As the late, great broadcasting legend Mel Allen liked to say, “How about that!” As the tulips bloom, convertible tops come down and the spring air hits us like a screaming line drive, baseball is back.
In Kansas City, the Royals are still reveling from their fall triumph against the New York Mets and awaiting the voice of PA announcer Mike McCarthy from Platte Wood, Missouri as he introduces Kauffman Stadium to “Your Defending World Champion Royals.” The Boys in Blue kick things off Sunday evening with a fun league first: the Mets and the Royals will be the first teams that battled in the previous World Series to play in the subsequent season opener.
Amid the festivities leading up to the game, it was exciting to learn of another exciting first. The Royals and the KC Urban Youth League gathered together 3,000 fans for the longest first pitch in baseball history. They called it, “Relay the Way.” Donors could fund a spot in a winding, nine-mile line that advanced the ball to Kauffman Stadium.
The journey started at historic Union Station, just a stone’s throw from the National World War One Museum. It was the same location where the World Series parade culminated last year following Kansas City’s 5-game victory last fall.
Then, the ball moved east past the iconic Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) where they are planning to build a set of four fields for a new Urban Academy. Earlier in the week, we learned that the gregarious, beloved Salvador Perez donated $1 million to the project. Pitcher Chris Young and team leader Alex Gordon also made donations. The late Buck O’Neil had always imagined that a key part of the mission of the museum would be to engage with urban youth teaching them about both baseball and life.
From there, the ball continued to progress its way toward Kauffman Stadium. There are, for those planning an outing to The K in the coming weeks, improvements to be found there. Rivals Sports Bar in the outfield has been improved. The Frank White Lounge also offers several new suite opportunities for what the Royals clearly believe will be elevated business and out-of-town interest in the team. Most notably, there are new additions to the Hall of Fame, including wrapping the front glass in the aerial shot of the above World Series celebration at Union Station. According to press reports, the ceremonial ball contains a computer that will allow it to store messages. Those messages will scroll in the Royals Hall of Fame area of the stadium once the ball crosses home plate.
And so, a little bit of history has been made before a single cleat is set down on the turf at The K. Many in Kansas City are hoping that the World Champion Royals will return to form and compete for post-season glory. However, as the late Mel Allen often intoned, “And that one is gone.” To borrow the phrase, the 2015 season is in the record books. The phrases of the past year –1738, Moooose, Blue October–are history.
Hope springs eternal. The 2016 season has finally arrived. For the Royals and every team in baseball, it’s time to play ball.