If I could describe to a person all of what Kansas City has to offer within the confines of one intersection, I would point to the corner of 18th and Vine Street outside downtown Kansas City. The intersection of 18th and Vine remains an integral part of American history even though it may not contain the same glamour as 42nd Street and Broadway in New York City or Bourbon Street in New Orleans. 18th and Vine and its surrounding district has established 35 Baseball Hall of Famers, numerous Grammy award winners, and barbeque so amazing it would make some strict vegetarians eat meat.
If you have already made it through the first paragraph of this post, you might be wondering why the streets of 18th and Vine have any relevance to Phoenix Bats. Phoenix Bats traveled to Kansas City recently to witness the first bat give-away promotion, provided by Phoenix Bats, with a major league ballclub. On July 18th, the Kansas City Royals held a Billy Butler Youth Replica Bat Giveaway to the first 8,000 children who entered the ballpark. Since Billy Butler swings Phoenix Bats, the Phoenix Bats and Fox Sports Kansas City (the giveaway’s sponsor) logos were placed on the replica bat. To a company the size of Phoenix Bats, Billy’s promotional giveaway was very significant because it highlighted not only Billy Butler but Phoenix Bats as well.
After landing in Kansas City at 11 o’clock on Saturday morning, Phoenix Bats general manager Seth Cramer and I ventured to Arthur Bryant’s BBQ, a few short blocks away from the Negro League Baseball Museum. After quickly noticing the line at Arthur Bryant’s extended to the nearest intersection, Seth and I made the wise choice to go the Negro League Baseball Museum first.
The museum itself was very impressive. Though the museum’s size was smaller than I had imagined, the museum articulated the bittersweet tale of the Negro Leagues quite well. The museum celebrates the accomplishments of the Negro Leagues and African-American baseball, but conveys the tragedy of many talented African-American baseball players who were denied a spot in the major leagues. The museum houses an impressive array of memorabilia from “Buck” Leonard to the legendary pitcher Satchel Paige. I highly recommend the museum as the museum weaves baseball, Kansas City, and past racial segregation in this country all into one.
I have one short story from the museum that reflects how far this country has progressed since the founding of the Negro Leagues. In the museum, there is a miniature sized baseball field towards the exit with statues of baseball legends of the Negro Leagues such as “Cool Papa” Bell and Josh Gibson. This is also the only spot in the museum where hyper-active little children can run around freely without much protest. As I was heading towards the exit, I noticed this energetic young blond child romping around the field. As I passed him, he said “I’m sorry, I just love baseball.” I wasn’t really sure what to make of what the child said at first but then a thought hit me. To this kid, the museum wasn’t about white baseball players or black baseball players, it was just about baseball. Even the young ones can provide a good moral lesson from time to time.
When Seth and I finished the typical tourist tour of the museum gift shop, we went back to Arthur Bryant’s BBQ. The restaurant was packed when Seth and I arrived, but it didn’t appear that we would be waiting until next week for food. As a somewhat principled vegetarian, I did not taste the meat at Arthur Bryant’s (I left that to Seth) but it seemed everyone at the restaurant thought they just landed in barbeque heaven. Post-barbeque nirvana, Seth and I drove to Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Royals.
I can safely say that Kauffman Stadium is one of the most underrated stadiums in baseball. If stadiums could be compared to women, Kauffman Stadium was a girl with a pretty face that had a little bit of meat on her bones earlier but then went to Curves and lost 20 pounds. Kauffman Stadium contains the amenities of any modern ballpark, is relatively cheap in concessions compared to other stadiums, and offers a beautiful view of a Kansas City hillside. Of course, it did need a renovation or two to reach that stage, but Kauffman Stadium is still a beautiful ballpark. The stadium had the feel as if it had just been built and appeared quite well maintained. The Royals did an amazing job of providing an in-game experience for fans as well.
That weekend, the Royals played the Oakland A’s, the team I grew up rooting for when I was younger. It was a great experience seeing my hometown team playing on the road. The vast majority of the A’s games I’ve attended have been in Oakland, so I gained a new perspective on being a visiting fan. After the game (and a very long day), it was onto to a hotel in suburban Kansas City for some much needed rest.
On Sunday, it was back to the ballpark for the bat giveaway. Although I was a tad too old to receive a bat, it was nice seeing the numerous amounts of children glowing as they received a bat of their hometown hero. Before meeting with the Manager of Special Events and Promotions for the Royals, Kasey Schweitzer, I went to the Royals Hall of Fame. If you like baseball museums, Kansas City might just be the place for you. Between the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Royals Hall of Fame, there is good amount of baseball history to go around. I must say, the Royals Hall of Fame displayed a tremendous amount of memorabilia as well. In fact, a Phoenix Bat is even displayed in there. After touring the Hall of Fame, it was time to interview Kasey. Kasey and I discussed organizing promotions for a ballclub and the thought process that goes into a promotional giveaway. Right as the interview wrapped up, it was time for the first pitch. Despite the good old Midwest humidity, I had a great time at Sunday’s game as well. Following the Royals-A’s game on Sunday, Seth and I finally headed back to Ohio, our tummies full of barbeque and baseball.
Coming soon: An interview with Kasey Schweitzer, the Royals’ Manager of Special Events and Promotions.
-Eitan the Intern