Day Six – I70

Thursday, June 6 – UBT Day Six

The cloud cover that slightly threatened the Royals game dissipates, giving way to bright morning sunshine. We have a (relatively) brief easterly jaunt ahead of us: 3.5 hours of I-70, the tour of Missouri’s mid-section.

We lunch on the eastern side of Columbia. The hotel Mitch selected is a few minutes walk to the train that’ll take us to the new Busch Stadium. No parking or traffic hassles. No parking fees. Just an affordable round trip train ticket. Mitch’s impeccable planning once again promotes convenience and frugality!

During our walk we pass Tom’s Bar & Grill on South Euclid, making a mental note for post-game beverages. The train ride proves much shorter than I anticipate.

Busch Stadium 3rd Base Gate - St. Louis

As we climb the steps from the platform, Busch Stadium’s third base gate, and more importantly, a statue of Stan Musial come into view. We secure our tickets, but have other priorities before game time.

As we stroll the street toward left field, a security guard on a golf cart stops to chat. The friendly guard confides that he prefers “old Busch” to the new facility.

I was still surprised after he presented his reasons, but of course, I’d never been to either one. I wasn’t about to allow his opinion to influence my first impression.

After he wished us a fun evening, we continued on our way to Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood. Rather than an upscale dinner, we were mostly interested in the memorabilia, which is everywhere.

Mitch and I each sip one AmberBock draft before we head back toward the ballpark. On the block in between, we’re greeted by a street vendor preparing cheesesteaks and a large outdoor room in which to enjoy them. We take our seats to partake while watching baseball highlights on one of several flat screens adorning the walls.

Now comes time to enter the “new Busch” along with nearly 44,000 others. Not a bad turnstile evening for a Thursday in early June.

Mitch and I adhere to our usual exploration. Below us, two 1st place teams, the D-Backs and Cards, each cross the plate twice in the 1st inning.

Arizona puts up a 3-spot in both the 7th and 9th frames and still lose, 12-8, thanks to a St. Louis snowman in the 4th. Ian Kennedy sticks around through 4 IP for a 13 H, 10 ER, 3 HR line. That’ll make the ol’ ERA soar in a hurry.

It doesn’t get any better for Matt Reynolds in the 5th. He surrenders another pair of long balls so the D-Backs’ late surge only gets them within 4. Starting and winning pitcher, Shelby Miller, even registers a dinger.

The early laugher gives us an opportunity to check out the stadium even more closely. A kids’ play area in right center’s family section is enormous. A party bar occupies the area above the batter’s eye.

The openness in left is by design to allow a game view for “rooftop grandstands” across the street. This is on the property of the former Busch and is currently under construction to include shops and restaurants.

In fact, as we exit an outfield gate, we discover the “former Busch” foul line marked across the sidewalk and onto the wall of the new park. A plaque tells the story. Very cool!

Maybe it’s because of how Mitch and I enjoy exploring new parks; maybe it’s due in part to the open left field; we find that this stadium seems to impede your progress as you attempt to travel up and down levels. More than once we attempt to shift from one level to another, but only discover escalators going up when we want to go down and vice versa.

At one point, we find only flights of stairs that lead us down to a dead end. An usher is stationed there to assist weary explorers like ourselves. Again, maybe this isn’t an issue for 44,000 others, but the other MLB parks we visited this week were much easier to navigate. That could be what the security guard had alleged this afternoon.

The Arch from Upper Level - Busch Stadium - St. Louis

It certainly is a picturesque view as my late afternoon iPhone pic (above), taken from an upper deck, can attest. Here’s another instance, such as PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where it seems the city was painted around the stadium.

After snapping photos for other visitors next to the “Stan the Man” statue, we descend the stairs to board the next train. The brief ride followed by a short walk take us back to Tom’s, where we belly up to the bar for some local craft brews and baseball highlights.

As we continue our stroll toward our hotel, we pick up sandwiches for a late bite. The hotel features a patio where we enjoy our late night snack in the cool night air.
Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day Five Nightcap

Wednesday, June 5 – UBT Day Five

Day Five has already been a great day, yet a ball game awaits at Kauffman Stadium. On our way to the hotel, Mitch spots something you don’t see every day (unless you live in Kansas City): a cow on a pillar on a hill high above the treetops. We’re thinking this bovine is somehow related to CowParade Kansas City, but someone in the know can (hopefully) provide the true story.Steer on a Pier - Kansas City

Our hotel is conveniently just across the Interstate from the ballpark. As we arrive, we see plenty of both Twins and Royals gear. I guess we aren’t the only ones on a baseball trip this week!

Fortunately, the hotel room offers my favorite view. (Below is an actual shot I took from the hotel room window.) I’ve stayed in hotel rooms in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cleveland where I’m actually closer to the stadium, but this is as close to Kauffman as one can stay.

Kauffman Stadium from Hotel Window - Kansas City

We don’t have much time if we want to enjoy our usual pre-game. As a starting pitcher prepares on game day, Mitch and I need to soak in the park early to enjoy the amenities before the first pitch.

Shuttle buses leave the hotel parking lot every few minutes. We step onto one with several Twins and Royals fans.

There’s a buzz of excitement as the driver asks baseball trivia questions. Eager fans respond.

Kauffman Stadium Pregame - Kansas City

We pull up to a gate where Mitch and I acquire our tickets for the evening. After a quick jaunt around part of the outside of the stadium, we enter and head for the fountains.

I never realized how close they were to the playing field or to the spectators. See the fence behind Brett’s statue below? It’s directly adjacent to the fountains.George Brett Statue - Kauffman Stadium - Kansas City

Across the concourse from the fountains, a sign promotes college student Happy Hour: hot dog and craft draft for $7. Usually unheard of in MLB parks, so Mitch and I partake.

After snapping some fountain and statue photos, we head toward left field and the Royals Hall of Fame. A brief video with stadium seating (second time today, I know!) precede Royals memorabilia and a shop featuring Hall of Famer gear.

You can also take your photo on a bench next to a statue of Buck O’Neil. (Both of us did. Surprised?)

Behind the concourse (away from the left field wall) from the Hall of Fame is a netted mini-ballpark, where younger employees/interns pitch whiffle balls to youngsters. This was a great, unexpected family gem. Mitch and I wanted to participate, but decided to allow for some dignity. Looked like fun though!

Kauffman Stadium Scoreboard from LF - Kansas City

At this point in the season, Minnesota is ahead of the Royals in the AL Central. The game starts out offensively. Josh Willingham knocks in a 1st inning run off Jeremy Guthrie, but the Royals answer with 3 in their half. Thanks to Salvador Perez and Billy Butler accounting for 5 of KC’s 8 hits, the home team pockets a 4-1 win.

Throughout the game, Mitch and I make our usual rounds for different perspectives. One perspective eludes us, however: the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat.Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat - Kauffman Stadium - Kansas City

The only differently colored seat in the stadium is behind home plate in the Diamond Club area. Near the end of the game, we strike up a conversation with an usher, who radios to the usherette near the Legacy Seat.

“Can these gentlemen take photos after the game?” She responds that we could once the Diamond Club area clears out.

It’s worth the wait. Especially considering the meaning behind it.

Following the game, we look forward to a frothy beverage or two and maybe an appetizer in the hotel’s sports bar. That’s when we discover a true marketing gaffe.

While on the shuttle van, we agree that I’d get a table for us while Mitch drops off his camera in the room. We figure that post-game celebrations would abound in such a convenient venue with a captive and thirsty hotel audience.

I’m a little surprised to only see a few folks at the bar and none seated at the many tables. The waitress invites me to sit anywhere, but they aren’t serving food. Mitch is in disbelief when I relay the message.

Okay, it’s barely 10 PM after more than 12,000 people leave a baseball game across the street. You’d think they’d want to keep the kitchen open a couple of hours to serve a percentage of them 81 days a year.

So we check apps. We have to drive away from the hotel to pay someone else to satisfy our appetites. Am I missing something here?
Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day Five Historical Tour Continues

More from Wednesday, June 5 – UBT Day Five

The Buck O’Neil gravesite whets our appetites for the Negro Leagues Museum. On our way to 18th and Vine, we’re greeted by a mural that covers the entire side of a brick building.

Buck O'Neil Center Ballfield - Kansas City

Below the mural sets a home plate, mound, base paths and a left field wall, which play into the mural. (Finally, a left field wall I could reach on the fly!)

The back of the building features a dugout with several Monarchs players and a young man in a jacket and tie standing next to the team.

Little benches adorn each baseline. Behind home plate is a street corner. Mitch took this photo from across the side street.

Buck O'Neil Center Mural - Kansas City

This is the John “Buck” O’Neil Center at 19th and Paseo, Kansas City.

After a few phantom pitches, swings, and playful circling of the bases, we continue down the hill toward 18th and Vine. The historic jazz district features the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

On one corner, we spot the 9th Inning Sports Bar and Grill. Every block sports the 18th and Vine logo.

9th Inning Sports Bar and Grill - Kansas City

18th and Vine District - Kansas City

The museum itself resides in the same building with the American Jazz Museum, along with shops and an eatery or two. Had we had more time, we would have enjoyed both.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is to the right with a prominent sign: no photography. Good thing for you, because we could’ve filled hundreds of pages with photos. Instead, you’ll have to contend with my radio play-by-play.

Museum workers are inviting and eager to help visitors. Visible from nearly any angle in the place is a mini “ball field” featuring some not-so-miniature statues. Upon entry you witness this central theme and its figures through glass.

Every 15 minutes or so, you can enjoy a brief video presentation from stadium seating. Then it’s a whirlwind tour of equipment, photographs and historical markers preserving a rich period of baseball.

You can learn how various teams and leagues evolved, how they traveled. See a replica of a typical hotel room and a barber shop where baseball was always the hottest topic.

Turn the corner where individual Negro League players are honored with rudimentary lockers full of uniforms, caps, bats, stats, cards and a wealth of history. Mitch and I step on the “field” with the likenesses of these great players.

At nearly 6′, I looked up to almost everyone from two generations or more in the past. Each of the players covers a position, (Satchel Paige throwing a pitch to Josh Gibson crouched behind the plate), and practically come to life.

Don’t let the size of the Museum Store fool you. There are plenty of mementos you can take home.

Throughout our visit, I’m torn between the frustration that most of these talented players never were allowed to play in the major leagues; and, the joy of the legendary stories they built of their own merit. For any baseball fan, the museum at 18th and Vine is a must-see.
Brian Williams
From Deep Short