lunch at the highly acclaimed In–N-Out Burgers in Peoria, Arizona, not far from the Billy Parker Field in the Surprise Recreation Campus.

As a Midwesterner, I didn’t know much if anything about In-N-Out burgers. We don’t have them because this small franchise of less than 300 stores serves only the western part of the country. Suffice to say In-N-Out is a fast food chain with a “loyal customer base”, a.k.a. California cult that loves animal-style burger and fries.

I’m in.

I learned quickly that nothing tops lunch at In–N-Out.

Nothing; therefore, after that high point we were intent only on enjoying the day soaking up sun at the ballpark. That would be enough.

We were about to be surprised, however, and I never saw it coming.

Here is some of what surprised me, besides In-N-Out:

Before we were out of the car in Surprise (very near Sun City), the picturesque Surprise Stadium, some say the best ballpark in the Valley, left us speechless. The Royals share it with the Texas Rangers, but this day, the stadium belonged to the Royals. The stadium alone is worth the trip.

We were surprised when the Sundancers (Sun City greeters) welcomed us as though we were their long-lost cousins from Pittsburg. In fact, one of them thought we were from PA due to the fact we looked like we were “from the north”. She said she can always tell Northerners because they are wearing shorts and tee shirts on what the Valley folks consider to be a cool day in March.

Pittsburgh and K.C. are in the north? That surprised me.

Seats galore, so take your pick. That surprised me. We found perfect ones right behind the Royals dugout and cheered loudly for each batter, whose name we never heard before, as if it were a Little League game.

Autographs and close-up pictures with the players–easy as pie to obtain. Granted, we never heard of them, but it’s spring ball. Did I mention that already?

Furthermore, I was surprised at the lack of formality in the ballparks, the absence of vendors hawking the crowd, little music or announcing and players wearing jerseys with no names on the back. It is sandlot ball, pure and simple, and I loved it.

Dear readers, there is so much more to tell about spring baseball in the desert that I have to stop now and write about it in part two. So stay tuned next week for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say.

By the way, spring ball confirmed something I long suspected: “There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~Al Gallagher, 1971.

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