There is a promotion that we do in between innings at The K called The Chevy Youth Baseball “Strike Zone” Challenge.
A child (usually 10-12 yrs old) has 3 pitches to throw a ball through a hole which resides in a 4×3 ft wooden cut out of Sluggerrr. The opening, which the ball must travel through, is about 9-12 inches in diameter and the kid throws from about 35 ft away.
Now this challenge is kind of tough. So much so, it had only been conquered one time before. On this particular night, I learned that our contestant was young Brayden. Brayden is 7 years old and he was among the youngest to ever attempt this challenge if not the youngest.
He was very nervous. During the inning before, while practicing, he couldn’t stay back where he needed to throw from. He kept using a “running start” to throw the balls. His dad must have sensed his nervousness because he was on the field at the “Little K” with us. This was a first as parents usually stay out side with the spectators.
3 outs in the real game means it’s game time for us. I explain the rules to Brayden and on his first throw he actually gets kind of close. Second throw… Not so close. Now it’s important to mention that I never expect kids to win this challenge. It’s not easy. I’ve seen adults try it and they have a tough time themselves… that is if they make it at all. Add to that, young Brayden gets only 3 pitches, he has 2 cameras in his face, Sluggerrr jumping up and down all over him, and me screaming in his face. No, not easy at all. After an “unofficial – no pressure – practice shot”, and a brief pep talk from me, Brayden is set to make his final attempt at victory…
Needless to say, he made it. It was amazing. The crowd around the Little K and even around The Big K went nuts. Little Brayden was so surprised/happy/overwhelmed that I thought he was going to cry. His father looked prouder than anything you could ever imagine. It was a genuine, honest to God emotional experience, and it was amazing.
As the game went on several people asked me about Brayden and what had happened at the Little K earlier that evening. One person even remarked, “I bet that kid remembers that for the rest of his life.”
If that’s not reason enough to do it, I don’t know what is.
Although the video doesn’t do justice to the actual moment, here it is:
FanFest signifies many things, but perhaps most importantly it means that the average temperature in KC will soon rise above one degree. It is the first major event of the year for the Kansas City Royals and soon the dominoes will continue to fall: players will report to Spring Training, Spring Training will soon be underway and Opening Day will quickly be upon us.
FanFest was “kicked off”, so to speak, with Royals Awards Night… and what a night indeed. When I first walked into the building I was in awe. It looked like the set up for the Grammy Awards or something. The powers that be really did a remarkable job. Last year was wonderful, but looked like a birthday party in comparison to the set up this year. There were fireworks, dancers, a big band and four Cy Young Award winners on hand. Not to mention several alumni from the 1985 World Series team in town to celebrate the 25th Anniversary!
The following two days were a whirlwind as Royals Mania consumed the Overland Park Convention Center. Now this is just a guess, but I’d have to say more than 20,000 items were given (or thrown) to fans off the Sprint Main Stage alone. There were contests, and dance offs, and autographs and of course, plenty of baseball talk.
As I hosted or co-hosted all of the forums at FanFest, I’d like to share what I think were some highlights of the two-day extravaganza.
First off, I learned that Trey Hillman has no forecast for his facial hair and that an article in Japan once stated that he grew facial hair so fast that he was like “Rip Van Winkle on speed.” He seemed very excited about the season but wanted to temper his enthusiasm and use caution as he was very excited about last year’s team too.
Dayton had some very good things to say as well. Mentioning that most likely Mike Moustakas will be invited to Major League camp and how big it was to sign Noel Arguelles in lieu of the offers from the Yankees and Red Sox. He credited that coup to the relationships that had been built by his staff. Very cool.
During the Outfielder’s panel we may have discovered the new host of The Mark Teahen Show. Josh Fields joked that “maybe the four of us who are here from Chicago can make up for one Mark Teahen.” Brian Anderson added, “My lifelong dream was to be a guest on the Mark Teahen Show.” Both Fields and Anderson seem to be pretty good guys, and I think KC will feel the same way soon enough.
The Infielders forum centered around Alex Gordon’s likeness to John Krasinski (Jim Halpert of “The Office”) and how he was ok with that because “he’s pretty good looking.” Also how poorly Zack Greinke finished in the Fantasy Football League and that Willie Bloomquist was Runner-up. Chris Getz’s hair stylings came up and Brian Anderson showed up during the Q&A in the audience to ask Getz how long it took him to get ready that morning. It was wild and fun and really cool to see how obvious the camaraderie and chemistry on this team already is.
The final panel of players to mention is of course the pitchers, and they were joined by their newly acquired backstop, Jason Kendall. I knew what everyone was clamoring to know so I launched right in, “Well Zack, let’s get to what everyone wants to hear about, talk to us about your addiction to the World of Warcraft, what character do you play, class, race, etc?” Needless to say Zack can be tough to read sometimes and I wasn’t sure if he was going to totally shut me down, walk off stage, or what. Fans love Zack Greinke for a lot of reasons, I love him because the guy is so honest and uncensored and just shoots you straight. “I’m getting bad right now because I’m a Warlock and I think they’re getting nerfed right now,” he said. Awesome. Zack isn’t the only WOW fan on the pitching staff but the other guys were pretty mum on account of, according to Zack, their wives displeasure with WOW. When an audience member asked “who do you not like to face?” Gil Meche remembered how Pujols took him deep last year on a 3-2 change-up on the heels of 2 chest high fastballs, and then came my favorite comment from Jason Kendall, “Next time we face him we’ll have to make him uncomfortable.” Nice. Banny, Davies and Hoch all seemed in fine form and mentioned, along with Gil Meche, that they all feel great and are anxious for Spring Training to begin.
I’m glad they are anxious, I am too.
Many of you may have seen me around Kauffman Stadium last season. Well, I’m back, and now I have a blog. What better way to begin my blog and my 2009 season than with Spring Training…
A few weeks ago I was in Surprise, Arizona, for a total of eight days to do a little work for the Kansas City Royals. First off, the weather was incredible. Who am I, my Grandma? But…it was. I was brought out to shoot a few features with some players and to help out in any other way that I could.
I have to say, I love Jose Guillen. Last year when I told him one of the “clubhouse guys” wouldn’t let me in the clubhouse, he responded with, “Who wouldn’t let you in the clubhouse, man? Who? Show me where he is.”
Love the guy.
After I reminded him that he owes me a bottle of Cristal Rose from an event that happened last season, he assured me that when mama is in KC this season that she will cook us some authentic Dominican food, and I will indeed get my bottle of Champagne. We shall see.
A few other Highlights:
We shot a Miniature Golf “Tournament” with myself and a few of the pitchers for an installment of the “Who’s Got Game?” feature that we created last year.
We had Kyle Davies, Hoch, Banny, and Gil Meche join me on the links. These guys are hilarious. Banny and Davies showed up together all decked out to play Pebble Beach. They brought their own putters and balls. Meche showed up with his custom putter and Nike balls as well. My man Luke though…he’s old school. He said something like “when I show up to play putt-putt I expect to use a rusty iron rod and an orange ball.” Classic.
This pic is of the fellas “reading the green” of Hole 5. Note what the red sign says, clearly the boys missed it.
Another edition of “Who’s Got Game?” that we shot in AZ was a go-kart race. The participants of that race were myself, John Buck, Mike Aviles, Alex Gordon and Mark Teahen. Although I don’t have any pics of the race, I can assure you it was full of crashes and spin-outs. Relax…everyone is fine.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you any “winners” from those two events. You’ll just have to wait and see them on CrownVision out at The K. Needless to say, the guys are pretty competitive in all games. Not just baseball.
We also shot a new feature called “‘Major League’ Philosophy with Trey Hillman.” I think THIS is going to be awesome. We showed Trey some clips from the movie “Major League” and asked him how they related to his managerial philosophy. I chose the clips and some of Trey’s remarks are very insightful and almost everything is hilarious. Trey is awesome, and he, as well as just about everyone in the organization from Dayton Moore on down, have been very supportive and seem to genuinely like what we’ve been doing out at the Stadium. Speaking of Dayton, we’re hoping we can get him to make an appearance in one of our features this year as well. It’s all about timing.
In eight days we were able to shoot a lot of good stuff. Another feature we shot, that may end up being the most entertaining, is “Surprise! Behind the Scenes with Mike Aviles.” Mike took me on a tour of the Spring Training complex that included a trip to the weight room, equipment room, Team Kitchen and even into Dayton Moore’s office.
But for me, my favorite part of the trip was when we were invited to attend the first official Team meeting on Wednesday morning. That was cool. All the players seated by their lockers as Trey Hillman addressed the troops, “Gentlemen we are here with one goal… and that is to win the American League Central…”
I have to be honest… I mean, I know you’ve seen it dramatized in movies for decades, but just being there hearing the Skip say that, It gave me chills.