Thanks to a good friend, Max and I were able to go to a Royals game Wednesday night. We had to miss the Clydesdales on Barrett Avenue, but we thought the trade-off worth it.
Unlike the last time we attended a game, which was at least three years ago, the place was packed! Just getting off the highway to head to the parking lot was a feat of courage and trust. The cars were backed up off the Interstate 70 exit for a hundred yards, and we had to hope that some careless person wouldn’t slam into us as we waited for the lights to cycle through about three times at the top of the exit. And then, finding the correct parking lot challenged our driving skills and manners: “Excuse me, sir, could we just, um, nose our way into this lane?”; “Excuse me, ma’am, could we cut in front of you so we can get to the parking lot?”
Eventually, though, we made it, and excitedly headed toward the stadium entrance. We were greeted by lots and lots of new food venues and lots and lots of new food prices. Imagine our shock when we discovered that brats come in one size – foot long – and cost $8.25! And when I shelled out $21 for two beers – they were large, but they were still beer – I thought I was going to swoon. But being at a baseball game and not having a beer and a brat seems somehow wrong, so we saw through our pain and enjoyed the tradition.
And the game was just as I remembered it: hearing the announcer name all the players as they took the field, the hopeful, rhythmic applause of the crowd as the team rallied to tie the game and then go ahead, the collective groan when our heretofore excellent pitching fell apart in the eighth inning – the experience was thrilling. It felt as if we were a part, for a little while, at least, of something special.
Waxing nostalgic, I remembered the first time I attended a Royals game in 1971. At 17, I was “too cool for school,” and when a little kid behind me pounded his glove and yelled, “Come on, SPLITTORFFFFFFFFFF!,” spitting all over me with that last “f” sound, I cringed and visibly scoffed. Wednesday night, though, there I was, yelling heartily, “MOOOOOOOOOSE!” along with everyone else.
I also remember being 19 and 20 and picking out the coolest outfit to wear to the games, hoping, like any other young woman, that my choice would make me look really good as I walked up and down the stairs to and from my seat. Wednesday? I wore my blue Royals shirt and blended in with most of the rest of the thousands of people who shared my pain as the Boys in Blue came up short after that disastrous eighth inning.
I saw all the fans up in the “Gold Circle” and remembered when my father, swearing off buying that second cup of coffee – or maybe lunch some days – bought season tickets up in that rarified section. I just knew that those tickets were expensive and should be treasured, and when I sat in those seats, I felt set apart from the rest of the crowd. Now, had I seats in that circle, I would probably try to scout out empty seats in the lower deck just to be a part of the crowd excitement.
And as I was snarfing down my brat – the one that Max and I shared – and sipping on the beer because it was going to last, darn it, I remember that Jim, my boyfriend in college, always complained that hot dogs were $.75 and beer $.90. “Why don’t they just price everything at a dollar and be done with it?,” he growled. That’s certainly the way I felt after I forked over the small fortune required for our traditional baseball food. A dollar each would have been much better!
Regardless, Wednesday’s game at Kauffman Stadium was one I will remember with as much clarity as those games I enjoyed all those years ago. Next time, though, I’m staying home for the Clydesdales!
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.