Thursday, May 3, 2018

Joey's World Tour: Missouri Madness (Part II - Royal Rumbin' in Kansas City)

Kauffman Stadium is middle-aged, but it still looks young to me.  (Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Hello again!  This is Studious Metsimus' one and only roving reporter and culinary expert, Joey Beartran, and this is the second part of my two-part Missouri Madness tour.  After slogging my way through St. Louis (and two Mets losses), I hopped on a bus going west to the BBQ capital of the world, Kansas City.

I thought the best part of this trip would be that the Mets weren't joining me in KC, meaning that I couldn't see them lose any games in person.  Then I thought the best part would be the sampling some Kansas City style barbecue.  I was wrong on both counts.  The best part of Kansas City was Kansas City as a whole.  Let's go on a virtual tour of a city that's the true crown jewel of Missouri.

Of course, the main reason the Studious Metsimus staff went to Kansas City was to attend a ballgame at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Royals.  Originally, we were going to go in 2016 when the Mets were scheduled to open the season there.  Then the 2015 World Series happened.  And we decided to go to cities that didn't open up fresh wounds instead.

Three years after that Fall Not-So-Classic, the Mets opened the season with one of the best records in the league and the Royals were at the bottom of their division.  So if you ask me, now seemed like a pretty good time to check out "The K".  And boy, did we ever check it out.  I mean, look at this view!

Sunset in KC is truly the place to be!  (EL/SM)

The Royals continued to disappoint as a team, losing to the equally inept White Sox, 7-4 in 11 innings, but nothing about my time at the game was disappointing to me.  For one thing, the food choices at Kauffman Stadium blew the door off anything served at Busch Stadium.

There was several food stands devoted to BBQ such as "The Pit", which served items such as brisket or pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, BBQ extreme fries (in a souvenir helmet, to boot!) and the cheesy corn brisket-achos that made their way to the recent MLB Food Fest.  But my favorite stand was "Sweet Baby Ray's" barbecue in center field.  I could have ordered a cheesesteak with burnt edges, but instead, I went with the mac and cheese with baked beans.  The woman behind the register accused me of being a vegetarian because I didn't order steak or brisket, but I was really just looking forward to chowing down on their famous BBQ Baked Beans.  And they did not disappoint.

Ooey gooey mac n' cheese and two bowls of BBQ baked beans.  And they were inexpensive, too!  (EL/SM)

This is most definitely a food stand I'm racing to the next time I attend a game at "The K".  The baked beans were even better than advertised and the mac and cheese was chewy, gooey and gone faster than you can say, "Why couldn't Lucas Duda have made a better throw to home plate to nail Eric Hosmer in Game Five?"

Oh, and speaking of Lucas Duda, he's a member of the Royals now.  And he even has own banner outside the ballpark.  I mean, Royals fans loved him since Game Five so they might as well shower him with gifts at Kauffman Stadium just like he gave them a gift as a member of the Mets in the World Series.

But I digress.

Eric Hosmer may be gone, but Lucas Duda still lives on.  (EL/SM)

Back to the topic of hand, namely, the tasty things I can put in my mouth at Kauffman Stadium.  In addition to all the barbecue stands in the ballpark, you can also have gourmet hot dogs with unique toppings at "Dogfather".  There are also berrie-kabobs for dessert.  This succulent snack has berries covered in chocolate and icing, which are then pierced by a long stick.  And for all you non-kids out there, you can have alcohol in a way you don't normally see at ballparks back east.

Kauffman Stadium has a pour-your-own-beer stand, where you choose your beer from either a tap wall or behind a bodega-style refrigerated display.  And if you like your alcohol just a little bit colder, you can order a vodka-infused sno cone (in cherry or blue raspberry flavors) or vodka lemonade.  It almost makes me wish I was already 21 so I could try one!

Imagine if they had these at Citi Field on hot days.  The lines would be longer than Shake Shack.  (EL/SM)

Another aspect of the park that put Citi Field to shame was the Royals Hall of Fame and Museum.  The Mets have seven more years of history than the Royals do, yet the studio apartment-sized Hall of Fame and Museum at Citi Field pales in comparison to the multi-room exhibit at Kauffman Stadium.

Located in the left field corner on the field level, the Royals Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates the team's best players, with a section for retired numbers and a wing devoted to the Royals' one Cooperstown honoree, George Brett.  It also has Dan Quisenberry's Rolaids Relief Man Award, team trophies, a history of the World Series (and not just the Royals' appearances in the Fall Classic), player lockers and bobbleheads.  In the area where the Royals Hall of Fame members are honored, a beautifully done painting of each honoree is displayed, along with a short history of the player depicted on the canvas.  It sure beats the traditional Hall of Fame plaque.  (And I was surprised to see so many former Mets who were honored for their playing and/or coaching careers in Kansas City.)

But my favorite display in the museum had to be the huge No. 5 made with 3,154 baseballs, or one for each hit collected by George Brett during his 21-year career in Kansas City.  In the middle of the display is Brett's 3,000th hit ball and the bat used to reach that milestone.  Incredibly, the bat is still loaded with pine tar as a reminder of just how much Brett applied to his lumber during his career.  And in case you were wondering, the Pine Tar Game is also discussed in the museum.

Of course, as a Mets fan, I was upset that the jersey worn by Eric Hosmer in Game Five of the 2015 World Series (complete with Citi Field dirt still on it) was prominently displayed, as well as the third base bag he was standing on before he made his mad dash to the plate,  But that was offset somewhat by the unexpected Gil Hodges Mets jersey from 1969 that was there to commemorate the team that won the championship during the Royals' inaugural season.

This trophy would have been ours if World Series games ended after seven innings.  (EL/SM)

Kauffman Stadium is a great place to watch a game, but if you have young kids who can't stay still in a seat for three hours, there are many activities to keep them occupied.  Whereas Citi Field only has a dunk tank, pitch speed machine and a mini field, Kauffman Stadium has so much more.

There's a baseball-themed carousel.  There's a much larger "mini" field where you can play actual baseball games.  There are pitching cages.  There are batting cages.  There's even a miniature golf course with baseball obstacles.  And of course, there are the beautiful fountains in center field that shoot water high up in the air between innings and when the Royals score.

All those things were great for a Mets fan like me.  Why is that, you ask?  Because they distracted me from the 2015 World Series flag flying in the wind and the large 2015 World Champions sign in center field.

I think I liked this sign better when it just said 1985 World Champions.  (EL/SM)

So that covers the ballpark in Kansas City.  But watching a game is far from the only thing you can do in this beautiful burgh and the nearby surrounding areas.

There are numerous great restaurants and venues to watch live music in the Power and Light District.  There's also the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in nearby Independence, MO.  For music lovers, nothing beats the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District.  And housed in the same building is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which I made sure to visit during my stay in the city.

Ordinarily, photos are not allowed in the NLBM.  This is done to protect the artifacts within the 10,000 square-foot space.  But my colleagues and I were given a green light to take all the photos we wanted to document our visit on the Studious Metsimus site.  My photographer took hundreds of photos, of which I will share a few here.

This was my field of dreams, which I shared with some of the greatest players of all-time.  (EL/SM)

So there you have it, my fellow Mets fans.  The baseball teams from Kansas City and St. Louis may have given the Mets lots of heartache in recent years, but the cities those teams call home made up for all the grief.  Well, at least Kansas City did.  And for all the things St. Louis didn't have, Kansas City picked up the slack and then some.

Busch Stadium and Kauffman Stadium are both beautiful ballparks.  Although the immediate area around Busch has more baseball-related activities to entertain fans when there are no games being played, Kauffman is the superior stadium.  The food is tastier and there is more variety.  And there's far more to do inside "The K" when the game isn't the only thing you're interested in.

I can't wait to rumble in the Royals' home town again.  Maybe next time I'll just fly over St. Louis and wave at Busch Stadium from the air while I count down the minutes until I touch down in Kansas City.  And by then, maybe losing the World Series to the Royals in 2015 won't sting as much as it still does and I'll just want BBQ because it's delicious rather than to wash away the memories of that Fall Classic.

Thanks for joining me on the latest legs of my baseball world tour.  Now excuse me while I try on my Negro Leagues apparel.  They may have allowed me to take photos in the museum but they still have to work on making clothes in my size.

Hope my colleagues kept the receipt for this.  (EL/SM)

For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado
World Tour Stop #16: Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame)
World Tour Stop #17: Detroit
World Tour Stop #18: Atlanta
World Tour Stop #19: Miami
World Tour Stop #20: St. Louis


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