Monday, April 29, 2013

Take Me Out to the Amusement Park

My love of baseball was cultivated in a time when baseball was the star of the game. I am so old that my first games were at  Municipal Stadium in Kansas City which was torn down so long ago that a community garden now grows on the site. I am so old, in fact, that my clearest memories of being there are of falling in the gravel parking lot while racing inside, leaving several nice scars on each knee. Municipal Stadium was so old that it was once the home of the KC Monarchs, the Negro League team, and the stadium so bare that there was little else to do but watch the game. It was here I chose Lou Piniella as my favorite player and learned what the numbers 1 through 9 signified. It was here that I developed a passion for a summer day at the ballpark, warm and sticky, with 9 innings and a blank scorecard in front of me, in anxious anticipation for the 7th inning stretch. It was here I sat, between my father and grandfather, topped with a Royal Blue ball cap, Cracker Jack in hand, ideally happy for many a summer day.

Two years ago we took the girls to a game at Kaufman Stadium, the current home of the Royals, which replaced my old Municipal Stadium years ago. It's a beautiful stadium which recently went through a $250 million dollar renovation. Somewhere during the process I think they forgot about baseball, or at least baseball as related to children. In the outfield area you can now find a batting cage, a playground, a carousel, and miniature golf. I don't know but I suspect you might also find a nap room, pony rides, a magician and a place to get your oil changed. There is a "child friendly" food area; as the mother of two children I am wildly curious to know exactly what ballpark food falls outside the definition of child friendly. Wasn't ballpark food created with the child like idea that food should be bad for you and served utensil free, preferably on a stick? It seems that the Royals succumbed to the relatively new notion that children cannot be happy unless they are entertained at every possible level and that a good day out with your family is simply not enough. It's still a beautiful stadium but I worry that this kind of day at the amusement park baseball is doing little to cultivate baseball fans; when the Royals are down 7-2 in the fifth, is that really the time to get in a round of mini-golf?

The beautiful old gal down the street is soon to be having some work done, and it's time.The Cubs recently announced plans to renovate Wrigley, which, given the netting that hangs above, protecting my head from falling concrete, seems reasonable. Included into the agreement, a jumbo screen, twice the size of the beautiful old scoreboard, to be placed in left field, next to the existing one. Doesn't that seem a bit like marrying your young secretary but keeping your middle aged wife around to do the laundry? Is anyone going to wait in anticipation for the scoreboard guy to manually change the numbers when the jumbo screen will have that information up immediately, as well as instant replay, advertisements, wedding proposals and various games intended to embarrass and entertain fans in those 7 second increments, previously so painfully boring, between strike out and new batter.

Thankfully, should you not be entertained by watching two strangers kiss on the 5,000 square foot video screen, you can now spend your baseball watching time in a two story Captain Morgan Club, doubling the size of the previous eyesore on the front of the stadium. Perhaps in making it two stories they might diminish, by perspective, that ridiculous pirate that now stands near the Addison and Sheffield entrance.

The 21 year old quasi Cubs fans are covered, they can spend their nine innings swilling run in the shadow of a pirate, but what about those precious children who come to the ballpark; what are they to do for nine long innings? Surely we cannot have them sitting in their seats with nothing to do but watch baseball for three hours? Having thought of everything, the Cubs have included a kids play zone on the west side of the park, confirming my suspicions that the Cubs now agree, baseball is simply not enough.

Municipal Stadium image courtesy of 
Image of Kate courtesy of me.

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