by John Unrein
Major League Baseball is working on an abbreviated 2020 season. Team owners have approved a plan that they sent to players on May 12th. Spring training would start in mid-June and last for approximately three weeks in team’s home ballparks prior to the beginning of the season around the first of July. The plan also consists of an 82 game schedule with divisions being realigned based on the location of teams being clustered closest together to ease travel.
The players association will have to weigh health concerns against financial losses that will occur from the forfeiture of a season should professional baseball not continue in 2020. No doubt questions will also arise during discussions about the permanent damage coronavirus can cause to lungs, a possible second wave of the disease hitting the nation, and what testing for COVID-19 will look like at that time. Not a fun situation for someone in any profession to weigh.
These types of thoughts turn my attention to fond memories of time spent in the past at Kauffman Stadium. It’s truly one of the best venues in all of baseball to watch a game. Perhaps it is human nature to ease stress about our current reality by letting our minds wander to a positive place. Here are my fondest memories of Royals baseball at Kauffman Stadium in no particular order.
1. Prior to the new Crown Vision scoreboard being installed in center field at Kauffman Stadium that coincided with onslaught of the digital era, the old scoreboard had individual lights that created animated graphics in celebration of positive things done by the team. My two favorites are classics that accompanied cheering fans. First, was a baseball being hit off a bat and screaming as it ascended with great speed marking a home run by the Royals. Occasionally, you would be lucky enough to see it twice in a row depending on the speed of the home run trot by the batter. Next, was the lady and man sitting next to each other in stadium seats dressed in dapper clothes. She would turn and envelop him with an embrace as all of him disappeared except for his face and bulging eyes. Stars would appear in the background as well, celebrating the great play made by the Royals.
2. The fountain display at Kauffman Stadium has only one section that extends into left field, while an entire row spanning to the bullpen exists in right field. The fountains were more prevalent prior to the outfield amenities that were added when stadium renovations were unveiled on opening day of the 2009 season. The purpose of the of disproportional fountains was the plan of former Royals owner Ewing Kauffman. The reasoning was that from an aerial view the fountains displayed the number one (this can be seen if you look at older picture of Kauffman stadium and think about what the fountain structure would look like from above). Kauffman seemed to have a plan for almost everything he did. It was not until a guided tour of the stadium that this was revealed to me.
3. Outfield general admission by the bullpens use to cost $1. Enough said.
4. I was too young to partake, but Yago Red Sangria use to be sold at Kauffman Stadium and consumed in plentiful quantities. This fact was driven home walking out to your car after a Royals win. A familiar chant was to tie the name of most valuable player from that game to the consumption of Yago. For example, “We love Frank White, we drank too much Yago,” was a common way to enjoy the walk to your car upon exiting the turnstile.
5. Bret Saberhagen’s no hitter at Kauffman Stadium on August 26th, 1991 was surreal to watch. His last pitch of the game is still a vivid memory. Catcher Mike Macfarlane put down the sign for an elevated fastball and Saberhagen delivered, striking out the final batter of the game. Equally as impressive was Kevin Seitzer’s 6 for 6 day at the plate on August 2nd, 1987 during his rookie year. His last hit was nearly a home run that ricocheted off the top of the left field wall after being scorched by Seitzer. My brother still has the scorecard from that day that he proudly displays in his Minnesota home.
6. September 27th, 2019 witnessed a fond farewell from Ned Yost as he addressed the remaining fans at Kauffman Stadium. Yost imparted his will on the teams he coached. He gave the Royals a competitive identity as he was the skipper who led the Royals to their second World Series title in 2015.
Happy retirement Ned Yost. Ed Zurga/Getty Images (photo courtesy of MLB).