Kauffman Stadium. One of the most unique, and beautiful stadiums in the Major Leagues. Although, I havent been to every single stadium that ever stood, I still love going to Kauffman. The people are great, the rules are fair, and the players are always willing to throw plenty of baseballs into the stands. Tonights visit to Kauffman was a little….nerve racking for some reason though. Maybe because its always a thought in the back of my mind of getting shutout at the K or not collecting my usual standard of baseballs. Whatever the case was, I really wasnt feeling it tonight.
I arrived at the stadium at around 2pm, and like always I was the first at the gates. Of course, here at Kauffman Stadium they dont open the gates two hours before game time. They only do that on Friday games, and Saturday games. So there I stood at the front gate waiting. Felix Hernandez, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, Adam Moore, and David Aardsma took taxi cabs to the stadium. I watched them walk in but I didnt attempt for any autographs. Chasing autographs for me was kind of on the back burner this year anyway. I only need 30 more to reach 100, and I figured Ill probably have that by the All-Star break if I really focused on it. It was just nice to see some well dressed Mariners.
Side shot of the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium.
5pm finally rolled around. Thirty minutes until they opened the gates. You could hear the music over the loud speakers on the field, you could hear the cracks of the bats on the field, and you could smell the hotdogs, and other various stadium food aroma. I love baseball! The ushers, and security started to unlock the gates, and bring the bag check tables, and boxes out. The ushers chatted amongst themselves, and finally “Leroy” came over to me. He greeted me, and I offered to allow him to search my bag.
” Leroy, how come they dont open the gates two hours prior today? At Busch Stadium they do every game.” I asked.
” Im not sure. I know they open the gates two hours prior on Friday games, and Saturday games though.” He replied.
” Interesting. You’d think they would open them up two hours before game time everyday. It would be a great chance to make extra mo-” And at that point I looked back at the crowd behind me. Zack Greinke was scheduled to pitch tonight. It was Tuesday. It was cold, and windy. There were maybe 15 people in line with me. At that point I looked back to Leroy.
” Its got to have something to do with paying employees more money to open the gates an extra 30 minutes. Considering the fan base turn-out here as opposed to Busch Stadium. ” I said.
Leroy simply nodded silently. Those sad eyes stared at me for a moment. You could tell he was thinking something along the lines of ” Why cant Kansas City have a winning team?”
I could only look to my feet. I shook my head empathetically. I know the feeling. For 21 years I have loved my Seattle Mariners. Year after year I have watched them play some really subpar baseball. But like a loyal fan I support them, and continue to love them. Isnt that what baseball is all about? Winning and losing.
Right field seats. Even with a former Cy Young award winner on the mound tonight they couldnt turn out more than 20,000 fans. ( 14,969 )
So once inside the stadium, I immediatly started to scout out the best place to get my first ball. The Mariners were already on the field so time wasnt on my side. They were off in left field warming up. The Royals still had roughly ten minutes left on the field. Maybe. There were a few Royals cleaning up foul balls that were being hit into the right field corner but that was a long shot to get one of those guys to toss me a ball. I started down the third base line when I spotted a lone baseball sitting out in front of the Royals dugout. I looked around for any players that may come this way, and the Royals hitting coach Bobby McClure was about the only guy that could walk towards me. Sure enough, he did. I started calling to him. ” Hey, Coach! Hey Coach!” Pointed at the ball in any desperate attempt to get his attention. He waved at me, and rubbed his fingers together indicating that I would have to pay for this one. I laughed, and I told him I had to pay for parking, and the only cash I had on me was just for that. Plus, I explained I wanted to get a hotdog or something.
” Well, junior, its Buck Night, so you’ll have to do better than that.” He laughed.
” Im parked in a tow away zone too! So the fees are going to stack against me!” I exclaimed.
McClure eventually picked up the ball, and tossed it my way. Bing!! How about that. Within the first five minutes I got my first ball of the day. That has to be some kind of record. It has to be. I thanked him, and I moved on. I gave left field another thought, and just as I turned to jet up the stairs and head that way, I heard the command ” Pick up!” Yep. The Royals were done. Up the stairs I went, and I quickly traded out hats on the fly.
Now Kauffman is a little more difficult going from base line seats to base line seats. They have this huge restaurant behind home plate, and that also allows Diamond Club members to enter the stadium. Its actually a nice place to sit and eat but a huge inconvenience to me. Not that I am lazy in any fashion, it just takes away from the time it would take me if I could just scamper around the diamond on a cross section or something. I sprinted around the restaurant, and I noticed a father/son duo running that way as well. They were all decked out in M’s gear so I knew I would have to get down there fast, and be aggressive.
The whole Mariners pitching staff was down there warming up. I took up a spot on the railing behind Kanekoa Texeira. I was hoping he wouldnt recognize me from last Saturday at Cellular Field. To be honest with you I dont know how well baseball players memories were. I made quite a scene at Cellular to get a ball, and Texeira was standing by to witness. Maybe I would get one because it was the second time he has seen me at a Mariners game. In any case, I had to try. It wasnt five minutes later that Texeira, and Ryan Rowland-Smith were all done warming up. Texeira immediatly turned around, and tossed me the ball. Bing! Number two!
Ken Griffey Jr was in the cage smashing baseballs into the outfield bleachers. So I headed that way. He launched two into the left field seats as I was passing by but they were out of reach. I continued around towards the Batters Eye, and down to the Party Porch. I learn something new every time I attend a baseball game. The players that are generally shagging fly balls in the outfield are pitchers. Not all of them but the majority of the them are. So a key tip here is to learn the pitching staff of the teams you go to see. Fortunatly for me I already knew all that players names from the Mariners. So as soon as a fly ball was hit over the head of this guy…
I quickly struck up a friendly conversation.
” Mark! How are things going for you in Seattle? You look like youre having a lot of fun!” I yelled to him.
” Seattle is great! Thanks man! How are you?” He replied back to me.
” Im very well, thanks man. Just enjoying the day. Hey, what are the chances of me getting that ball from you?” I asked.
He smiled, and tossed it up to me. Unfortunalty, it bounced off of the top of the wall, and back onto the field.
” Bad toss! My bad!” He apologized, and got it to me this time.
Bing! Mark Lowe you are officially my hero! Now to get my fourth was going to be tricky. Most of the Mariners have been watching me now, so I would have to change it up a bit. I ran into the Centerfield bleachers ( since I had about 40 minutes left ) to see if I could shag a homerun ball. If you would like some tips on how to catch a line drive homerun ball, here you go; They come in hot, and fast! You better get a good read on the ball, and get a good jump on it. You better know your way around the seats, and aware of your surroundings at the moment. Lastly, make an aggressive catch. I failed to follow my own advice. I got tripped up on the stairs, and the ball was deflected by another fan. Fortunatly for me he too got tripped up on the stairs and he got stopped by the stair railing. He scampered towards the ball, and as I got to my feet the ball was within reach, and I grabbed it. Bing! My fourth ball of the afternoon! The other fan moaned, and growned and then let out a laugh as he explained that would have been his third.
I waited in the Centerfield bleachers for another ten minutes, and nothing else came my way. So I headed back down to the third base side. ( At this point I removed by black jacket to reveal my white undershirt I was wearing ) Two baseballs were laying on the grass within in five feet or so of my new position on the railing. All I had to do was be more outgoing than the fans around me, and hope whoever came over wasnt Mark Lowe, or Kanekoa Texeira. I had a shot. There were two of them. A few more Mariners fans perched on the railing with me so now I had a little competition. Fun. Soon enough the railing filled up with young Royals fans as well. My chances of getting one of those balls soon become slim to none. But I still had a shot. Rick Adair was the lucky Mariner to come our way, and I started shouting at him. I wanted that ball! Well, Rick decided that my quick wit, and humorous personality wasnt quick enough, or funny. The kids got the ball.
Back around the Royals dugout I went. ( The Mariners dugout was lined with fans ) If I were going to get my fifth ball here this would be it. The Mariners were busy with batting practice, and there was a small crowd of kids to my left. No one to my right, and nobody behind me. I was set. I started calling out to Eric Brynes, and Ty Van Burkleo everytime a new batter took the cage. No dice. But Rob Johnson was busy tossing a few baseballs to the crowd of kids to my right. I called a few times to him but he ignored me. Finally Rob Johnson tossed another one to the kids, and it got away from them, and rolled on top of the dugout, and dropped down into it. They kids desperatly asked the police officer to get it for them, and he reluctantly did. ( I remember when I asked a police officer last year for a ball on the field, and he told me he would get fired for touching it. Rules have changed this year I guess, or this cop hates his job and wants to get fired. )
The police officer came out of the dugout, and tossed it to the kids again. The ball squirted out of their mits for the second time, and dropped back down into the dugout. Wow. I called to the police officer.
” Hey, if you toss it to me Ill catch it!” I laughed. As did he, and he retrieved the ball for the second time. Before he could toss the ball up I interjected, and pointed to this little three year old that joined me with his father.
” Throw it to this little guy, sir! Those other kids had their chance!” I pleaded. The cop fullfilled my request, and tossed it to the child. I caught the ball for him, and handed it over. The father of the child told the youngster to thank me, and I responded with a thumbs up. As bad as I wanted that ball it wasnt really intended for me. I felt obligated to give it up. Even though I caught it. Even though those eight kids to my right had equal opportunity to catch the ball. Even though the players have tossed three to them already. Even though the players give more baseballs out to kids than adults. Even though. I still gave it to the kid. I thought to myself, ” I should have grabbed that ball, and ran.” At best I would have been boo-ed. I wasnt going to sit in that section. That ball will end up in that kids toybox anyway. Or end up a chew toy for the family dog. Ill tell you where it wont end up. It wont end up in a protective case high up on the wall with a small plaque reading ” Juniors first baseball from Kauffman Stadium”
Oh well. I had four, and the game hadnt even started yet. By the end of the game I still remained at four.
Game: Kansas City Royals Vs Seattle Mariners April 27th 2010 7:15pm
Game Balls: Four