Tag Archives: Kauffman Stadium

Fixing the date for the Baseball Solstice

Now is the winter of our discontent, baseball fans. The World Series ended on Oct. 28, and nearly two months later I’m really starting to miss the game.

Musing on this long dormant period for the national pastime, I’ve concluded that like our pagan ancestors, we must mark the passage of the seasons. And that means fixing what I’ll call the “baseball solstice,” the mid-point between the end of one season and the beginning of another.

The end of the World Series seems an overwhelmingly logical point to mark the end of a season.

But what constitutes the beginning of a new season? “Opening Day” used to mean the oldest continuously operating professional franchise, the Reds, taking the field in Cincinnati. But Major League Baseball has trampled tradition with early openers in Japan and kooky staggered schedules.

The reporting date in Arizona and Florida for pitchers and catchers is inadequate — there are no inning-by-inning broadcasts on the radio to record what happens, no box scores to enter anything into history.

That leads to one conclusion: The new season commences with the first games of Spring Training, when the teams take the field and the umpire cries “Play ball!” Every rookie has the potential to make the team, every veteran a chance to perform even better than the year before.

In 2012, the first games will be on March 2.

Between the last out of the 2011 World Series and those first Cactus and Grapefruit league ballgames, 134 125 days — better than one-third of a calendar year — will have passed since the Rangers’ David Murphy flied out to Allen Craig of the Cardinals.

So the mid-point, the baseball solstice, will be 67 62.5 days later, Dec. 30, 2011.

It’s a fitting date. In much of the United States, that’s the dead of winter with snow blanketing many a ballfield.

I’ll do something to mark the occasion. I could bay at the moon like some ancient Druid at Stonehenge and try to conjure a power hitter for the San Francisco Giants. Or maybe I’ll just look toward Progressive Field in Cleveland, beseeching the baseball gods to make 2012 the year the Indians win it all.

Centuries from now, our descendants may chance upon the ruins of Wrigley and contemplate the meaning and magic that dwelt there in ages past. With curiosity they may look upon the remains of home plate at Fenway Park or ponder what’s left of the fountains at Kauffman Stadium.

We owe it to our descendants to mark the Baseball Solstice in ceremonies of our own devising. So join me Jan. 4 Dec. 30 at sunrise. I will be in Pittsburgh, summoning my father’s spirit to bring the Pirates some luck.

Addendum: My headline on “Fixing” the date of the Baseball Solstice turned out to be a bit of irony. I miscounted the days and got the mid-point wrong. As Paul notes below, the correct date is Dec. 30, not Jan. 4. It’s still a day to celebrate.

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Take me out to the ball game, and buy me some ear plugs

Take me out to the ball game, but skip the peanuts and Cracker Jack. I need ear plugs.

I’ve made it to four major league ball parks this year, and my ears haven’t stopped ringing. The worst offender was Kauffman Field in Kansas City, where we were seated down range from what I presume was a stack of Marshall amps on loan from Spinal Tap, England’s loudest band. The aural assault was so loud, I could barely think.

I had pretty much the same experience yesterday at the coliseum in Oakland, where the pre-game announcements were loud enough to scare the pigeons out of the rafters — across San Francisco Bay at AT& Park.

Call me crazy, but I believe the emphasis in baseball should be on the green field at the center of the view, not on ear-splitting announcements bouncing off the walls of the Friendly Confines.

The problem seems to be at its worst before the games start, and I’m grateful that the stadiums tone it down a notch after that — usually. I still have nightmares involving the cheesy glass-breaking sounds that would echo through the Kingdome in Seattle every time a foul ball found its way into the stands.

I finally make it to Kauffman Stadium, and the Kansas City Royals still stink

When Kauffman (nee Royals) Stadium opened years ago, I remember the announcers cooing about how cool the fountains were. Presumably they concentrated their gaze beyond the grass because the grass was plastic.

Kansas City prides itself as the city of fountains, and through the many times I’d visited over the years I’d never managed to take in a ball game. Two weeks ago I fixed that by catching a Red Sox-Royals game, in which the local nine was drubbed by the visiting bullies from the American League East.

The Royals have some decent talent, but the sum of the parts is definitely less than the whole. With the Royals slipping further and further behind, I had plenty of time to soak in the view from the upper deck. I liked what I saw.

I don’t know what the changes were from the original layout, but the park has a fresh feel to it. There was plenty of room to negotiate the concession areas, and not just because the seats were at best half full on fireworks night. The big screen under the Royals crown in center field makes an excellent focal point, and the sight lines to the field were excellent.

Thank goodness for the real grass, but the field still presents itself with a mundane Midwestern symmetry devoid of any nooks or crannies of character in the outfield.

Some day I’d love for the Royals to rise again and bring back the glory of the George Brett years. I know the fans out there at mid-continent are still loyal, as evidenced by this Royals’ cap cake I spotted in the bakery of a Hy-Vee grocery store. They deserve better than year after year of promises of “we’re rebuilding with exciting young talent.”