A Royal Experience

My father in law is a Twins fan. I’m a fan of baseball. On August 10th 1994 I quit watching the game and gave my allegiance to the NFL. In 1998 with the help of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, my interest in the game was reborn. Prior to ’94 I was an Oakland Athletics fan. Since then, I really have had no loyalty to one team or the other. I love the game. That being said, I make the four hour drive to Target field every year with my father in law to watch his beloved Twins. We usually see about a half dozen games a year. This year we decided to visit Kaufman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. After the experience we had, I may just have a new team to cheer for.

The 2014 All-Star game is in MN this year. My father in law being a big Twins fan, naturally would love to attend. Me, being a huge baseball fan, don’t feel much different than he does. We’ve talked about that weekend since it was announced as the venue. As we discussed how we were going to make this trip a reality, it became clear we wouldn’t. Life happens and the cost would be just too much for us. The “consolation” prize was Kaufman Stadium. We’ve talked about it for years and we finally made it a reality. The “K” did not disappoint!

After church, my bride, my father in law, mother in law and myself all went out for brunch. While eating we pulled up the Twins schedule and realized they were in KC for a 3 game series over the weekend of the 18th, 19th, and 20th of April 2014. After some delicate, and slick talking, we convinced our wives to let us go. Next step; tickets. Straight to his house and to the computer! Once tickets are bought and payed for, we realized the “mistake” we made. This was Easter weekend. Neither lady was overly thrilled at what happened but they both understood the importance to us. You see this trip isn’t just about baseball.

Friday morning rolls around and it’s time to hit the road. From our home town to Kaufman Stadium is roughly 7.5 hours south. You can’t take that kind of drive with just anyone. You need a special kind of relationship to endure over 7 hours in a vehicle with someone. We have that kind of relationship. To most, 7 hour car drives seem boring and unrewarding. For me, it was one on one time with one of my favorite people. 7.5 hours quickly disappeared with silly banter, bad jokes, and a few unexpected moments of “road rage”. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, we found our way to our destination; One Royal Way, better known as Kaufman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. A 3 game series with just him and I. Each game brought a unique experience with what seemed like it was catered specifically for us.

Friday: Game time 7:10 pm.
After over 7 hours of driving we are finally standing outside the gate. Neither one of us had been there and the anticipation was that of a child on Christmas morning. Standing in line for what seemed to be an hour, (it was actually just about 15 minutes) the gates open and we float into the “K”. We are greeted with a smile and a “Hello! Welcome to the K! Enjoy the game”. This was odd for me. I’ve been to many different professional venues and the workers don’t seem very interested in saying “Hello” let alone helping. These helpful workers would be become a staple of our weekend.

We walk around the beauty of what is the “K”. From the awe inspiring water falls in center field to the majestic Crown towering above the falls, this stadium is gorgeous!! After taking countless pictures, we finally go to our seats. The seats were reasonably priced and we were more than happy with them. First pitch is thrown and the lights come on. The beauty of this venue is slapping us both in the face. The game didn’t seem important to me that night. It was more about spending too much $ on food and drink. It was about the laughs and silly conversations. The sights, sounds, and smells of the park enamored me. The Twins lost, yet neither of us were bummed. We finally got to see this park and the company was amazing!! As great as Friday was, it fails in comparison to Saturday.

The week of the trip I spent some time on the Royals website. We love touring ball fields as you learn so much about the team, stadium, and generally get to go on the field. $20 well spent. Well the Royals offer a variety of tours which I thought was neat. So after browsing for a while I run across the “Game Day All Access Tour” for a “mere” cost of $300 you get a bevy of prizes. The focus of this is being on the field for batting practice and the 1st base camera bay for the National Anthem. So I sent an email to Morrie from the Royals. Morrie called me back immediately after the email was sent. He was incredibly helpful and now all I had to do was convince my “boss” to let me spend the extra money. After that hurdle was cleared, my father in law had to get permission from his wife as well. They both gave us the green light and the tour was on!!

Morrie was nice enough to give us reserved parking so we belly up to front row parking behind the stadium. We make the jaunt to gate C where we are greeted with another “Hello! Good morning and welcome to the K!” We are then introduced to both Morrie and Judy. After a quick introduction and a minor “wardrobe malfunction” we start the tour. You see my father in law is a die hard Twins fan. That morning we were guest of the Royals and his attire wasn’t Royal appropriate. So after a quick change from a Twins shirt to a nice Royals polo, we start one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

As we sit in the media room, I’m reminded of how special this weekend is. It’s not every day you’re sitting in a big league media room. This is the room where managers and players sit at the table and answer a plethora of what seems like unnecessary questions. Where managers get second guessed and members of the media act like they know more than the managers and players. After some explanation of a few pictures and a photo opp, we head to the field. As a kid, all I ever wanted to do is hit a baseball for a living. Lack of talent never afforded me that luxury. Standing on a MLB field, is the closet I’ll ever get. In one word; it’s awesome!!

Standing in the on deck circle with the clay beneath your feet is impressive indeed. A smile lights up my face as I have that feeling as a kid on Christmas just after opening the gift and realizing you got EXACTLY what you wanted. Seeing my father in law on the same spot, with the same smile was priceless!! We get a few pictures and watch the Royals come out onto the field one by one. Both Morrie and Judy knew exactly how to handle this scenario. For the most part, they left us alone. They let us take pictures, talk to each other, laugh and smile without interruption. Every now and then, Judy would swing over and check on us. They were both amazing. Their efforts will always be near and dear to me.

Listening to the crack of the bat will forever be thrusted into my memory. The talent these ball players have is definitely a show of shows. Being that close to them hitting is nothing short of remarkable. As we are watching BP, Judy comes over and says “Why don’t you say hi to Morrie” Turns out Morrie is having a sit down visit with Salvador Perez, Gold Glove catcher for the Royals. Salvador signs our complimentary canvas print, shakes our hands, and heads off to work. At that point Aoki runs by and drops something on the filed. Judy picks it up and is clearly complexed by what it is. She hands it to me and I tell her it’s a finger guard. For a brief moment I put it on and demonstrate to her how it works and explain it’s use. Just then Aoki comes over and is looking for it. I slide it off my finger and reach out to hand it to him. He smiles at me, signs our canvas print, and even poses for a picture with us. To him that was an encounter I’m sure he’s forgotten. To us, it will be a life lasting memory.

After idle chit chat while BP is going, our on field experience is about to wrap up. Just when we thought it was over, Billy Butler, DH for the Royals, graces us with a handshake and an autograph. He was genuine and kind. He had that big league persona yet seemed very humble. It was clear that he enjoys being a big league ball player. From there it was time to head upstairs. As we are on our way to meet Rex Hudler, we run into Dick Bramer, announcer for the Minnesota Twins!! This was a treat for my father in law as he loves the Twins and enjoys listening to Dick call games. Mr. Bramer was incredibly kind as we visited for a bit and he posed for a picture and gave us both an autograph. After that meeting, it was onto to meet Rex Hudler. Like many before him he greeted us with a smile, handshake and an autograph. I was flabbergasted by how polite and genuine everyone was.

After a whirlwind of events and handshakes its off to the first base camera bay for a front row seat to the greatest song ever composed, the Star-Spangled Banner. Walking though the bowels of the stadium was neat indeed. Aoki and Justin Maxwell glide right by us as they head to the field. Waiting to head up to the field we are standing right in front of the color guard. A humbling experience it was. As we head up the steps, just at the top of the stairs is the host of Crown Vision. We chat for a minute and I come to find out there is a slim possibility that I can throw out the 1st pitch for Sundays game!! I make my sell to her and she takes down our seating info. During the singing of the Anthem, I’m over whelmed by a sense of patriotism and pride. Goose bumps fill my arms as I relish what I know to be our final moments in this phenomenal tour. Upon completion Judy escorts us to our seats and our tour is officially over.

The excitement of what is surely not your normal game day experience isn’t over though. As we sit down in our cushy seats, I glance to my left and look at the gentleman sitting directly next to me. Turns out he’s a scout for the Cleveland Indians. The guys in front of us are scouts for the Rangers and the Red Sox. I would have loved for nothing more than to pick his brain, but I understood they were all working. In between innings I idly chatted with him but knew better to try and have a lengthy conversation. It was fun watching the radar gun right in front of me though! To add to an already amazing day, we were catered to at the game. Our normal stadium food of hamburgers, hot dogs,and peanuts were delivered right to us!! Thirsty? No problem, they’ve got a soda for you just a few minutes away!! I didn’t miss a single pitch of that game and I’m very grateful for that.

After the game we head over to meet Morrie one last time and he showers us with gifts. A signed bat and ball for both of us being the highlight. I told him of the possibility of throwing out the 1st pitch and he says “We better get you a Royals shirt!!” He gives me a nice Royals polo and sends us packing with yet another handshake and autograph. Walking out the stadium with a big league bat hoisted over my shoulder truly was a memorable walk. Honored and blessed for that experience is truly an understatement. We go back to our room, grill some steaks, and revel in what was truly an unforgettable experience.

Sunday morning rolls around and it’s time for the finale. I park my butt in my seat as I’m waiting for my invitation to complete a lifelong dream of throwing out the 1st pitch. While that invitation never came, I can’t help but not be bummed. How can I be bummed when I just had an amazing weekend of ball and family!! 3 games in 3 days and one wicked sunburn!! Countless memories of players, sites, sounds, and the smell of the ball park. I’m reminded that every where we went we were greeted with a handshake, a smile, and a welcome. It’s no wonder Kansas City is Royal.

As a fan I appreciate the hospitality the Royals showed us. It was an experience very similar to that of Disney Land. Every where we went people were kind and generous. To Morrie, Judy, and the entire Kansas City Royals organization, I thank you. I thank you for making this trip memorable for both my father in law and myself. The Royals are a class act organization from the players to the young lady who wanded me at the gates. She wanded me with a smile, a handshake, and a genuine love for her job. Gilda, a member of the stadium ushers was Royal as well. Two large sodas, two pretzels, and a bag of peanuts in hand, I start making the trek back to my seat. I’m very careful as not to spill. This walk almost seemed like a marathon long. I’m incredibly nervous about dropping everything. Just when I thought the trip couldn’t get any better, Gilda says “Can I help you with that?” Absolutely!!! A simple gesture of bringing down our pretzels and saving me the embarrassment of spilling all over myself was impressive to me. I’ve been in that same scenario before and was never offered help. Gilda went above and beyond. She is the definition of kind. The Royals are impressive.

We drove 7.5 hours for a few baseball games. We stayed for all 27 innings but that’s secondary to the memories I’ll come home with. The definition of royal is “having the status of a king or queen or a member of their family” as I sit here and write this I have no crown on my head or a jestor giving me grapes. For 3 unforgettable days though I felt as if I did. We went to KC for a few baseball games, we came home with memories that are fitting of that of a King.

So I may not don a crown on my head or have an impressive chair, I do have a crown on my shirt. The crown of a Kansas City Royal. I guess that makes me Royal. With the help of some very special people, an organization, and a bunch of people who have already forgotten us, the Royals earned themselves one extra fan this weekend. A fitting end to a Royal trip!!

By: Sam Mooney

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