Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Baseball in Kansas City

Growing up in south central Iowa, one team learned to dislike was the Kansas City Royals. Many in my home town cheered on George Brett, Willie Wilson, U.L. Washington, Steve Balboa and others wearing the Royal blue uniforms. The big rivalry at the end of the year was the Yankees and Royals and Kansas City was the toast of the American League West for many years. I remember the World Series of 1980 as well as the controversial 1985 I-70 Championship Series and many bragged about how much better they were than my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. So I grew to hate Kansas City for many years.

But the Royals are far from the successful days of the 1980s. The most famous Royal of the past seven years is pitcher Zach Greinke, but the Royals traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in the off-season. Today they have some promising talent, but the record is far from contending in the AL Central.
The race between Ketchup, Mustard and Relish.
Earlier in the decade, the Royals spent much money making Kauffman Stadium much more fan-friendly and enticing to the casual fan. My last trip to a Royal home game was in 2000 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The crowd was sparse and those names I was looking for narrowed to one, in a visiting uniform, with the name Canseco on the back. But in 2011 the Stadium is still as well-manicured and clean as I remember.
But although the original fountains remain there are reasons the Royals don't compete at a Championship level. I know I'm not a fan, and this may sound like a shot to the franchise that struggled recently, but there are ways the Royals can be fan-friendlier than they are today.

Long lines were found at the concession stands. As I stood there waiting to buy one pretzel, I watched a multitude of concession workers slowly move around their area, and being in no rush to settle the change. After standing and watching a half inning on the monitors, while moving only a spot or two, I gave up.

Leaving the stadium was also a mess. It was fireworks night with the Cubs in town, meaning many people leaving at one time. As the mass of humanity twisted around the concourse ramps, a back up resulted when the Royals staff didn't open all of the gates. I stood in disbelief waiting to leave while looking at locked gates while the rest of use filtered through four or five unlocked, single-file gates. And the same could be said for the cars exiting the parking lots. For an area with 81 home games as well as an entire football season, I couldn't believe the waiting that resulted in trying to leave the Truman Sports Complex.
The Royals are a long way from the days of White, Howser and Brett.

But there are still many good things the Royals do, and reasons why they still attract their fans. The renovations have brought a congregating area in the outfield, a Video Board among the best in professional athletics and in-game entertainment that allow fans to have a good time. And every Friday is a solid fireworks show, sponsored by Hy-Vee. My son and I had a good time at the game, on a perfect night for baseball. It is a place I would bring him back to as it is easy to park, and tickets are plentiful at a reasonable price. But I still couldn't cheer for the home team

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