Between St. Louis and Kansas City I had an extra day to kill. I contacted my friend, who has a super hard name so we’ll call him Oaley, and went to go stay the night with him. Me and Oaley were in basic training together and hadn’t seen each other in six years. We are both civilians now yet we took very different paths. Out of Basic Training Oaley got stationed in Korea for a year. Upon his return to the states he was stationed at a base in Washington DC where he spent the remained of his career. He married a fellow soldier and has a kid. The interesting thing about hanging out with Oaley was seeing him as a single parent. His wife is still in the Army and has been in Afghanistan for a really long time. In the Army they give tons of training so we know how our loved ones will feel while we are gone but this was the first time I had seen it firsthand. Usually I was the one being missed, not seeing somebody else missing the person they love. Being a military spouse and temporary single parent is incredibly hard. I don’t know how they do it. If you know somebody who is in the situation offer to watch the kids for a night, these military spouses need to get away for a night. Oaley got his In-Laws to watch his daughter for the night and we spent the evening catching up. It’s amazing that after years of not seeing each other you can see a friend from a unit you were once apart of and it’s like you spent no time apart at all. Hopefully it won’t be another six years before I see Oaley again.
The following day I headed to Kansas City. It was a night game and I got in around noon so I had some time to kill. I tweeted asking people what I should do and they had told me I had to try some real Kansas City BBQ. I had heard about Kansas City BBQ in passing before but I was unaware that Kansas City was known for their BBQ. I decided to go with Gates BBQ because that seemed to be the closest to me. I found my way to the restaurant and was greeted with a hearty “May I help you?” I responded with “just one moment, this is my first time here.” I was yelled at several more times asking if I needed any help. Honestly they yell at you! The veterans of Gates know what I’m talking about. It’s rather intimidating. I stepped up to the plate all flustered and asked the lady what I should get. She was like whatever you want. It wasn’t much help but I eventually settled on some pulled pork monster. I took it to my table and ate it. It was pretty good. I wasn’t too impressed but I also have some crazy stomach disorder where I eat less than a four year old. I was told through twitter that I should have gone to Oklahoma Joes. Next time I’m in KC I will try it out. Any world famous restaurant that is in a gas station is something you have to try.
After I had lunch I decided to go over to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. I put it my GPS and started to make my way over there. I passed a building with a big veteran’s memorial so I decided to stop and take a look at it. The memorial was incredible and it was located at the base of the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Headquarters. Being a Veteran I didn’t know much about the VFW. I’ve been there on a few occasions to have a beer and they also threw us a going away dinner before each of my deployments. I did not attend either of those dinners because I just wanted to spend time with my family the day before I left not with the guys I would be with for the next year. My unit was also adopted by a VFW hall in El Paso Texas on Thanksgiving. We were down there training up for Afghanistan during my favorite holiday. I was disappointed I couldn’t spend it with my family but it wasn’t my first time missing it due to the military. I went inside the building and explained to the security officer at the front desk that I am a veteran who would like to know more about their services. I was given a guest pass and told where to go. I went up to that floor and spoke with a gentleman who explained to me that the VFW was much more than just a place for people to drink or get a fish dinner. He gave me several pamphlets about their different services. I told him about my idea of an organization that helps veterans returning home chase a dream. He said it sounded like a good idea and sent me down a floor where they deal with little known programs. I went down there and they told me about the different programs they have. The one that sticks out to me is a program that helps out veterans who are struggling to pay their bills once returning home. I deployed with a unit from Michigan where the unemployment rate is higher than the national average and many soldiers are struggling. I thanked them for everything that they do and told them I would pass the information to any Soldiers that may need it. If you know any Veteran who is struggling and has returned from deployment in the last 36 months please pass this link on to them http://www.vfw.org/Assistance/National-Military-Services/
I found my way over to the Negro Baseball Hall Of Fame. The block that it’s located on is really nice. There are several restaurants and bars as well as theaters. Not only is the building the NBHOF but it also the site of the American Jazz Museum. Before I entered the museum I went into the gift shop and looked around. I wished I had more disposable income because they had a bunch of really cool stuff. While I was in there I met a couple by the name of Ellen and Michael Glatt. Mr. Glatt was wearing a New York Yankees hat so I asked him if he was in town for the game that evening. He was and he told me that he was trying to make it to all of the parks. I got excited and told him about my trip. Mr. and Mrs. Glatt are spending several years making it to all of the major league parks. They will reach all 30 next summer. I also discovered that Mr. Glatt was in Vietnam. He had just become a lawyer when he was drafted into the Army. He did not want to be a JAG officer so he enlisted. He has been a lawyer in NYC since his return from Vietnam and a season ticket holder to the Yankees since 1996. After we wrapped up our conversation I made my way into the museum. It is such an amazing museum and I learned a ton. It is a museum where you have to read a lot and there’s not as much memorabilia as you would expect. I made my way around and it seemed to take forever because I was so into the history. The coolest part of the museum for me was at the end they have a field with Negro hall of famer statues in the positions that they played. I was impressed by this museum and it’s a must see if you’re a baseball fan in Kansas City.
I arrived at Kauffman stadium and parked for $10. I got there early and had no problem parking. I didn’t have many expectations for Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City hasn’t had a good team in what seems to be forever. My aunt lived in Kansas City for a few years and I didn’t remember her saying too much about Kauffman. I walked in and walked around. I love when parks have play areas for little kids. Kauffman has to be the second best kid area behind Comerica Park. I’m biased and I just love that if I take my little sister and niece to Comerica they can ride a baseball Ferris wheel or are tiger merry go round. At Kauffman they have putt putt, a child sized field, and several other fun things for a kid to do. The park itself is beautiful. The fountains in the outfield are a wonderful touch.
I made my way to the seat I had purchased before the season had started. I contacted the Royals before my journey and they offered me a free ticket to any game as long as they weren’t playing the Yankees. I looked at my schedule and of course they were playing the Yankees that evening. I paid $30 for my ticket and it was on the third base line mid left field. Not bad seats for the price at all. As I was sitting in my seat looking around I noticed that there were a lot of people in the outfield attending to a Yankees Player. As a player was taken off the field on a gator I checked my twitter and learned that it was Mariano Rivera who apparently had torn a legiament in his knee. That would not be good for the Yankees. They Yankees luck would stay that way the entire night. As the seats started to fill up I realized that almost all of the fans were Yankees fans. The only people in my section that were Royals fans were the two married couples sitting directly behind me. Throughout the game I chatted with them and they were very friendly people. They even offered to buy me a beer. I turned it down because I always feel awkward when somebody offers. If you ever see me at a game just buy me a beer, don’t ask! The crowd that day seemed to be a younger crowd then I’ve seen in most parks. A lot of 20 something’s out to enjoy the game. In the sixth inning everybody stands arm in arm and sings I’ve got friends in low places which I thought was pretty cool.
After the 7th inning I started to walk around and explore the park. I started talking to an usher and told him about my journey and asked if he would be able to get me an actual ticket from somebody. It took a while but this usher was determined to help me out. I spent a lot of time talking to him and he told me that he used to be a high school baseball coach. Him and his other coach buddies would take a few weeks out of every summer and try to get to parks as they marched towards every park. He asked about my favorite experience and I told him it was with the Cleveland Indians. He told me that his best experience at a park was also with the Cleveland Indians. One of the gentlemen he traveled with was suffering of cancer and they wanted him to get to as many parks as he could before he passed away. He wasn’t doing well when he was in Cleveland and they were nearly carrying him through the park. A couple ushers saw this and decided to help them out. They grabbed a wheel chair and were able to upgrade their seats closer to the field. Not only that the ushers contacted people in the front office and told them about this man. The Cleveland Indians staff brought him a grab bag full of Indians gear and it really made the trip for everybody in the group.
In the 9th inning it was apparent that the Royals were going to win the game. It was early may and the royals had not one a home game yet that season. The Royals fans in attendance were electric. I snuck my way down to the patio area in front of the fountains. As the Royals recorded the final out the fountains went off and I had an awesome view.
I had an amazing time at Kauffman Stadium and I tweeted the Royals to let them know. They liked what I had to say and retweeted me which I always love! As I was in the parking lot I got a tweet from a friend in Boston who told me that Reggie the blind guy was also in attendance to the game. Reggie is a blind guy who made a journey to all 30 ballparks in 30 days this summer. I had heard his story and wanted to meet him but didn’t realize he would be there. It would not be the last opportunity for me to meet him. If you would like to check out his amazing journey you can check out his facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/BlindBaseballTraveler30ParksIn30Days.
My next stop along the way was Houston. It was going to be a very long drive but I was getting used to the long hours.
Keep On Smilin- It’s Baseball Season!!