Hi again Royals Review faithful. I came by back in late April, asking you fine locals for advice and suggestions about Kansas City food, and Kauffman Stadium, for a Midwest baseball park road trip I recently made, encompassing KC as well as St. Louis. And as promised, I return to RR, with tales of my adventures through Kansas City, and experience at Kauffman Stadium, with lots of shoddy photography, snark, some compliments, and an overall lame attempt at being witty and charming. But firstly, let me say thanks to everyone who gave me tons of great suggestions for dining and ideas of things to do/see in KC, because a lot of this trip wouldn't have been as enlightened without your contributions. Thank you.
To say that my road trip revolved mostly around eating like a pig, mostly pigs and other livestock, would be somewhat of an understatement; I love food, trying out new regional food, and I have a strict rule that on these road trips, no food that I know can be acquired on a regular basis in Atlanta is allowed for consumption.
After landing and picking up my rental car, the first place I had on my agenda was Stroud's. Pat yourself on the back if you suggested and/or vouched for Stroud's, because the pan-fried chicken was everything as advertised, and completely delicious. In fact, it was one of those Starbucks moments, when a barista accuses you of having the contaminated tastebuds from a lifetime of eating inferior chickens from KFCs, Church's, or other fast-food fried chicken joints, because I knew I was eating some truly fresh and delicious chicken, but the fact that it wasn't super salty or guiltily greasy was almost unusual. But I knew better, but it was still humorous.
Also, as pictured, the portions are absolutely ridiculous - that's listed as one dinner. But in actuality, that's like 2-3 dinners for me, depending on how hungry I am. The cottage fries were like crack, and I had to physically move the plate onto another table to prevent myself from filling up on starch for the rest of the day's food plans. But for the record, Stroud's was a total win, and on the statistical food WPA meter, I'd give it a solid +0.267. Anyone who warned me about how Stroud's would more or less fill you up for the day, was right.
Regardless, since I was so close to it, there was no way I was going to proceed going into downtown, without going to Oklahoma Joe's first. KC lauds itself on its barbecue, and I do love me all sorts of barbecue, and the Z-Man came with such great recommendation from many of you, that I could not pass this up. I got there at roughly noon on the dot, and this was the line that was already there and stretched outside the door. I couldn't help but notice the cars with Minnesota plates on them, and then it dawned on me all the Mauer, Morneau, and other Twins fans that were all over the place; this was kind of like an unfortunate omen for the rest of my day.
Since I was more or less on a schedule, and the EST to CST conversion made me realize that the Royals game was going to start an hour earlier than expected, it occurred to me that I didn't have as much time during the day as I would have liked, so I took some drastic measures, and phoned in an order to OK Joe's, and was delighted to find out that my wait would now be 15 minutes instead of god-knows how long it would have taken to wait out the line entirely.
The Z-man was good, but I'll admit I was a little disappointed by it. I bet if I purchased onions rings separately, I would have been blown away by how flavorful they were, but shoved into a sandwich's real estate, at what appears to be at the cost of more brisket doesn't seem like a trade I'd be willing to make in future samplings. The onion rings were a little overpowering, and the sauce, as good as it may have been, combined with the rings, essentially drowned out all flavor of the brisket. But for $7, the portion is still generous, it tastes good, and regardless, I'd still love to give OK Joe's another shot someday.
I really wish I were allowed to take pictures inside of it, but I understand how museums are, so there are no pictures of inside. It's a magnificent museum overall, and despite the fact that it was more or less overrun by Twins fans all doing their own tourist thing, I was still able to enjoy what little exhibits I was adamant about not moving out of the way of until I had my fill of it.
I must have spent about five minutes standing behind the bronze statue of Josh Gibson, pretending to be an umpire, and doing my best caught-looking strikeout moves, from the chainsaw, WTF arm, to the Tom Hallion tiger uppercut. And then I picked up an Indianapolis Clowns t-shirt in honor of Hank Aaron's one-time tenure with them, before he was picked up by the Boston Braves.
One more food stop before heading to Kauffman, and that would be Arthur Bryant's, which happened to be conveniently down the street from where the Negro League's Museum was. I was pleased with how much parking and how easy it was to get to. The two homeless people eating ribs while sitting right out front was a nice touch too. Inside, there was yet another line of people, obviously indicating that there was some quality to be had here. It moved quickly, which was nice, and I ordered a plate of short-end ribs and a Boulevard.
On their own, the ribs were very good. Nice smoky flavor, not soft and mushy, with a good bit of chew to them. Two of the three Arthur Bryant sauces at the table were good, but I really, really didn't like the hot and spicy. It had the consistency of chalk, and pretty much tasted like it too. It wasn't really that hot either, and I had to drown the next rib I ate with one of the other sauces to get the flavor of the hot out of my mouth. Otherwise, with the exception of the bad hot sauce, Arthur Bryant's was pretty good too.
Finally, I made my way to Kauffman, since I really wanted to take my time and walk around the whole park, and I too, wanted my Willie Wilson bobblehead. I would like to mention the courtesy of the parking staff at being so efficient at ushering cars into their parking spaces, and not being nearly as lazy as ushers in many of the other parks I've been to. It was easy to park, and at just $10, one of the more economical parking lots in MLB.
I ran into Ape-Man while picking up my tickets at will-call. Considering it was like 97 degrees on this day, that felt more like 107 at times, I have to imagine that Ape-Man may have died on this day. But I hope that such is not the case, as I was amused by him, and grateful for his willingness to pose and be awesome for the camera.
Apparently Willie Wilson bobblehead day was a good draw, as I've learned that bobbleheads are for their respective teams.
The interior walk-ways of Kauffman are spacious, and airy, which is definitely a positive on such a hot day. The architecture of it is a lot more modern than I would have expected it to have been; as nice as everyone seems to attest Kauffman is, I didn't expect it to look this modern.
The Royals' team store is one of the nicest in baseball, from my experiences. Not a Wal-Mart like Boston, the Starship Enterprise like in Toronto, or hardly existent like some of Atlanta's old team stores, it was big, not cluttered, well-staffed, and so graciously well air-conditioned. I really wanted a shirt with the "Kansas City" away script on it, and despite seeing many people wearing such shirts throughout the park, the team store didn't sell them. I guess they're outdated or something. But I do give credit to KC for actually having t-shirts for key relief pitchers; I have an affinity for relievers, and it pained me, and ultimately my wallet, that the Braves stores don't carry Jonny Venters t-shirts; his 95 mph lefty sinker is pretty much the greatest pitch since the Rivera cutter, and I'm relegated to spending $40 to custom order a shirt for him. So kudos to KC for having Crow and Soria shirts, in several varieties, ready for purchase to fans of the relievers.
But severe red flag for this display. Opposing team merch, inside the official team store? Don't like it, one bit. I suppose Kauffman's privately owned land essentially negates bootleg vendors and other outlets that typically would carry opposing team merch within reasonable walking distance, but to see it so readily available inside the park kind of disheartens me. I know there were a lot of Twins fans in attendance, but I can't say I've ever seen opposing team merch being sold at any park before.
But anyway, back to the park itself, I really have nothing bad to say about Kauffman Stadium. It's always been held with such high regard to ballpark travelers like myself, and I'm hard pressed to disagree with anything anyone's ever had to say about the place. I love the big scoreboard, and the crown on top.
I also love that if KC is the city of fountains, that Kauffman has gone to such lengths to live up to that reputation by representation at the ballpark itself. I always appreciate when ballparks honor the region/city's culture and/or reputation with touches like the fountains. Otherwise, you end soulless and culture-less like Tropicana Field.
Even amusing the childrens, Kauffman does it right there too. I was tempted to stop and play some mini-golf, but the greens were all pretty packed in their own right, but instead of goofy hamster tunnels and arcades full of broken machines, kids at Kauffman can entertain themselves will what appears to be well-manicured, physical activities that the grown-ups can enjoy as well.
Ultimately, I ended up sitting; I was seated closer to the front part of the upper deck, but with the sun beating down as hard as it was all day, I retreated way up into the shade of the nosebleed area. I never have problems watching baseball from such heights, and even back in Atlanta, my preferred area is up where it's quieter, less occupied, and for me, more relaxing. This was the same case, not to mention all the Twins fans that were around where my ticketed seats were.
Again, I must reiterate how Kauffman is simply one of the more pleasant parks in baseball. Kauffman's skyline doesn't need to have a pretty skyline of the city, an arch, or a bay to make it impressive, because the park itself is pretty enough. In fact, it's actually better that the skyline contains nothing but grassy hills and oddly the Christian Athlete's society building only, because it helps the viewer see more of the aesthetic pleasantries that the park itself has to offer.
Some of you must have known this was going to eventually happen, since I don't hide the fact that I'm an Atlanta Braves guy, but all in the back of my mind when making this trip, it was there, that I was going to see Jeff Francoeur again. Now I may not present myself as such, but I do like the statistics, and I like to think of myself as a blogger that looks up to a poor man's, drunken younger nephew of Joe Posnanski, in the fact that I like to use a lot of words, try to not be too condescending, but still appreciate the stats. So that being said, it should be sort of obvious to where my stance on Jeff Francoeur is, and anyone curious enough to dig through my blogging history on SBN might find a glimpse of my 15 minutes of e-sports fame.
But for what it's worth, I didn't think and still don't think, that Frenchy will have a completely horrendous year for the Royals, and in fact am optimistic that the low-pressure environment of KC is what he needs to gain some confidence again. From what I gather by my occasional lurking here, is a lot like, well, the story of Francoeur's whole career - liked by a lot of people who typically aren't into stats, and generally treated with indifference or a little bit of disgust by those who see the strikeouts, and poor OBP. Or are tired of the clichéd leadership and clubhouse presence he brings.
You guys can blame me partially for this loss. Because when I saw that Danny Valencia was batting cleanup for the Twins, I thought, and exclaimed, that "there's no way the Royals should lose this game." I know this goes against all baseball jinxes, but come on, no Mauer, no Morneau, no Thome, no Kubel, and Danny Valencia batting fourth seems like such a joke.
500 RBI, hmm... 359 of those were from his first four seasons' worth of games playing for the Braves. Three years seems like a lengthy stretch to have notched the other 140.
And some things, apparently don't ever change.
Obligatory field shot. I spent a good portion of innings 3-6 walking around the park and soaking in all the sights and checking out the field from a variety of angles. Again, I can't say anything bad about Kauffman Stadium, really.
It's kind of fitting to me that #500 came on a sac-fly, because as much as a run scored is a good thing, he still made an out in the process. Forgive me if I'm being a little harsh on Frenchy, it's been a while, and he was just always such an easy target.
Did I mention that there were a lot of Twins fans in attendance? All through my travels, I've always noticed certain fanbases that travel well; the Cardinals' fans I've seen often in Atlanta, and as far west as Dodger Stadium. The Phillies' hordes have been well-documented in overtaking Nationals Park. Aside from the Yankees/Red Sox problem, I haven't really seen an AL fanbase so well-traveled until I saw just how many Twins fans were willing and able to make the drives from Minnesota to root for the Twins. I'm actually a little surprised, I guess seeing as how well-mannered and polite most were in Minnesota, how obnoxious they could get while on the road.
Out of curiosity, since I saw what it was like in Milwaukee, when I visited the Brewers' Miller Park on Robin Yount bobblehead day, I had to check. And yup, there were already hundreds of Ebay auctions of people already pre-selling their Willie Wilson bobbleheads. As someone who likes mementos of his travels, you guys can be rest assured that I will be keeping my Wilson bobblehead, and I have already placed him in between Robin Yount and Shin-Soo Choo.
How's this for a major league debut? First at-bat, first HBP. Third at-bat, first hit. Fourth at-bat, both first walk and first intentional walk. Fifth at-bat, first strikeout. How much does it have to suck to be the three batters, batting behind a wet-behind-the-ears rookie?
Welp, you all know the unfortunate end to this game. Which kind of sucks, because with the exception of the few times I've seen the Braves on the road, I really do enjoy it when the home team wins, and the home team has been winning at a .833 clip in all of my travels (20-4). But I can say I still enjoyed the prettiness of the colored fountains during the post-game, in spite of the end result.
On my way out of town, I stopped by the Gates BBQ in Independence, to get one final meal for the road before I left KC. Given the proximity of the place to Kauffman, I figured that it would be a shoe-in of a place for Royals fans to come to after a game. But instead, the place was more or less deserted, with the few people that were there being, yep, Twins fans. Regardless, I helped myself to a brisket sandwich and an order of onion rings. Both were fantastic. Furthermore, the "hot" sauce at Gates was about a million times better than the hot sauce at Arthur Bryant's.
And my day's visit to Kansas City, and visit to Kauffman Stadium came to a close, when I ended up staying at some roach motel in Kingdom City, where there were blood stains on the comforter, the floor was tacky, and the shower made me feel like I needed to shower.
- Stroud's - Ridiculous portions for the price, extremely friendly and attentive staff, and fresh chickens
- Gates's - Tender, flavorful brisket, good sauces, my favorite BBQ in KC
- Arthur Bryant's - Great smoky flavor on the ribs, hot sauce sucked, but the other two were good
- Oklahoma Joe's - Z-man sandwich's onion rings and sauce overpowered the brisket, but still great bang for the buck
But overall, Kansas City was an awesome experience full of good food, and Kauffman Stadium is easily in my top-2 American League ball parks. It's a fantastic cathedral of a park, and take it from a visitor, that you all in Kansas City should be privileged to have such a place for a home park. It's a shame I didn't see a win for the home team, and as hard as it may believe, considering my potshots at Frenchy, but I was rooting for the Royals to win.
Thanks again to everyone who helped this traveler out on his quest to visit all the MLB ballparks. Kauffman Stadium makes #19 out of 30, and one day I'll sit down and rank them all, but I can confidently say that KC would rank pretty high. Thanks also to those of you who have taken the time to read my blatherings, and I would love to get feedback, discussion about Jeff Francoeur, or any other comments or criticism, as they are all welcome.