I arrived in Kansas City on June 10, 2015. I was about to enter a week of scoring Advanced Placement essays, something that is surprisingly cool to do to. My plans for after work were simple: Explore as much of the city as possible, particularly baseball related things. Forgetting that KC is in the Central Time Zone, an hour behind me, I got to KC early enough to walk through the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (see upcoming post on that wonderful experience). I had tickets to the Royals/Brewers game on June 17, 2015. I’d gone so far as to buy an Early Bird ticket, hoping that we’d get out early from scoring on the final day for me to make it and see batting practice. We weren’t. I unfortunately missed that experience. This wasn’t starting off well.
I’d been told by a number of people to check out what goes down in the parking lots before the game. After being dismissed from the scoring, I returned to my hotel room to freshen up and finish some other work then headed off to Kauffman. This was a pain to get to. I’ve never experienced such an annoying delay of getting to a game.
What I did love was being in large parking lots, and not having to find parking and walking to the park. But the whole thing was a situation. I’ve been to several parks—Comerica, Progressive, and Great American to name three—and none have this set up. It’s generally much easier to get into parking. Strike 2.
I’ve never seen tailgating at a baseball game. At least not at this level. Corn hole. Grills. It’s what you expect at a football game (the Chiefs’ stadium is literally next door, so it’s not a stretch to understand that fans of both teams would act in the same manner). This was cool to see. A truly new experience for me.
I understand being proud of your team, but there’s a significant difference between being rude and cocky and having swag. Like them or not, Boston Red Sox fans and New York Yankees fans have swag. Can some be rude, yup. But they are always supportive of the team, showing up for games even when the team is doing poorly. In Kansas City, fans deserted the team when it was tanking. Literally deserted them. Like Cleveland Indians deserted. That means many of these fans are cocky fair weather fans. And that’s a shame. I grew up watching George Brett and the others in the 80s. My favorite non-Detroit Tigers player was George Brett in fact. I was enthralled by him. I was able to watch him during his best years too. So in a way, I am a closeted Royals fan, in spite of the fact they are the arch-rivals of “my” Detroit Tigers.
Before I go into the near-diatribe against the multiple rude Royals fans I experienced—the nicest were Brewers fans, in all honesty—let me address the park itself. It’s cool. The big screen is certainly unique, and the fountains are cool too. It has its personal uniqueness like other parks. Great American shoots off fireworks, and has the “steamboat” out in center-ish field. Comerica has an open feeling to it and coneys. Yankee Stadium 2.0 has a similar feel to the original to maintain the sense of history. Safeco Field has a retractable roof and fish tacos. Fenway has the Green Monster. All these parks have something unique to them that is somewhat awe inspiring and, more importantly, are set up to have a more intimate fan experience.
Kauffman has, I found, two unique aspects: The Royals Hall of Fame and the “mini-K” (a “to scale” version of Kauffman that kids can use). Suffice it to say that the Hall of Famous is most intriguing aspect of the park. The park has the requisite KC BBQ offerings too; one must have KC BBQ after all. But the Hall is by far the best part of the park.
The field itself and the intimacy I’ve experienced in other parks is non-existent in Kauffman, however. Seats are nearly all higher than in other parks; there is a greater barrier. This means ball boys and girls are tossing balls UP into the stands more often, rather than simply handing them to a fan easily. This border is something that irks me. I enjoy the intimacy of the game.
Then there are the fans. I only experience cocky and rude fans. And usually half-drunk by the time they get into the park.
After entering the concourse, I was bumped by several Royals fans, none of whom seemed to care, none of whom even acknowledged they’d just damn near spun me around. After walking around the park and looking at the Royals’ Hall of Fame (the “5” made from baseballs in honor of George Brett is itself worth the visit), I went to locate my seat. Apparently I goofed and sat in the wrong section. It’s my first visit. Mistakes can happen. But the rather portly gentleman who told be to “Get out of my seat”, and who after I realized I had sat in the wrong section muttered that I was an “idiot” started to seal the belief that KC Royals fans are generally jackasses.
When I located my seat, it was next to a gentleman who was keeping score. I tried to strike up a conversation with him, but got short answers, so I stopped trying to engage him. Once the game started, he got fidgety, repositioning himself in his seat with his back to me. When the Brewers fans arrived and sat on the other side of him, he moved to the next row down, where he couldn’t see the game at all. When the rest of the party occupying those seats arrive, he simply left in a huff. I never saw him again.
After all this, the staggering heat in the park, and the fact that I was leaving for home early the next morning, I decided to leave after the third inning. I’d had enough. I’m used to obnoxious fans. It comes with the territory when you go to any baseball game.
When I got up to leave, I encountered the final straw so to speak. I moved along the path of least resistance and needed to get past only one fan, a young lady before freedom. She failed to budge as I approached, although she looked right at me. I said, “Excuse me” and she simply stood. She didn’t move backwards. She actually stood in my way and I nearly had to push her out of my way to get through. Seriously. Maybe this was just all happenstance. Maybe it’s an issue with Sections 146, 147 and 148. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it’s something else. Regardless of the reason, I’ve never had to endure so much rudeness at a game. And that soiled the entire experience for me.
I decided to pause and watch a bit more in the SRO area. There, a security guard shoved past me as he went to yell at some fan who’d “crossed the line”, literally. Did he acknowledge me? No. It was as though I was invisible.
I’m from Michigan and the Midwest in general. We have our issues, but when someone holds the door for you, 90% you say thanks to them. When someone needs to get through, you lift your legs to give them as much space as possible to get through or you stand up and move back to give them ample space to pass. When someone is in your seat, you don’t call them an idiot, you say something like, “No problem. Been there.”
So the trip was mixed. As I had been told by some Twitter followers, Kauffman is a pretty nice and reasonably unique park, especially after its renovation. The Hall is fantastic and highly recommended. But the fan experience was horrible. Absolutely the worst I’ve experienced. In no other park have I experienced so many rude fans. In no other sport have I, in fact.
There’s a difference between swagger and rudeness. The fans I literally ran into might want to remember that. Are the Royals doing well? Definitely. Does that give so many fans the right to be rude and cocky? No. When the Royals become a dynasty or close to it in some way—St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers—then the fans can be a bit cocky, but at this point the Royals have been playing exceptional ball for two years. Hardly a dynasty. Considering the abysmal attendance while they were the almost lovable losers of the American League, there’s no excuse for rudeness. It says something when the nicest fans I met at the game were visiting Brewers fans. I’m looking forward to a Brewers game if these are the fans they have.
When all is said and done, I’d go back to Kauffman for the Early Bird experience as well as to enjoy the Hall of Fame again, but I probably won’t be back for a game. Regardless of the poor fan experience, I enjoyed all the other aspects of Kauffman. A visit to the stadium itself is definitely something I recommend.
So there’s that.