When you're a kid, baseball players are like giants. While Charles Barkley argued athletes may not be role models, they do seem like larger-than-life celebrities when you have posters bearing their likeness hanging in your room. And unlike Hollywood superstars, you can see these famous people right in your own backyard! Professional ballplayers - they're just like us!
In my many years in the Kansas City area, I have come across my share of professional athletes.
When I was a kid, I remember John Wathan getting the axe as Royals manager in the summer of 1991. The Wathans lived in Blue Springs, where I grew up, and his son Derek played in my league. They were an elite team, the best in our league, and they destroyed us. Of course, its easy to be intimidated when you're out in the field and you look at the third base coach's box for the opposing team and its the guy who was managing George Brett and Bo Jackson just a few weeks ago.
Later that summer I was pitching in a game and my dad struck up a conversation with a father of one of the opposing players. The guy was praising the pitching of the kid on the mound and my dad was proud to say it was me. My dad pointed out that the guy's son was pretty clearly the best player on his team as well and it dawned on him that he was talking to former Royals infielder Jerry Terrell (his son Jimmy, who I played against, ended up playing some minor league ball).
When I worked as a bagger at a grocery store I remember bagging the groceries of Johnny Damon and Tom Gordon. I've spotted Brian McRae, Mike Aviles and Ryan Shealy around town before. I was walking my dog once and almost ran smack into Zack Greinke taking a walk with his mom at Loose Park. I stood next to Danny Jackson in line at the bathroom at the 2014 World Series (he was clutch even then!)
Finally, I was out at the Gran Falloon one night watching the KU-MU football game when both of those teams were vying for the conference title. I am usually loathe to bother celebrities I spot, but I had a few drinks in me and was trying to impress my brothers-in-law from out of town. I spotted Neil Smith and shook his hand and said he was one of my favorite Chiefs ever. He was super gracious and nice.
Feeling good about that, later on in the night I came across a former Royals player who I will not name. I shook his hand and told him I was a huge Royals fan and that I thought he had a bright future with the club. He was nice, but a bit aloof. I think he was also by himself, which I thought was odd. Anyway, we chatted for about five minutes about baseball and the club. As the conversation dwindled down, he finally asks me, "do you know where I can get some weed?"
And no, it wasn't Jeremy Jeffress.
What about you? Do you have any interesting interactions with Royals players, athletes, or celebrities in general?