Note: This is the last of four posts related to my annual BallPark Tours baseball trip. For those who may find these reports a little self-serving, my apologies. For those who enjoy them, my thanks. These posts are intended to give you a look at what goes on during a BPT trip – as well as to entertain some of my fellow travelers. Back to the usual topics in a few days. For more info on BallPark Tours click here.
Day Five – Sunday, June 22
The BallPark Tours’ crew was clearly fired up for the final day of the Show Me State Ramble. The bus was slated to depart for Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium (from the Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza) at 11:30 a.m. (1:10 p.m. game time), but the hotel lobby began to fill up with individuals in baseball t-shirts, jerseys and hats by 11:00 a.m.
While we waited to board the bus, we traded stories that focused primarily on the previous evening’s activities – which took most people to the nearby Country Club Plaza shopping, dining and entertainment district. The 15-block area – walking distance from the hotel – featured 150 shops and more than three dozen restaurants – and provided ample opportunity to enjoy a final “night on the town.”
Once at the stadium, we were pleasantly surprised by our loge seats, in the lower second deck overhang along the third base line. A great view, protection from the sun (another hot and steamy day) and a free Royals Baseball Insider magazine. And, there were other surprises.
Tour participants soon discovered and passed on the word that a visit to the Royals Hall of Fame (left field corner) was well worth the time for several reasons:
- It was air-conditioned;
- The displays were interesting and informative;
- Former MLB pitcher Marty Pattin (114-109, 3.62 in a 13-season MLB career with the Angels, Pilots/Brewers, Red Sox and Royals) and outfielder Jim Eisenreich (.290-52-477, with 105 steals in 15 seasons with the Twins, Royals, Phillies, Marlins and Dodgers) were signing autographs. Note: Our primarily Minnesota-rooted group was especially excited to see Eisenreich, a Minnesota native who also spent time with the Twins.
Word that Sunday is “Make Your Own Bloody Mary Day” in the 309 Bar and Grill (just down the hall from our seats in Section 306) also spread quickly – and tour participants put together some dazzling combinations, complementing generous vodka pours with selections from the available assortment of mixes, spices, vegetables (peppers, onions, asparagus, celery), olives, pickles, pepperoni and more. (All for $9.25 plus tax, basically a ten-dollar bill.)
BBRT Note: In yesterday’s post, I proclaimed the regular Bloody Mary at Kauffman the worst on this trip. However, if you are in the stadium on Sunday and make your way to “309,” your Bloody Mary experience will – like the 1991 Twins and 2013 Red Sox – go from “worst-to-first.”
The final game of the trip was another low-scoring affair that didn’t go well for the home team – with the visiting Mariners besting the Royals 2-1. The hits were even at seven apiece, but the Royals’ safeties were all singles, while the Mariners banged out three doubles and a difference-making home run (Mike Zunino, seventh inning). The Royals did take an early lead (second inning), scratching out a run on singles by LF Alex Gordon and C Salvador Perez and a sacrifice fly by RF Justin Maxwell. Meanwhile, Royals’ starter Yordano Ventura gave up only a walk and a double over the first four innings. In the fifth, however, the Mariners tied the game on a pair of doubles (Zunino and number-nine hitter 2B Willie Bloomquist). After that – other than Zunino’s 7th homer – it was pretty much a chess game, with the Mariners using four relief pitches to hold off the Royals and a pair of ninth-inning pinch-hitters.
- I did buy some souvenirs for my family, and it would appear the Royals overestimated the return from the 2012 All Star Game, since I received my purchase in a 2012 All Star Game “logoed” bag. Waste not, want not.
- The Royals’ fans, while once again (to their credit) did not attempt a “wave,” did bounce a beach ball around the seats behind the plate during the fourth-inning action.
- As the relief pitchers walked in from the bull pen, I found myself missing the little golf carts (designed and painted to like giant baseballs) that so many ball parks once used to deliver relievers.
- I made a “call,” although that was not necessarily my intention, in the second inning. As Royals’ number-nine hitter SS Alcides Escobar came to the plate to face the Mariners’ Roenis Elias, the scoreboard informed the fans that Escobar had hit his first grand slam off Elias. At the time, I said that if I was the pitcher and they put that message up in big letters on the scoreboard behind me, I’d probably nail the batter. Elias then hit Escobar on the next pitch.
- Zunino, who hit the game-winning homer and also scored the Mariners’ first run after a fourth-inning double, was an unlikely hero. He came into the game hitting just .219, with 18 strikeouts in his last 35 at bats.
- The Royals have lost four straight, by a total of five runs – including three 2-1 losses.
After the game, it was back on the bus for the long ride home – we got back to Saint Paul after midnight. This leg of the trip started out strong, lots of laughter, some singing and occasional chants of “USA, USA!” when positive news of the USA-Portugal World Cup soccer match were reported by those following on their smartphones. About midway through the ride, we stopped for a dinner break (again a strategic location with lots of fast food choices). Then, in the parking lot of a KFC, the tour operator handed out this trip’s “awards” – special pins for stellar first-timers (the Rookie Award), Veterans Pins for those completing their third BallPark Tours’ trip and other awards for various notable performances over the previous five days. Then it was time for a group photo (taken by the KFC hostess) and back on the bus.
During the last leg of our journey, the group, as usual, seemed to get quieter. As darkness fell and the miles added up, the books, headphone and “tablets” came out in force – at least among those who were nodding off (presumably with sweet dreams of 6-4-3 double plays)
One final thought. This tour may be in the books, but I, for one, can’t “Wait until next year!” For more on BallPark Tours click here.