Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SoSG Road Trip: Kansas City (Part 5: Running The Bases)

Okay, before we get started on this fifth and final entry on Kaufmann Stadium, I forgot to post this 360-degree video of the park, taken from the Pepsi Party Porch near the right-field fountains. Note the refreshing mist coming down from the fountains, which is cool. (And the waterfalls are pretty loud, too!)

But let's cut to the chase--literally. The extra bonus level for our six-hour visit to Kaufmann Stadium was the Fun Run that they do after every Sunday home game. Though I've been on the field at Dodger Stadium multiple times (as well as a couple of other parks due to stadium tours I have taken), I had never before run the bases in a MLB stadium. And the neat thing about the Royals' Fun Run is that ALL FANS get to run the bases, not just the kids.

In fact, it provoked an interesting discussion with a Royals employee as I inquired about the run:

Sax: So, how does this fun run thing work?

Usher: You just go over there, son (How did he know I was a Son? Weird.), and line up. All fans who wait in line get to run the bases. They usually let you down there about 20 minutes after the game ends.

Sax: All fans? Even adults?

Usher: Well, I should tell you that most of the time the fans are young kids. About 75% of them.

Sax: What are you saying?

Usher: I mean, you can do the fun run, sir, but it's mostly for the kids.

My resolve steeled, I was running. And there had better not be any kids in my way, dammit!

The three of us in our party left the team store with t-shirts in hand (we bought Bo Jackson and 1973 All Star Game shirts, both done in retro style; really, the Royals have such little history to celebrate, and yet they do such a good job at hitting the high points, it's impressive), and around the middle of the eighth inning, we had lined up around the third-base "helix" ramp (as it was called by an usher).

We were the third group in the line. And there were a lot of kids, including a cute family of three in front of us with a 2.5-year-old girl to boot. This particular family with whom I talked was super-sweet--in mere moments we were connecting on a bunch of different issues--and the parents were marveling at their daughter's newfound gregariousness (apparently she has had some social anxieties which doesn't have her taking to crowds very regularly). Yet, there the moppet was, going up to total strangers in line and engaging with young and old, without a care in the world.

How this youngster made it through the whole game, in this heat, with the home team losing (their family was squarely in the Royals camp), is beyond me. My experiences last year at another ballpark (whose recap I still am overdue in posting) proved to me the perils of trying to last a whole game with youngsters in tow (key takeaway: don't go to the cotton candy too early, or you're screwed). But there she was, plucking cattails from a nearby bush and using them to playfully tickle people waiting in line, giggling all the way.

I couldn't help but think that this is what baseball is: A place where dads can find joy, where kids can be kids, where families can root root root for the home team--a playground for old and young. And here we were, lining up in the hot sun to run a lap on hallowed ground, all of us kids or kids at heart.

They soon led the pack of us down the ramp (the line at this point had snaked up two levels or so) and down into tunnels below Kaufmann, behind third base.

Setting up for the fun run on the field.

Another shot of them setting up. We were first in line, but they gave priority to the families whose kids had enrolled in the "Blue Crew" equivalent, which was totally cool; you can see those families on the field already.

The guy who met us as we entered the field. Don't screw around with him, as he's probably packing (heat, that is).

The path was to go along the warning track from left field to right field, then down the right field line, then cut in at first base and run around 270 feet to home plate before exiting.

First steps on the field at Kaufmann Stadium.

Heading up the third base line toward the outfield.

The obligatory shot against the outfield wall. Man, that wall is high.

Another shot of the outfield wall (this time, sans hops).

The Royals' bullpen wall, from the ground view.

The Royals' equivalent of the Dodgers' dugout club...except it actually looks like a mini-dugout (with a wood bench in the back, and no tables in between rows).

And now it's the moment you've been waiting for: running the bases at Kaufmann Stadium. I took a video. Here we go:

And there you have it! Not exactly major-league speed, to be sure. But no runs, no drips, no errors...and no trampled kids along the way. It was really a fun run, and a neat experience; all three of us in the party had a rush doing it (even though one of the three in my party was "too cool" to run. You know who you are.).

We were all smiles leaving the field, and then we heard this voice from the crowd screaming to us. Sure enough, the family that sat next to us during the game had stuck around to say hi again and take pictures:

The little guy got smart and went with the Boston Red Sox jersey.

One last shot from the field as we are being told to exit up the stairs.

Following directions, and exiting up the stairs.

As we left Kaufmann Stadium, the place had gone quiet and we the parking lot was mostly empty. It had finally gotten to a bearable temperature outside, as well.

KC logo in the gates, noticed as we exited Kaufmann Stadium.

"Sir, can we please ask you to stop tailgating." This parking lot security guard, on a bicycle, was about as effective as the pre-LAPD Dodger Stadium parking security guards on the segways. In short, these guys weren't moving.

No traffic upon leaving Kaufmann, so it was on to great things in the city, including passing this awesome baseball mural:

We passed by but missed visiting the Negro Leagues Museum, which was a bummer.

But we did make time to stop at Arthur Bryant's Barbecue! I will confess that this was my second trip, having come here 15 years ago during another cross-country trip (which also involved baseball). We weren't able to stop at Oklahoma Joe's (closed on Sundays), nor did we hit Gates (unfortunately we got those recommendations for Gates too late!). But we did sink our teeth into ribs at Bryant's, which had less coagulated barbecue sauce than our stop the prior night (Jack's Stack Barbecue at the Freight House), but superior taste, in our opinion. I also liked how the place was a dive, with pictures of Steven Spielberg, John McCain, and other celebrities who had dined there on the wall.

Outside Bryant's.

While in the queue, you can see the big brick oven where the meats are roasting.

Our meals. That's right, ribs served on Wonder Bread. Gotta love it.

I'm sure I gained five pounds in Kansas City alone (which may have been canceled out by the sweat loss during the game), but all in all this was a great day (topped by a late night screening of Conan the Barbarian in 3D which was probably the worst movie I have seen in years, Rachel Nichols eye candy notwithstanding). And a lot of bar-hopping...but not too much, as we were off to our next destination bright and early the next day:

Dodgers @ St Louis.

Earlier: Part 1, Getting to Kaufmann Stadium; Part 2, The Fountains; Part 3, Fun Stuff And The Royals Hall Of Fame; Part 4, Baking In The KC Sun

Rachel Nichols photo via Kevin Mazur / Wireimage. All other pictures and videos are mine! All mine!


Jason said...

They let season ticket holders run the bases after the last home game of the season in Pittsburgh. It was always pretty trivial to blend in with the line and I did it a few times.

I was always surprised by how deep the spots where right-handed batters dug into the batter's box (the left side was nearly flat). Reminded me of the Little League fields of my youth. I've inquired about that at other stadiums when on tours and have found it to be pretty common.

My favorite on-field activity so far is getting the chance to throw a few pitches in the bullpen in Seattle, a perk during fan-fest for season ticket holders (or team-owner-employees like me). I'm not entirely convinced the radar gun they setup was accurate since I haven't been able to throw 80 mph since, well forever.

Orel said...

@MrLASportsFan: "I want Smonk for my prize. Make it happen."

Kyle Baker said...

Awesome recap. Wish I were along with you guys.

Great slice-of-life stuff...

Josh S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. LA Sports Czar said...

I thought you guys stopped doing that Twitter stuff.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy said...

Beautiful stadium! Glad it got the All-Star Game and hopefully we have a new owner who buys us a nice new Diamondvision HDTV and lets us run the bases.

Fred's Brim said...

Good call on Bryant's.
I liked Gates too but I prefer the scene and sauce at Bryant's better

Steve Sax said...

@FB: Agreed, the scene in Bryant's is awesome. Having been to the upscale Jack Stack Barbecue the night before, it was nice to be in a more down-home, divey place. I felt more at home!