Ballpark of the Week: Kaufmann Stadium (Home of the Kansas City Royals)
Look, let’s get the obvious out of the way: you are probably saying “hey Dan, funny we haven’t seen you post in two weeks, since you declared your Detroit Tigers favorites to win the American League!” Yes, that’s true. You might say, “That timing seems a bit suspicious, like you decided to lay low and avoid the mockery and derision that would come your way!” Yes, point taken. You might say, “Hey Dan…” but at this point, I would punch you.
It’s true, we lost. To a Baltimore Orioles team that beat our bullpen like rented mules and made our hitters look like children swinging wiffle bats. It was upsetting, but I’m over it. Watching that same Orioles team get out-ran, out-fielded and out-hit by this never say die Kansas City Royals team was truly something to see. So this week, I look to 2013, when I was lucky enough to visit the lovely stadium and fountains of Kaufmann Stadium.
It was the best kind of event one could hope for – we were headed into Kansas City for the wedding of my wife’s friend Mike, and the Royals were on a home stand. I had gone to the University of Missouri and have friends in the St. Louis area, so an agenda took hold – we would fly from Detroit to St. Louis, visit some friends, then rent a car to drive from St. Louis to Kansas City (stopping in Columbia for old times sake) before enjoying a weekend of wedding fun, BBQ food and a Royals game.
The plan worked flawlessly. My friends were wonderful, the weather was perfect and the drive – roughly four hours straight – was great too. We stopped in Columbia and I showed my wife my old dorm, the famous Mizzou columns, even stopped for a bite at Shakespeare’s Pizza. We arrived in Kansas City, checked into our lovely hotel downtown, and got ready for the game.
The first thing an out of towner might notice when driving to visit Kaufmann Stadium – or it’s next door neighbor Arrowhead Stadium – is that they are seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Right off of I-70, both stadiums are set in the middle of a massive expanse of parking spaces, with little else to see. As we pulled in, it was a bit disorienting – nothing but concrete as far as the eye could see.
Now while this may kill the distinct Kansas City flavor from the environs, it allowed for something else: tailgating, and lots of it! I’m not used to seeing people tailgate before a baseball game, much less a June game between two teams headed for the basement, but there were people with grills and food going everywhere. Furthermore, it was “Girls Night Out,” a promotion geared towards female baseball fans, and they were out en masse. Pink Royals jerseys, pink hats and high pitched cheers abounded.
I bought my tickets through StubHub (I like to see if I can get better seats from a season ticket holder looking to unload them than from the team site and, whoopee, it worked!), so I picked them up from Will Call, where the Royals employees were wonderfully nice. Tailgating, Ladies Night, Friday or not, there was no way this game was selling out.
Our seats were fantastic. The third base line, a few rows back. We had a perfect view of the entire ballpark. The famous Royal crest in the outfield with it’s massive scoreboard. The fountains around the outfield, erupting at intervals. This stadium, despite it’s early 70s birthday, really is a relaxing, comfortable place to watch baseball.
As the night went on, we watched a low scoring affair. We wandered the park, and were impressed with the sight-lines one can get from almost anywhere within. Particualrly cool was standing in the outfield by the fountains, watching them go off from close and looking over the lush outfild grass.
We tried a few different BBQ concessions, but none had quite the taste of real Kansas City BBQ. The real surprise of the night came in the 7th inning, when the concessionaires announced it was “dollar” time, and all hot dogs, soda cans (Pepsi products) and peanuts/popcorn was now, yes, $1. I have to humbly report that I may have scarfed down four hot dogs and three sodas at this point, because I’m a midwesterner who can’t refuse a value. I’m willing to bet that, with their team in the Series now, $1 hot dogs are harder to find at Kaufmann than a Royals fan who didn’t jump on the bandwagon in August. I’m just kidding. Well, sorta.
Because that was the only downside to my visit. The park is absolutely beautiful. I love the huge Royal crown, the 13 story scoreboard. The concessions were a value. The fountains are amazing. The post game fireworks on Friday were impressive. The game was even very good, with two small ball teams going at it. But the fans weren’t, at least not in large part. There was the enthusiasm that came with the ‘Girls Night Out’ promotion, but not a lot of cheering or booing going on. As an observer of the AL Central, I noted how, even this year, in the midst of a pennant chase the Royals weren’t selling out. There are great and knowledgeable fans in Kansas City, no doubt. But compared to their cross state brethren in Cardinal fandom, they have a long way to go.
That said, Kaufmann was a beautiful park and I would go back in a heartbeat. Especially if it was to see the Tigers top them again.
Dan’s scale (1-10): 8.7
Below are my stats. I’ll post them for every park I’ve visited. I include the big details, as well as who I visited with. Lastly, I am a huge fan of throwback jerseys, and for every stadium I visit, I buy one of a player from that organization I admired as a kid, from watching them or reading about them. So for every one, I will also list the throwbacks I’ve purchased for each.
Date: Friday, June 7, 2013 7:10PM
Seat: 115, D, 3-4
Ticket Cost: $28.00 each (purchased from StubHub)
Went with: Jen Weaver McKernan
Time of Game: 2:58
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Astros 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 9 0
Royals 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 X 4 9 0
Winning Pitcher: Kelvin Herrera (3-4)
Losing Pitcher: Wesley Wright (0-2)
Save: Greg Holland (11)
Jersey: George Brett (1985)