Friday, August 10, 2007
Game #14: In the Heartland
Kauffman stadium in Kansas City is not a new park. It’s built of concrete, is in a stadium-dedicated area outside of the center of town, has been around for a while, and for a while, had artificial turf. Finally, the team that plays in this Stadium would really be overmatched by some AAA teams, and it therefore draws crowds to match.
Those were the basis for my expectations going in, and everything there turned out to be true. Furthermore, it was an afternoon game on a really, really hot day.
BUT, between its baseball-only design, a great and classic crowned scoreboard display in the outfield, the presence of some really attractive fountains, and an impressively plugged-in crowd, this turned out to be actually quite a pleasant place to watch a game, and I was very pleasantly surprised.
There is still no 360-degree walk-around, which is disappointing. However, plans are in place to develop the stadium further, while preserving the basic structure. This’ll add a full 360-degree range to the park by adding new seats and concessions in the outfield, upgrading the scoreboard, improving the view-level concourses, and developing the stadium entrances further. It will be a shame if they lose much of the grass currently in the outfield, but they’ve firmly stated that the fountains will be unaffected by the development, and it will definitely be good to get the full circle completed.
They were giving away free water, which was a nice touch, and strongly needed. The game time temperature was announced at 91-dgrees, but it felt very much hotter than that, especially in the sun. While I have no idea what this means, the post-game radio show announced the “heat index” as 105-degrees (40 C). If that’s anything like a wind-chill factor, than that definitely presents an accurate view of the feel of the park today.
The lower bowl was mostly full under the shade, but more sparsely filled in the sunny seats closer to the field. My seat was great, at 5 rows off the field, but I joined several people around me mid-way through the game in shifting backwards to covered seats. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen people cheating *backwards* so often.
The crowd was good, and quite impressive. And while it was smaller than that in Baltimore for another Thursday afternoon game, it was somehow more engaged and enthusiastic. I was impressed with the size and the excitement, especially given the large number of Twins fans present
I met a father/son duo from Philly who were doing 6 cities worth of the identical itinerary as me in reverse. They’d been to Cincinnati and St Louis already, and were able to provide some nice tips for my upcoming starts
The game itself was a true pitchers duel, with both starters getting into the 7th, and only one run being scored throughout. That run, as well, was little-ball through and through, with a double, bunt, and sac fly getting the runner in. And despite the lack of offense, it was a tense and exciting affair, proof that a game can be enjoyable without a lot of runs.
Meanwhile, I made a point of visiting two institutions in town that were very highly recommended.
First was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which was an excellent and fascinating stop. This museum presented not just the history of these parallel leagues, that featured talent often described as every bit as good as that in the majors, but also the story of this segregated world, and how it reflected America at the time. At its height, teams such as the Kansas City Monarchs and Homestead Grays were received as stars while touring, while simultaneously being shunned hotel space or food by the very same establishments that were glorifying their achievements.
This was co-located with the American Jazz Museum, which I would have *loved* to spend more time in, but was unfortunately forced to do just a quick run-through. Something to come back for, someday, perhaps.
The other must-do stop in town was Arthur Bryant’s barbecue, a place that absolutely lived up to its billing. Classic Kansas City Barbeque, in my case with ribs and “burnt ends”, made for a fantastic pre-game meal. The line to order stretched out the door and down the block, but I didn’t see a single person complaining.
With the afternoon start, I worked in the drive to St Louis that afternoon, giving me two straight nights in St Louis. The opportunity to take a day without any driving at all will be great, as the 4000 miles I’ve covered in the last 9 days definitely have me ready for a break. Missouri, or at least the Kansas City-to-St Louis corridor, was somehow just a little bit less flat-and-rural than Kansas was, though the crops made the shift to almost exclusively corn. It’s not grain, but it’s definitely amber waves as far as the eye can see.