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Royals Rumblings - News for August 25, 2023

I’ve been staring at this little subheader box on and off for the last couple hours and I’ve got nothing

Chicago White Sox at Kansas City
Hey! We do have a couple of pictures of Trevor Vance in the archive!
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Kansas City Star intern Lawrence Price profiles Royals groundskeeper Trevor Vance:

He learned early on not to follow the weather forecast on local TV because it focuses on the entire city, not just The K. Instead, the team uses a private 24-hour weather service that monitors the stadium-area’s weather when the Royals are in town.

“We can get as cold as Minnesota and we can get as hot as Texas,” Vance said. “That keeps you on your toes and keeps you aware every day. You can’t just assume the weather is going to be what the forecast is going to be because it could change in a heartbeat.”

Not explicitly a Royals story, Blair Kerkhoff talked to the Chiefs about what it might be like to be separated from the Royals:

“All the sudden you’ve got time to plan on what you’re going to do with that space,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said Thursday, noting that the Royals have been “great partners.”

“It’s also really complicated,” Donvan continued. “What happens to The K? Is that part of the lease negotiation? It factors into what we do and how we do it.”

Although the Chiefs have said they would explore other possibilities when their lease at the Truman Sports Complex expires in 2031, chairman and CEO Clark Hunt has stated their preference is to upgrade and renovate GEHA Field at Arrowhead.

Pete Grathoff looks at first base conversations:

Here’s the thing about those conversations at first base: there is no set topic. It could be baseball or life away from the ballpark.

“(We’ll) talk about how he’s hitting,” Pasquantino said, “talk about his family if I know him a little bit. Anything can come up, talk about other sports, talk about life, really anything, the weather, whatever it may be. So yeah, there’s tons of things that go on over there.”

...For Nick Pratto, who also is on the injured list, being at first base is a great way to get to know veteran players. However, not everyone is in a mood for talk.

“There’s guys that I’ve watched play for a long time, so it’s been interesting to kind of chat them up,” Pratto said. “Some guys are more friendly than others. Some guys just are very ultra-focused. But you can usually feel that out when they get over there.”

He also pokes some fun at the Oakland attendance during the Royals series:

The two worst teams in Major League Baseball squared off this week in Oakland and 12,191 people turned out to watch. That wasn’t the attendance for just one of the games between the Royals and A’s. That was the announced attendance for the entire three-game series at the Oakland Coliseum.

I’m hoping to go next year before they move. I feel this is as good a chance as I ever have to get a foul ball (about 150 games and counting - still no foul or HR balls).

At the Kansas City Business Journal, Thomas Friestad writes about a set of low-income apartments that could be removed if the Royals move downtown:

We have a commitment to affordable housing, as demonstrated by our 900 units of affordable housing that we have, but that would also provide an opportunity for us to truly be a leader in mixed-income housing in the downtown marketplace,” he said. “Most of the downtown housing is all high-end multifamily. We’d be looking to create a mixed-income environment that will be inclusive of the units that potentially we’d have to displace. ... For us, what would be more of a great partnership than a for-profit venture and a nonprofit coming together to provide affordable housing solutions for downtown Kansas City?”

Groups like Stand Up KC and Service Employees International Union Local 1 have pressed the Royals for details on affordable housing commitments planned for a stadium community benefits agreement. Chairman and CEO John Sherman has said the Royals have evaluated affordable housing solutions both in and outside its proposed ballpark district, but team executives have said specifics will not be negotiated until they choose a final location.

Not much volume in the Royals blog space, but the two substack stories are voluminous.

First, David Lesky gushed over Cole Ragans:

Ragans came out in the first and looked good. He threw some solid fastballs, some cutters in the 93-94 range, and some other pretty good pitches. That’s when it feels like he just said “eff it, I’m throwing the fastball.” And it’s not that he didn’t mix pitches well in his outing, but his fastball was absolutely electric yesterday in Oakland.

He had three swinging strikes on it in the first inning and then proceeded to light up the radar gun with it the rest of his outing. He ended up averaging 98 MPH with his fastball, throwing 33 of them in his outing. The A’s simply couldn’t hit it. He was in the zone with 64 percent of them. They swung 14 times and missed nine of those times. Add in five foul balls and six more called strikes and he got a whiff or a called strike on 20 of the 33 he threw. They didn’t put a single fastball in play. That’s just ridiculous.

He got seven of his 11 strikeouts with that fastball, but something I found interesting was that all of the seven strikeouts with it were in the zone. It was very much a challenge pitch.

Meanwhile, at Powder Blue Nostalgia, there wasn’t a lot about the Royals. However, I’m still going to feature it because Patrick Glancy wrote at length about the 80s Cubs and day baseball. I was raised a Cubs fan as my parents are from that part of the world. And getting home from school and watching Cubs games in the afternoon was a huge part of my childhood.

Sunshine was part of the Cubs’ allure, however. They were the one team that actually played day baseball. In fact, when I first started watching baseball in the mid-80’s, the Cubs didn’t have any choice in the matter. Wrigley Field, the second oldest stadium in baseball (after Fenway in Boston), with its iconic ivy covering the brick walls in the outfield and North Side locale, didn’t have lights until 1988.

It’s hard to explain how big of a deal this was to me (and many others) back then. I hated when the Cubs were on the road, because having a regular afternoon baseball game to look forward to instead of the usual boring fare of reruns, soap operas, and talk shows was priceless. After eating lunch— my maternal grandmother wasn’t much of a cook, so it was usually something simple like a sandwich— I’d head out to the side yard/baseball field. If I was by myself, I might throw the ball up to myself and take some batting practice. Or maybe I’d act out some highlights in the field. If my cousins were there, we’d start a game, play a few innings, and then beat a retreat from the heat to grab a glass of lemonade and take a quick break.

Generally, we’d try to time this for around one o’clock, because that’s what time my grandpa would be flipping the TV over to WGN for the start of the Cubs game. The iconic and incomparable Harry Caray greeted viewers as only he could, and was joined by the understated and underrated Steve Stone in the booth. The two of them discussed the keys to the game and shared the Cubs’ starting lineup, which generally included stars like Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, and Mark Grace.

These were my favorite trio growing up. He also talked about when the lights came to Wrigley and how it took something away from baseball.

A couple of quick hit MLB stories.

Throwback to the 80s: The Mets are going to retire the numbers of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden next year.

The Mets had never previously moved to retire the numbers of Gooden or Strawberry due to an unofficial, team-imposed regulation against doing so for players not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That stance softened toward the end of the Wilpon family’s ownership and has continued under Cohen’s stewardship, with vice president of alumni relations Jay Horwitz spearheading the effort. In recent years, the Mets have retired the numbers of non-Hall of Famers Jerry Koosman and Keith Hernandez, as well as that of Giants luminary Willie Mays, who played for the Mets at the end of his career.

The 80s just seemed to be a time for players to burn bright and burn out. Not just Gooden and Strawberry, but so few players who had their prime in the 80s are in the HOF.

Speaking of players who burned short and bright (and may have their number retired), Stephen Strasburg is reportedly going to announce his retirement:

A news conference is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 9 at Nationals Park, before the Nationals play the Los Angeles Dodgers. The first pick in the 2009 MLB draft, Strasburg pitched just 31⅓ innings after signing a seven-year, $245 million contract in December 2019. And since he underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021 — a procedure that included the removal of a rib and two neck muscles — he logged just 4⅔ innings, all in one start that led to more pain and tingling in his shoulder and neck.

The Guardians are going to name their bleachers after longtime drummer John Adams:

The Cleveland Guardians are naming their left-field bleachers at Progressive Field in honor of John Adams, the longtime drummer who died this year. The team said Thursday that the tribute to Adams, who was a fixture at Cleveland baseball games for nearly 50 years, will begin on opening day in 2024. Adams began his lifelong fandom — and extended musical stay — when as a 21-year-old he hauled a large drum he bought at a garage sale for $25 into the outfield bleachers at Municipal Stadium on Aug. 24, 1973.

Last week I was out last week for the feast of my birth and I may have gone a little overboard. I went to my (real) first concert at least a decade - more on that next week (maybe).

I got to indulge in my love of roller coasters with a stop at Six Flags over Texas. We only had 3 hours at the park, but I got 2 more rides each on Titan (#11) and New Texas Giant (#10), among others. I think I had those rankings backwards - I’m just not as big on the RMC’s as most people, while I am a sucker for a really good hypercoaster.

I also made it to a Rangers game. The new Globe Life Field is stadium #28 for me. I splurged a bit and picked up All You Can Eat seats that were in the first row of the outfield. Their AYCE seats have a really good menu. Sure, they have hot dogs, drinks, popcorn, peanuts, and nachos. But they also had burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches. Gluttony, man, my favorite of the deadly sins.

Aside: I’ve always wanted to do a series called “Royals Review Visits X” (but with a better name if someone has one). I even came up with a template a while ago but it never got off the ground as writing one Rumblings wipes me out most of my writing time for the week.

One of our other stops was the National Videogame Museum in Frisco. And how could I visit there without writing about it?

It’s located in a building called the Frisco Discovery Center, which is like if you took a mall but made it a multi-purpose building for kids and culture. It houses a number of smaller venues like a STEM museum for kids, a small theater, and a model train museum called TrainTopia. This is both good and bad as I think it helps the NVM with exposure but also limits their space. Heck, that’s the only thing that holds me back from giving them a full-throated endorsement. It’s a little on the small side, so if you aren’t really into video games, you might breeze through it in under an hour. But, for the rest of us, I’ll do my best to tell you what’s there.

In the lobby, there’s a giant work for art of that has silver and gold painted video game consoles of the past mixed in with tube TVs playing video game commercials and gameplay of days of yore. When you pay for your ticket at the booth, you also get a handful of tokens for the arcade at the end.

The museum is sorted by “topic”, with a slight nod to chronological order but not strict adherence. This first area contains a giant projection pong game and talks about that game giving rise to the first video game boom. When I’m talking about area here - the museum is one big “room” but there a number of walls and partitions which split the space into areas for different topics.

There’s a timeline of major consoles, which the 50 most popular on the wall in chronological order. There is an area dedicated to third party developers, highlighting the Activision split from Atari. Another talks about the video game crash of 1983.

There were areas for other topics like, say, controllers, Easter Eggs, handhelds, 8-bit and 16-bit art, and video game music. In each of those areas, there were interactive demos with lots of opportunities to play some old classics, underrated gems, or the just plain weird. I personally played everything from Tetris on the original old grey brick Game Boy to one of my favorite quirky Dreamcast games (redundant, I know), Typing of the Dead, which highlighted the Dreamcast keyboard. I even got to play the headache-inducing Virtual Boy for the first time. Yay? Actually, I was pretty excited about that.

There was a display about the Mario Bros movie - no, not the recent one - the 1993 live action one starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. They had a living room set up with a giant tube TV, 70s couch, and Burgertime on a Commodore 64 next to a bedroom with a Duran Duran poster, Simon game, and Duck Hunt.

Towards the back was a large (rentable?) party room with a modern system on a big TV - patrons were playing Smash Bros for the Switch when we visited. On the way out, towards the gift shop, there was an arcade. Those tokens you got at the start could be redeemed for a number of classic arcade games from Pac-Man to Tron to Galaga to Centipede.

A lot of love and care went into crafting this museum. For instance, in the section about secrets, the museum had a modified, playable version of Adventure where you could do a simple version of the Warren Robinett Easter egg. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s featured prominently in both the book and movie version of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and its history is well worth a read.

The museum has done an amazing job with the space the have. I just wish they had more space. If I magically became a billionaire, one of my goals has always been to create a video game history museum, because a large scale one doesn’t exist. This museum is a great visualization of what part of that would be. I’m sure the current museum bosses would do a great job, better than me, as this is what they do for a living and I’m just a fan. But let’s take a stab at what it I would do if I were curator and had a huge budgeet.

First, I’d have a main hall of rooms that was strictly chronological - essentially one room for each generation of video games: we’re in the 9th generation currently, for those unaware. I’d absolutely keep the display with the timeline of consoles near the entrance, maybe as the first room, as a way to help anchor new visitors. I’d find some way to color code each generation and have a giant map so people could visually understand the layout of the museum they were about to explore.

In each of those main rooms, I’d have a similar layout to make it easy for museum patrons to navigate and follow the main path. On one side, there would be a timeline with panels about the history of that era. Each generation would have then displays with the top selling consoles and games for the era - they would be similar looking but with styling from that generation. So, for instance, the 2nd generation would use the Atari font whereas the 7th generation would use the Playstation 3’s Spider-Man font. The pictographs for best selling in the 3rd gen would use Mario mushrooms and 4th gen would use Sonic rings. I’d love to see a display with the top 10 games for each era or each major console in an era and, since they were the most popular, it’s fairly inexpensive to actually get physical copies and make a common display with them. That said, it’d also be amazing just have a wall of games (on media shelves and behind glass) for each generation and that would also double as the museum’s archive.

On the opposite main wall, I’d have a bank of a dozen consoles, each loaded with different popular or representative games of the era. I’d make the museum even more playable, which I realize would require even more space, even more maintenance and staff, and a larger collection.

Then, there would be a room or two that comes off to the side of each and highlights aspects of each era. Those would not be strictly chronological and they covered a lot of that in the existing musem. For instance, maybe one of the side rooms for the sixth generation would be the one about controllers. But it would have controllers from all eras. Sure it would have room to play Typing of the Dead and Guitar Hero from that era but also highlight the huge difference between fifth gen’s N64 vs Playstation controller, bowl with seventh gen’s Wiimote in Wii Sports, or play the same Street Fighter II side-by-side on the SNES dogbone and the Genesis six button controller.

In short, I’d take what the excellent work they’ve already done and expand. I’d make the main path strictly chronological and introduce more of a history museum approach. However, by expanding it, it would be much more playable and cater to the casual crowd that just wants to play games for a couple of hours, too. I can’t think of a single room in the current museum that I’d get rid of, but I’d expand much of what they did and many of the areas would come off of the main room. The current museum runners have only a limited space to work with so they had to choose between thematic or chronological and leaned thematic with chronology being secondary. In their shoes, I’d probably have done the same - it allows for a higher density, getting the most out of the space they have. But, in this thought experiment, I have the luxury of not being constrained so I went a little wild.

Perhaps my favorite little gimmick was a custom level of Doom II, created by a (now former) museum guide, that takes place in a really accurate rendering of the entire museum:

My name is Chris, and I’m co-owner of the video game studio DevHour Games, as well as the tour guide for the National Videogame Museum. I started working with the museum within a few months of their opening in 2016, and they have become an extremely influential part of my life.

One day, one of the owners, asked if I could recreate the entirety of the museum within the Doom engine for use in one of their exhibits. How could I say no? After over a year of tinkering in my off time, version 1.0 is finally complete, and available for download!

It’s an amazing labor of love, painstakingly done with a great level of detail. I played for at least 15 minutes before my wife came back to find where I had gotten lost.

Here’s a fun comparison video of the Doom II level compared to the actual museum. I love the old Doom music playing (“At Doom’s Gate”, if you’re looking for the track on Youtube or wherever), too.

(We should really do Doom or Doom II one of these days... hm...)