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Before reading on, you have to know that the player I most despise in the major leagues is one Jose Guillen. A hothead and clubhouse cancer, his temper and subordination caused the Angels to fire him (and his admittedly strong bat) one week before entering the playoffs. It was that important to them that he be off the team that they’d rather take their chances of losing the playoffs (they did) than have Guillen around poisoning the team’s chemistry…
About 4 miles from downtown Kansas City, along Interstate 70, is the Truman Sports Complex consisting of Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums. Football’s Chiefs play at Arrowhead, baseball’s Royals of the American League play at Kauffman.
Our tickets, in the Dugout Boxes section, allow us to enter through the VIP entrance behind home plate. Along the way, a utility cart was driven by with two Royals players sitting on the back. Yes, there within spitting distance is the man I love to hate, Jose Guillen. While I’d love to let him have a few pieces of my mind, I let it go lest I be denied admission to the park.
It’s nice being treated like celebrities going in through the nice entrance but we find out that they don’t have any of the night’s giveaway…a Royals shirt for the women…here and we have to go back out of our way to the regular entrance at first base to get one for my wife.
Our seats are spectacular. About ten rows back, just a hair off of home plate on the third base side. Close enough to see the bags under the players’ eyes. I walk a few feet and get this shot of Chicago White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen (no relation to Jose, I hope). Absolutely no overhang, wonderfully wheelchair accessible, and our section comes with two giant snack bars that server about 95% of the food offerings in the park along with giant plasma TVs so you don’t miss any action while standing in line.
The stadium, around 40 years old, had a refurbishment done before last season. It looks like a brand-new stadium with retro 70s touches. The signature features are the many fountains in the outfield and the crown shaped video board in center field. Food choices range from hot dogs, many gourmet sausages from Scimeca’s (Polish, brats, Italian, and Sheboygan), KC barbecue, pan fried chicken, and more. Two higher end restaurants are in the outfield, one in left and one in right. There is a wide selection of beers on tap and the best popcorn I’ve ever had at a baseball game is being popped at one of the several Topsy’s stands at only $4 for a good sized bag or $8 for a giant tub. It’s always fresh popped and they butter it to order. Food prices are very reasonable.
All this and the seats are only $43…the cheapest of the trip!
OK, food and drink in hand, it’s game time.
The Royals, the worst team in the league at this point, had fired their manager, Trey Hillman, the day before this game. Former Brewer manager, Ned Yost, is taking over. Yost was working in the Royals front office until this point.
The visitors are the Chicago White Sox. Taking the mound is Gil Meche for the Royals, Mark Buerhle will be the arm for Chicago. Meche has a no-hitter going into the 4th inning when right fielder Mark Kotsay breaks that up with a single. Meche then strikes out the next two batters to end the inning.
Hits start coming for the White Sox in the fifth and Omar Vizquel scores on a single by the Sox catcher, A. J. Pierzynski. In the bottom of the fifth, Buerle picks off a snoozing Jose Guillen at first base. The guy didn’t move an inch. Oh, what sweet justice, even though we are rooting for the home team.
The Royals tie it up on a solo homer by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the bottom of the sixth. The Royals are first to use the bullpen when Dusty Hughes replaces Gil Meche in the top of the seventh. Other than a single by Vizquel, the side is retired.
It comes apart for Buerhle and the White Sox after the stretch when the first five batters single and drive in three runs. Tony Pena takes the mound after Buerhle is knocked out of the game. Two batters later, catcher Jason Kendall singles in third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Pena is out of the game to be replaced by Randy Williams.
A throwing error by Sox third baseman Mark Teahen (a much loved former Royal) scores another run. Two batters later, manager Ozzie Guillen makes a now familiar walk to the mound, replacing Williams with Scott Linebrink. Linebrink induces a ground out from first baseman Billy Butler to stop the carnage and end the inning. This will end the scoring and the final score is 6-1, Royals win.
An after-game fireworks show puts a nice cap on our last game of the trip. The only knock I have on the Royals ballpark is that it is not located downtown, necessitating a short drive to the suburbs. Traffic flows well and we’re out of the parking lot in five minutes. Kauffman gets the nod as our favorite stadium on the tour, just edging out Busch Stadium which is just a notch better than Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
It’s back to the hotel. The next day, there is a yellow slip of paper stapled to a note that was slipped under our door. It says that due to Rockfest, we will need to put the yellow slip of paper on our dashboard to keep our car from being towed away. We also notice that the hotel is filling up with people, many with spiked hair, leather jackets, studs, and drinking heavily. It’s time to visit the front desk.
“What is this Rockfest you’re telling us about?” I ask the friendly girl at the counter. It turns out that it is an outdoor, heavy metal concert starting in just a few minutes and going on through the evening in a park 200 yards from the hotel. We tell her about the noise last night and she tells us that if we thought that was bad, “just wait until tonight! I’m glad I’m off at 3pm.”
“Even if it’s after 12pm, can I check out with no penalty?” I ask. No problem. I tell her to just give me an hour and I’ll be out. While we’re packing, the concert begins and it’s blisteringly loud. We get everything in the car, I use the hotel’s wifi to find another hotel (Drury Inn just a few miles away!) return the keys, and leave. Most of the adjacent streets are closed. Cars are double-parked and thousands of fans are streaming into the concert…just dodged a bullet there!
Don’t get me wrong, I hope they had fun and have nothing against the metal heads and partiers. It’s just not what we were looking for and I wish the hotel would have let us know what was going on. To their credit, the staff at the Residence Inn was gracious in letting us leave without penalty. Still, that and the other problems we had there…the noise, the broken A/C, the torn carpet, and the roll-in shower that was an inch above the bathroom floor causing flooding…kill any good feelings I have. I cannot recommend this hotel.
We had plans to see the Federal Reserve money museum and the World War I museum but this killed that, plus both are located in the very park the concert was happening at so I doubt they were even open that day.
About a half-hour later, we pull into the Drury Inn & Suites Overland Park, Kansas…a suburb of Kansas City. The girl at the counter is very friendly and gives us the keycards to our spacious, two-room accessible suite on the third floor. Just like in St. Louis, we have a gorgeous, quiet room. Dinner, drinks, soda, popcorn and hot breakfast are free, among other things. I almost feel like I’m back home, in a familiar place. I think we have a new contender for hotel chain of the year.
Dinner tonight is a celebration of escape at the Overland Park branch of the Hereford House, one of Kansas City’s upscale steak houses where we are wined and dined with a succulent, prime, Kansas City strip.
There's more to come, stay tuned for the trip finale!
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