Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

A winning first trip to Kauffman Stadium

My trip to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City for Saturday’s Cardinals-Royals game marked Major League ballpark number 15 that I’ve visited. And other than sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field on my 21st birthday, this was the hottest game I’ve ever been to (temperature-wise, of course). Luckily, the Cardinals made sitting in that heat worthwhile.


The Ballpark

Kauffman Stadium has always looked beautiful on television, especially the fountains in the outfield, so I was excited about the game. (Then again, I was seeing the Cardinals. How could I not be excited?) I went to the game with my friends Michael and Tammy, who live in Omaha, so we had a three-hour drive to get to the ballpark. As we came to a complete stop before even reaching the I-70 exit for the ballpark, I discovered one problem with Kauffman: it’s difficult to park there. Once you are able to exit, and temporarily think you’ll be there soon because there’s the ballpark – no. You have to wind around and around, merge into one lane countless times and, finally, eventually, get into a real parking lot. We did get a good view of the tailgating going on (which reminded me of Miller Park in Milwaukee) as we drove toward the lots. Plus we got a great view of Arrowhead Stadium from our parking spot right in front of it.

The employees at Kauffman all seemed very friendly, from the usher who told us our seats were in the sun to start with but would be in the shade soon to the concession stand worker who apologized for having to double-check she’d charged us for the right number of hot dogs. Of course I was wearing a Cardinals shirt, and was in the majority that day wearing red. And the gift shops were ready for the red-clad fans too, with Cardinals merchandise for sale.

The concession prices seemed reasonable and there was a good selection, including Kansas City barbecue. Given that it was so hot, it was great that the concourse was cooled by overhead fans and that there were three gigantic water coolers with paper cups on a table leading toward the seats. There also was a drinking fountain right outside the bathroom, where many people were refilling water bottles.

Speaking of water, the fountains in the outfield at Kauffman have always looked beautiful on television and they are definitely the most picturesque feature of the park. The scoreboard is also very nice, with it crown on top, but almost filled with too much information. It was easy to get sidetracked reading the facts and stats and almost miss an at-bat completely.

Many Major League parks have their tradition of playing certain songs during games – “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway Park, “Beer Barrel Polka” at Miller Park and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” at Camden Yards. At Kauffman, it’s “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks, complete with Garth introducing the song on the big-screen and lyrics so you can sing along. Seems an interesting choice for a song, given the Royals typical finish in the standings.

As Angela mentioned in her post about Friday night’s game, there was a definite sea of red when you looked around the stands and the cheers for the Cardinals on Saturday were tremendous. However, when there was something for the Royals fans to cheer about, they made themselves heard. Well, most of the time. Highlights of the 1985 World Series were shown after each inning – one game per inning. Not being a Cardinals fan in 1985, I wasn’t sure who won each of the earlier Series games (of course I know about the final two games), but it was easy to tell by the music accompanying the highlights. Sad, slow music: Cardinals won. Upbeat music: Royals won. After the sixth inning, I’m not sure what the music was. All I could hear were boos.

The Game Itself

As mentioned, I was with Michael and Tammy for this game. Tammy and I went to quite a few Quad Cities River Bandits games together years ago, back when the team was an Astros and then Twins farm team. So this was, in all likelihood, not the first time we were together watching Aaron Miles play since he was on the Bandits in 1997 and 1998.

Yes, I have to mention Aaron Miles right away. Michael is, to put it mildly, a passionate Cardinals fan. And (as is the case for many of us) he’d prefer to see any of the Baby Birds on the roster to Proven Veterans such as Miles. So, there was Miles – not just playing on Saturday, but the designated hitter. “If that isn’t an argument for abolishing the DH, I don’t know what is,” Michael said after the lineups were read. So, to be obstinate (or maybe it was the heat), Tammy and I cheered like crazy for Miles. He responded in his first at-bat by getting the Cardinals first hit. “He doubled just to piss me off,” Michael responded. He also singled his second time up, scoring on Skip Schumaker’s homer.

Yes, the homers – first the Colby jack in the fourth and then Skippy’s in the fifth. Wonderful to see, great to be part of the roaring crowd and interesting to hear the following from Tammy immediately after Colby hit his: “I just got chills.” Which always happens when it’s 95 degrees, right? But I saw proof, since it happened again after Skip’s homer: she seriously had goosebumps on her arm.

Pitching-wise, Blake Hawksworth had a very impressive five innings. The sixth inning had a couple of pitching changes, as first Trever Miller and then Jason Motte came into the game. It was while Motte was warming up that we noticed Matt Holliday, Colby and Nick Stavinoha meeting in centerfield.

Then we saw David Freese and Brendan Ryan standing together and chatting.

Which meant that Skippy and Albert were together too, right? No. Skip was all alone, and Albert was doing this.

That hands-on-his-hips death stare did the trick: Motte threw one pitch, which resulted in a double play to get out of the inning. When Motte had to leave the game in the seventh, though, it really made us wonder what Albert was doing while glaring at Motte …

All in all, it was a nice 5-3 win for the Cardinals, and especially good to see Ryan Franklin have a one-two-three ninth inning for his 15th save. And Kauffman Stadium is definitely worth the visit. Hopefully, though, the next time I’m there they’ll be done talking about the 1985 World Series. Twenty-five years seems like enough.

8 responses to “A winning first trip to Kauffman Stadium

  1. Susan June 28, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    >Really glad you didn't write about yesterday's awful game! I'm just gonna forget about it and believe Carp's gonna get it done tonight! GO CARDS!!!

  2. Cardinal70 June 28, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    >Well, it's not that they've had much in the last 25 years to talk about….Plus, the Cards are making a point to highlight their '85 team this year as well.

  3. Chris June 28, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    >Susan, we all believe in Carp!C70, I know 25 years is a milestone – and we were talking during the game about how that *is* the Royals highlight of the last 25 years. At least the Cardinals have many other accomplishments to celebrate!

  4. Michael June 28, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    >You know, I hate to ruin all the good feelings, but something needs to be said.The 2010 Cardinals simply are not a great team. Great teams do not play two games under .500 for two months — an entire one-third — of a baseball season. They were a great team in April. They have been an absolutely mediocre team in May and June, and there is no reason to think it won't continue.What I fear will make it all worse will be the emotional desire of the front office, following the hysterical reaction of The Best Fans in Baseball(TM), to award Albert Pujols a seven- or eight-year contract, thus following up on the wildly over-market contract given to Matt Holliday to constrain the team's flexibility even further.I am afraid that too many baseball fans clutch nostalgia like treasured possessions, deathly afraid to contemplate a day when they might look upon the field and see not their favorite players, but a collection of nobodies. It's this kind of wishing for the good ol' days that resulted in the team hanging on to Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen one year too many.If you construct a team emotionally, you end up with a team with too many players on the wrong side of 30, with contracts that preclude you from making astute trades, and players who go about their business the same way, impervious to a manager's attempts to get them ready to play that night's game.We're seeing this with the Cardinals. Carpenter knows what he has to do to get ready for a game. So does Pujols. So does Holliday. And the manager, with nearly three decades in the dugout, well, he knows what he's doing, too.Problem is, none of it is working.No, the Cardinals aren't the Cubs, fighting amongst themselves, former All-Stars hitting around .200, a team closer to last than second. But nobody in 2008 thought they would fall so far so fast.So by 2013, will Cardinals fans be dewy-eyed at the nostalgia of Pujols' home runs, rather than the reality of injuries finally taking their toll? Of an aging Carpenter reaching back for an out pitch no longer there? Of a Holliday contract that reminds of nothing more than Soriano? Of a manager who stubbornly insists on his proven veterans as Allen Craig, Tyler Greene, Adam Ottavino and others yet to com up through the pipeline get chances with other teams?Or is all this simply the frustration of yet another loss to yet another losing team?Our past is brighter than our future.Maybe that's why fans are hanging on to it so fiercely.

  5. Chris June 29, 2010 at 5:52 AM

    >In response to this: "Or is all this simply the frustration of yet another loss to yet another losing team?" — would you have still written this AFTER the game?You have valid points. But last year, the team also was under .500 in May and June (13-14 in May, 12-17 in June). Granted, trades were then made to get DeRosa and Holliday, and I am not sure the 2009 team should be held as a paragon of achievement anyway. They were a good team that had a great six weeks in July and August and, in the NL Central, that was enough.Truthfully, the best thing that could happen for the Cardinals in the future is La Russa retiring/leaving. He is the one with the attachment to the past, perhaps moreso than anyone else. And it will be interesting to see just what plays out when it comes to Albert's future.

  6. Michael June 29, 2010 at 7:20 AM

    >Yes, I still would have written it. Sure, I enjoyed Aaron Heilmann, the Sad Sack of Major League Baseball, throwing away an Arizona win. But it doesn't change things, not reall.The team's record is the same as it was in 2009, only now we have Holliday, so he won't be coming to the rescue in a trade. It would be nice for him to get a hit with RISP, but that just ain't him.I agree that it's time for LaRussa to go. I'm tired of Proven Veterans. I'd rather see Jon Jay in right as Ludwick heals, Tyler Greene instead of DH Miles. But that won't happen with the Most Proven Veteran of them all in the dugout.Oh, and the Reds are for real. We can't count on a tough schedule to make them fall away.

  7. Chris June 29, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    >By the way, Will Leitch uses the term Proven Veterans (capitalized) at least once in "Are We Winning?"

  8. Michael June 29, 2010 at 7:02 PM

    >I swear, I didn't steal it from him. Besides, the preferred usage is: Proven Veterans(TM).Gotta have the trademark.Just like Guaranteed Loss Night(TM).

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