Thursday, July 22, 2010

Toronto Blue Jays 2 at Kansas City Royals 5 - July 21, 2010

After splitting the first two games of the series, Toronto and Kansas City held an afternoon affair for the rubber match. For me, it was the only time I would have to tour the stadium after arriving late Monday and Tuesday's rainstorm.

Kauffman Stadium

Kauffman Stadium is now the sixth-oldest venue in baseball, having opened in 1973. It was originally named Royals Stadium before being rechristened in honour of team owner Ewing Kauffman in 1993. The stadium is located about 8 miles from downtown Kansas City, going east on I-70. It is part of the Truman Sports Complex that also includes Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL's chiefs. Parking is $10 although I did not drive there, choosing instead a nearby hotel. It did seem to take a while to clear out despite small crowds, so you might want to check the Royals parking advice page. The picture below is from the top of the driveway where you can walk down to the stadium.

The stadium is uniquely structured, eschewing the full cookie-cutter model that dominated that era of sports venues. There are few outfield seats, and the upper deck tapers down as you move towards the outfield, which I find to be quite an attractive feature. You can see it in the picture below.

The most expensive reasonably-priced seats are only $43 and this can get you right next to the on-deck circle. If you are traveling as a pair, you can get one seat behind the other and then move around as the crowds are usually sparse. The Royals also offer plenty of ticket specials, so check in advance to see if there are any deals to be had.

The stadium underwent significant renovations that were revealed in 2009. An outfield concourse was installed which now allows you to walk around the inside of the park. Above left field is the Royals Hall of Fame (above) which is one of the best historical displays I have seen. The Royals may not have a sparkling history, at least recently, but they were a near-dynasty back in the 70s and 80s and there is so much memorabilia from this time. Below is one wall showing some of the Royals Hall-of-Famers.

The pine tar bat

I don't want to give everything away, but I spent about 40 minutes here and could have stayed longer. You will need to get there early as it fills up quickly. Gates open 90 minutes before game time, so I would suggest visiting the HOF first thing. The picture below is just one of many display cases; this one talks about the Royals' minor league affiliates.

As you walk around the outfield concourse, you will notice many statues. George Brett (below), Frank White, and Dick Howser are all honoured this way, as is Ewing Kauffman and his wife Muriel.

Behind the concourse is an area known as the Outfield Experience and includes a mini-golf course, carousel, kids ballpark and other games. There is also a sports bar above right field and a small picnic area.

The scoreboard is now known as Crown Vision and is one of the largest in baseball. Shaped like the Royals logo and topped with a crown, it displays all sorts of info during the game. The only problem is that replays of good plays by the opposition are almost never shown on it. That's bad karma; if the Royals start showing highlights from the other team, they will play better.

Finally, the most famous aspect of the stadium is the fountain and waterfall that exists beyond the outfield fence. Known as the Water Spectacular, the fountains (below) are on display before and after the game as well as between innings while the waterfall (from behind, above) is always operational.

Kauffman was already one of my favourite venues for its relaxing atmosphere and affordability and have turned the venue into one of the most interesting in the league. The only complaint I have is that gates are only open for 1 1/2 hours before the game. I think the Hall of Fame and Outfield Experience should be open 2 1/2 hours before, there's a lot more I'd like to do there.

The Game

On paper this was a mismatch as last season's Cy Young winner Zack Greinke (above) got the start for Kansas City against Mark Rzepcynski, a spot starter for the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, reality matched expectations as Greinke returned to form after struggling of late. He pitched 8 innings, giving up just two runs while striking out 9. It was extremely hot in the stands and I did not enjoy watching the Jays flailing away at pitch after pitch.

Meanwhile, Rzepcynski gave up 5 runs in 4.2 innings and the Royals led 5-2 entering the ninth, when AL saves leader Joakim Soria came on. With one out, Vernon Wells and Adam Lind singled to bring the tying run to the plate. But Aaron Hill fanned and Lyle Overbay grounded weakly to second to end the game and give the Royals the series victory.

I'm not bothering to include any pictures because I don't think anyone wants to see a bunch of Blue Jays swinging and missing.

This is the 4th time that I have seen the Jays in a road series and in all cases they went 1-2. It is getting a bit tiring but that's the price you pay for cheering for a .500 team. Time to think about next year.



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