Two Days of Baseball Heaven

(Writer’s Note: I originally wrote this a couple of years ago for a weekly feature I do during the baseball season for 14 KVOE Emporia.  I stumbled across it today(ie. I cleaned my desk) and wanted to share it with everyone)

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Last week I had the privilege to be a part of the massive media that took over Kauffman Stadium for the 83rd annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby. To say it was a once in a lifetime event is an understatement. When I decided to write about my experience, I wasn’t for sure at first what I should talk about. Then it hit me; why talk about all the stuff that you are used to hearing about the festivities when I could talk about the odd stuff that occurred during my time there? So let’s go with that, the quirky moments that I will never forget from my time at baseball’s mid-summer classic.

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First, there is Cano-Gate. I have been at “The K” countless times over the years, to the point that I am insanely comfortable when I am there. But I have never heard the stadium that loud. It was deafening and I loved every minute of it! It really showed just how passionate Royals fans really are. There is a pretty good chance I will never experience something like that again.

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I also got to ride up in an elevator with Dayton Moore. Well, the two of us and about six of our closest friends, crammed in there like sardines. The amusing part to me was that Mr. Moore is about my height, which is saying he is very short. Neither one of us will get mistaken for giants, nor even being of average height.

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Speaking of odd places to run into people, I had a nice conversation with Rick Sutcliffe in the tunnel, as I was preparing to walk out onto the field. Sutcliffe was a player I watched a lot when I was a kid, as I watched endless hours of Chicago Cubs games on WGN. Real nice guy and I’m sure Scott Hayes was just a bit jealous of me!

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I also almost ran over Scott Boras. Yes, super agent Scott Boras! I could have seen if he would negotiate my next contract here at the radio station but I have a feeling I wouldn’t be able to afford him.

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There was Chris Berman complaining down in the tunnel Monday afternoon about something in the Boston/New York game from the night before.

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Maybe the weirdest thing that happened to me in Kansas City was the gang of baseball mascots about running me down. I was headed up to the press box via the stairs, and at about level 3 or 4, the mascots came scurrying out of their dressing space. I might have thrown them off, as Mr. Met about ran straight into the wall…or it could be the giant baseball he has as a head!

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But one of the oddest realities that sunk in for me was during the barrage of media on Monday, as the press conferences and player availability took place. I would look to my left and there was FOX Sport’s Ken Rosenthal, a man who’s columns I regularly read and someone who I have a ton of respect for. To my right, Rob Neyer, a writer and former Royals’ fan who is a major supporter of the Sabermetric community in baseball. Here were guys who I read on a regular basis and I am in the same place as them. Talk about feeling like I was in way over my head!

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All in all, it was two days of baseball heaven for someone like me. I’ve always said that baseball is my first love. Monday and Tuesday in Kansas City was me being around the thing I love the most. I wouldn’t trade my memories for anything in the world. It was even better than I ever imagined.

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Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day

(Writer’s Note: I originally wrote this a couple of years ago for a weekly feature I do during the baseball season for 14 KVOE Emporia.  I stumbled across it today and wanted to share it with everyone)

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Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day around the Major Leagues and it’s great all these years later that Robinson is honored for his grace and courage in handling a situation that could be both difficult and even dangerous at times. Robinson’s number “42” has been retired by all Major League teams in honor of not only his legacy that he has left with the game, but also for what he stood for. Sixty Five years ago, Robinson appeared in his first game, the first man of African American descent to suit up for a Major League team. Integration was not popular back in 1947, and he was treated accordingly. But for all that Robinson did(and he truly was the right man at the right time), there are other men that roamed the fields in the Negro Leagues for years that deserve praise too, even if they might have never played for a Major League team.

LARRY DOBY

Larry Doby is the first to come to mind, the first African American to play in the American League. Doby debuted for the Cleveland Indians just eleven weeks after Robinson, but is largely forgotten. Doby incurred the same indignities that Robinson did, with nowhere near the media attention and implicit support.

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Another man was Satchel Paige, a man who played twenty one seasons in the Negro Leagues and is considered by some to be the greatest pitcher in Negro Leagues history. Paige would make the big leagues in 1948 and played six seasons in the Majors.

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Who can forget Josh Gibson, maybe the greatest power hitter ever, if only the Negro Leagues had kept statistics all those years ago. Gibson never made it to the big leagues, but nonetheless is still a member of the baseball Hall of Fame.

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Hank Aaron is one of the greatest of all time, but Aaron had to deal with insurmountable pressure back in the 1970’s as he approached Babe Ruth’s all time home run record. Aaron even received death threats but pushed on to break the Babe’s record, only to eventually be toppled by Barry Bonds back in 2007.

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The list could go on and on. Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, and Smokey Joe Williams are all players that never received their just do. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier was for those players. Robinson not only broke a color line that needed to be broke, he also excelled and turned it into a Hall of Fame career.

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One last person should be mentioned if we are giving credit. Branch Rickey, then the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was the man who not only signed Robinson but also believed that Jackie was the right man for the job. Rickey once told Robinson, “I know you’re a good ball player. What I don’t know is whether you have the guts.” Robinson then asked Rickey, “Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Rickey shot back, “I’m looking for a ball player with guts enough not to fight back.”

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Jackie Robinson Day has been celebrated for years in the Majors and for good reason. It is not only celebrating a special part of baseball history. It is celebrating a man who did something no normal man would have been able to do. For that, we thank you, Jackie.

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