January 2007

Caravan Gets Taste of Spring

Blog Note – The Royals officially ended their 2007 Winter Caravan Tuesday with a trip to sunny Surprise, Ariz., the home of their spring training facilities. Public Relations Senior Director Lora Grosshans offers this inside look into the day’s activities. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com.

Alright, so we weren’t technically finished with our caravan activities when the bus pulled into Kauffman Stadium on Saturday from our trip to southern Missouri and northwest Arkansas. We had one more important day of events left in our home away from home – Surprise, Ariz.

Sluggerrr and I repacked our bags and headed to sunny Arizona on Monday night for a full day of events on Tuesday, organized by our partners at the Surprise Recreation Complex.

As we were driving from our hotel to Surprise Stadium to get the day started, we soaked in all of the cactus flowers and palm trees lining the streets and thought of our poor, shivering friends back in the Kansas City area! JJudging from the look of the plush, green practice fields as we drove into the complex, Sluggerrr and I decided that spring training games could start immediately.

Once at the stadium, we met up with the stars of our show – catcher John Buck and outfielder Mitch Maier. Both Surprise residents, I might add. Along with the caravan organizer, Tara Combs, and our drivers, Paul and George, we set out to the Happy Trails Resort for our first stop. We had a nice group of baseball enthusiasts waiting for us…and for an 80th birthday party that was taking place later in the morning. After fielding some probing questions from the audience, which included a few smart Kansas Citians who had relocated for the winter, John and Mitch signed autographs for those in attendance and their kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces, kids in their neighborhood, etc. It was then off to the Sunflower Resort for a similar program. At this stop, we were placed right by the pool, so we knew it was going to be a good time!

After grabbing some lunch, it was off to Willow Canyon High School – a local school that has had its student body grow to around 2,000 since opening its doors in 2003. We met with some members of the freshman class and with the baseball team. John actually broke the ice by asking the always tough first question. "Who does your basketball team play next?" The Wildcats currently own a 22-4 record and are making a push to the playoffs. From there, the floodgates were open. The students probed the players for more than an hour with questions ranging from what pitch is the hardest to hit, to what they would be doing if they weren’t playing baseball, to what kind of cars they drive. The kids definitely took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Major Leaguers face-to-face!

As we said goodbye to the players and made our way to the airport, Sluggerrr and I braced ourselves for the cold temps and howling wind waiting for us in Kansas City. Now it is official. The 2007 Royals Caravan is in the books. Spring training can’t get here soon enough!

Royals Caravan: Strong to the End

Blog Note – The Royals wrapped up another Winter Caravan trip this past weekend. Community Relations Manager Josh Diekmann offers these thoughts on Friday’s and Saturday’s activities from the road. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com where MLB.com writer **** Kaegel continues to report on caravan activities.

We quickly found out that taking it easy on the final two days of the Royals Winter Caravan through the Midwest was not going to be an option. Not only did we pack in a ton of stops into a short period of time, Caravan_2007_101_signing_4but we also found ourselves staring down huge lines of Royals fans that are more than geared up for some Royals baseball.

On Friday morning we got an early start, appearing as the guests of honor at a breakfast reception hosted by our Springdale (Ark.) affiliate, KREB Radio, and Rich Baseball Operations. There was no denying from the breakfast, which had nearly 70 people in attendance and an amazing buffet, that Springdale, the future home of our Double-A affiliate, is excited to be getting professional baseball in northwest Arkansas. The group had great energy and, during an intense Q&A session, quickly got our Caravan crew of David DeJesus , Joey Gathright, “Big John” Mayberry and Royals Director of Player Development J.J. Picollo awake and on their toes.

After stuffing ourselves at breakfast, we headed back to our hotel for a little break and then hit a local shopping center to kill some time – a favorite pastime for ballplayers on the Royals Caravan. We then met back up with the folks from Rich Baseball Operations, who directed us to a meet-and-greet at Jose’s Southwest Grille. Signing in the tight quarters of the restaurant proved to be quite a challenge for DeJesus and Gathright, who aren’t used to playing so close together in Kauffman Stadium’s expansive outfield.

We grabbed lunch before heading out for a surprise visit to R.E. Baker Elementary School, where we met the most excited group of Kindergarten through fourth graders I have ever encountered at an assembly. These kids had a million questions for the guys and were off-the-wall ecstatic when Sluggerrr showed up. Caravan_2007_098_sluggerrr_8We all pretty much agreed that the school visit was good but exhausting, especially for first-time Royals Caravan participant Gathright. While the rest of us concluded Friday’s caravan with a late dinner at a Texas Roadhouse in Springfield, Mo., Joey headed for the hotel to hit the sack.

Our final day of the caravan started with a stop that catcher John Buck, who is an outdoor enthusiast, would have loved to be a part of – the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Springfield. We arrived to a long line of fans and ended up signing autographs for more than an hour and then fielding several questions from the local media. The stop was great and completely prepared us for our stop at the Benson Convention Center’s Quad Lakes, Hunting, Fishing and Water Expo in Clinton, Mo.

Arriving a little late to the outdoor expo, we were surprised to see such a good group waiting for us. The guys signed for nearly an hour, while Sluggerrr used his popularity to try and steal the show again. It almost completely worked, too, until the big lion met his match: a little Royals fan who wouldn’t quit crying! It took a little coaxing, but Sluggerrr finally worked his magic to win her over. She’ll be a Royals fan for life now!

With little energy left, we packed up and headed to our final stop of the caravan. Our radio affiliate in Warrensburg, Mo., set up a meet-and-greet for us at Lotspeich Motors, where we showed up to a showroom full of Royals fans waiting in line for autographs. The crowd’s enthusiasm re-energized us, and we signed for a solid hour before packing it up again and heading home, closing the book on another chapter of the Royals Winter Caravan. After meeting so many great, supportive fans, we can’t wait for April 2 and the Boston Red Sox. Thanks to all you Loyal Royal Fans for a great Winter Caravan!

Tri-State Travels

Blog Note – The Royals headed south for their final Winter Caravan trip of the month. Public Relations Senior Director Lora Grosshans offers these comments from the road on the first day’s activities. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will also continue to report on caravan activities throughout the month.

Three states in one day. That is a travel schedule that would make even the fiercest road warriors proud!

That is exactly what we accomplished Thursday in the first day of our latest caravan trip. We rounded up the trailblazing group of David DeJesus, Joey Gathright, “Big John” Mayberry, J.J. Picollo, and, of course, Sluggerrr, at Kauffman Stadium for a whirlwind trip that will continue to visit cities in southern Missouri and northwest Arkansas before returning to Kansas City on Saturday night.

Our day began with a great stop at the local Wal-Mart in Pittsburg, Kan. We saw a long line of Royals fans, including several youngsters waiting for Sluggerrr, when we arrived and more kept showing up throughout our hour-long appearance. The kind folks at KKOW Radio in Pittsburg, who helped coordinate our stops in their neck of the woods, then guided us across the state line to Joplin, Mo. After grabbing some barbeque at Red, Hot & Blue, our guys kept signing autographs at the Mid-Missouri Bank. Our players have put their John Hancock on a variety of items through the years, but this stop featured a new request – autographing a truck! A Joplin woman and her son asked Big John to come outside and sign the dashboard of their royal blue (what other color is there?) vehicle! That is what is great about caravan…you never know what you are going to get!

After a few questions from the gang as to exactly where we were, we arrived in Bentonville, Ark. Our hour-long appearance at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter turned into closer to 90 minutes because of the great crowd that turned out. Seeing Royals fans in droves energizes even the weariest travelers!

We capped the day by visiting the home of Royals board member Dayna Martz and her family. We had a wonderful time talking baseball, shooting pool and sharing a lot of laughs. A big thank you to the Martz family for their wonderful hospitality!

We’re spending the second day of the trip in Springdale, Ark., the future home of our Double-A affiliate. I can only begin to imagine what the guys will be asked to sign there!

Role Model Behind the Voice

Anyone who knows Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre, knows he always has plenty to talk about.

And, since he calls 162 regular season Royals games a year, plus a few warm-ups in Spring Training, it’s probably a good thing he does!

Entering his ninth season behind the Royals microphone, Ryan has a voice that easily brings the play from the field into your living room or car. However, for the kids of Greater Kansas City, it isn’t just Ryan’s broadcaster voice that has them impressed.

On Wednesday, the kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kansas City voted Ryan as the 2007 Role Model of the Year! More than 150 youth and supporters of the program presented Ryan with the award. According to the award description, the Role Model of the Year is bestowed to an individual who maintains a high profile in the community and serves as a positive example for youth through his or her responsible actions. The person also demonstrates ongoing care and concern for area youth through his/her strong support of community-based organizations. Yup, sounds like our Ryan!

Many already know this, but if you don’t, Ryan has gotten to know the kids of the Boys and Girls Club through casual visits to the clubs and his support of the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI). In 2001, he launched the Gloves for Kids program, which has raised more than $50,000 to provide new baseball gloves for Kansas City area youth and is mimicked by several other MLB teams. Taking it even further, Ryan worked to send youth from the Club to the Sheridan Arts Camp in Telluride, Col., providing an experience they otherwise would not be able to have.

“I’ve won awards for playing baseball or broadcasting and those all have to do with your body or your mind,” commented Ryan, who was obviously humbled by the award. “However, this is the only time I’ve been awarded with something to do with the heart.”

He went on to reiterate a message he has delivered several times in his talks with Club kids. “Don’t ever stop believing in yourself,” he instructed. 

In addition to Ryan’s award, the Royals received the Club Champions Recognition for their support of RBI throughout the year.

Way to go, Ryan!

Royals Feel the Love in Kansas City

Blog Note – The Royals wrapped up their Kansas City Area Caravan this past weekend with a busy schedule in Kansas City on Friday before heading north to St. Joseph and Cameron, Mo., on Saturday. Royals associate Megan Stock had these comments about Friday’s Forecast Luncheon, while Royals Vice President of Public Relations Toby Cook chimed in with a description of Saturday. You can read more about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will also continue to report on caravan 2007_forecast_luncheon_dayton_and_danactivities throughout the month.

“Hey, Frank White. Look at this!”

While biting into my coffee-toffee-cheesecake-dessert thing, I heard the tiny voice resonate from across the table. The owner of the comment was 4-year-old Robert Moore, the son of Royals General Manager Dayton Moore, and he was seated across from me while Royals Hall of Fame second baseman Frank White sat to my left at the 15th Annual Baseball Forecast Luncheon last Friday. The luncheon was the first of two Royals Caravan events in Kansas City with the second sponsored by Sports Radio 810 WHB and taking place at a packed 810 Zone in Leawood, Kan., that evening. At the luncheon, Robert, who, it turned out, had many things to show Frank White throughout the course of the meal, easily became the center of attention at our table – a definite family trait he picked up from his dad, who has become the talk of the town here in Kansas City.

This was Robert’s first Forecast Luncheon in Kansas City, and he couldn’t have picked a better one to make his debut. With an estimated 600 fans in attendance, the room was bursting with enthusiasm for the season, most of it thanks to his dad. While the younger Moore spent the event decorating the pages of his Royals baseball notebook, the older Moore joined Royals President Dan Glass and players John Buck and Luke Hudson on stage for a Q & A that had fans asking about minor league development, additions to the pitching staff, the direction Moore is taking the team and why Buck insists on keeping bag pipes as his walk-up music. Just about every question came with praise for the team’s off-season aggressiveness and excitement for better things to come. There was no denying from that tone of the crowd that Kansas City is ready to house a championship team once again! 2007_forecast_luncheon_luke_signingBut, in the end, I think it was a quiet comment made off stage by Dayton’s wife, Marianne, that summed up what all of us in Royals Nation are really thinking.

It all happened when Frank White decided he had something for young Robert Moore to “look at.” As the rest of the table watched in silence, Frank slipped the 1985 World Series ring off his finger and gently passed it around the table. Robert (with the help of mom – it’s a pretty heavy ring, after all) held the ring in his small hands, his eyes growing wide. As Robert examined the ring, we all listened in as his mom whispered to him, “You’ll have one of these soon enough.”

Blog Note Part Two – Here’s Toby’s take on the third and final day of the KC-area caravan.  The trip started out early Saturday morning from Kauffman Stadium and ended back at the same spot with four inches of snow on the ground.

A big thanks to Royals assistant director of player development, Scott Sharp, and “no thanks” to a weather website we won’t mention. Scott fired up his computer from his Kauffman Stadium office to check on the forecast for us Saturday morning. We knew another winter storm planned to start dumping snow later in the day. Scott checked out the hour-by-hour forecast and said it looked like we might get back home before trouble hit. We almost made it.

Dry roads paved the way to a one-and-a-half hour stop at the Hy-Vee in St. Joseph, Mo., and a great crowd. Eagle Communications hosted the event. One of its radio stations in town, 680 AM KFEQ, carries our games on the Royals Radio Network and broadcast live during our entire stay. General Manager Gary Exline then took us to a local hotel, where John Buck and Luke Hudson ate pizza with a select group of Special Olympians. Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews and Royals Hall of Famer Dennis Leonard also dug in. We then drove the short distance to Cameron, Mo., for, well, dessert. Royals radio affiliate KKWK arranged for a 90-minute signing at the Dairy Queen, where the franchise owners offered half-priced Royal Treats. DQ might sound like a funny place to hold a caravan stop, especially in mid-January. But the idea was nothing short of brilliant. The whole town, it seemed, packed into that small restaurant and made us feel as welcomed as any stop on this 30-city tour. 

Some of us called home to find the snow had already started falling in KC.  We jumped on the bus a bit early and made it 20 minutes out of Cameron before running into snow and slick roads. Driver Phil took it slow and got everyone home safely…another caravan in the books. We unpacked and checked the weather site again. Not surprisingly, the 40 percent chance of a “wintry mix” by 5 p.m. had turned to “snow now falling.” Yeah, we knew that. We also knew that our fourth caravan of the month had turned out thousands of Royals fans excited about 2007. And, while there are no guarantees in forecasting, there’s a better than 60 percent chance, we figure, of no snow by Opening Day. Let’s hope the same can be said for rain.

Blue Beats Red Here

Blog Note – The Royals began their Kansas City Area Caravan Thursday with a day trip to mid-Missouri. Royals associate Megan Stock chimed in from the road with these comments about her first Royals Caravan trip. You can read more about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will also continue to report on caravan activities throughout the month.

There’s no denying that one of the best series of the season is the “I-70 series” – when we meet the St. Louis Cardinals in Interleague play and the state of Missouri becomes a mix of red and blue. On Thursday, the first leg of our Kansas City area Winter Caravan trip, we had a small taste of that when we loaded our mini-“rock star” bus and ventured into mid-Missouri in search of some Royal Blue. And, I’m happy to report, we found it!

Our trip started with a stop in Marshall, Mo., where we found the only school in Saline County with classes in session, St. Peter Catholic School. We soon discovered that the students, who ranged from pre-Kindergarten to eighth grade, had their parents to thank for being the only kids in the area who had to hit the books that day. Apparently, the good parents of St. Peter’s spent hours in the cold, chipping away at the blanket of ice from this past weekend’s winter storm that surrounded the building. With this knowledge, we naturally assumed that we’d be meeting a lot of unhappy kids who were wishing their parents didn’t care so much about their education! Instead, we found a group of youngsters who seemed totally pumped to have the Royals dropping in for the morning. They had tons of questions for players John Buck and Luke Hudson, and also for former Royals pitcher Dennis Leonard. Some of the more off-beat questions involved some comments about golf, an agreement that riding horses was awesome and some inquires about Luke’s marital status – he’s single, ladies! Aside from that, the kids – like most kids we encounter – seemed to have the most fun dancing around in the bleachers with mascot Sluggerrr.

After loading up and hitting the road, we moved on to Jefferson City for some pasta at Madison’s Café right down the street from the State Capitol Building. Knowing we were a tad ahead of schedule, the guys wanted to make a quick pit stop at Best Buy to browse the movie selection before setting up shop at Hy-Vee for a meet-and-greet. As John and Luke walked up and down the electronics aisles, several second glances were thrown their ways. I, however, only got one second glance, from a guy who thought he went to school with me – he didn’t.

Moving on, with movie in hand, we jumped back on the bus and let driver Harold steer us toward Hy-Vee, where a line was already formed when we arrived. We scooted the Italian bread display over and parked the players at a table to greet a constant flow of fans, dressed in Royals gear, thanking us for visiting the Capital City and throwing around several positive predictions for the 2007 season.

Now, I have to confess, at our autograph session at the Hy-Vee in Columbia, we saw some red and heard some whispers of the Cardinals recent visit to the college town. However, we didn’t let that stand in our way and neither did our fans, who came out to remind us that the middle of the state is always up for grabs and that the Cardinals aren’t the only team with a World Series trophy – remember 1985? The guys signed Royals hats, jerseys, baseballs, cards and more, while Sluggerrr – who, by the way, has been out in full force for each of the Royals Caravans this year – continued to find energy from somewhere within to keep the young ones entertained. After posing for pictures and doing some interviews, everyone seemed to be a little bit worn out and a lot bit hungry, which resulted in loading up on a smorgasbord of food – chicken fingers, pizza, Chinese food – from the Hy-Vee kitchen area before saying our final byes and heading home even more pumped to face those Cardinals in June!

Homecomings in Nebraska

Blog Note – On Wednesday of the Nebraska Caravan the group visited Carter Lake, Iowa, as well as Omaha and Nebraska City, Neb. Community Relations Director Ben Aken offers these comments on the day’s activities. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will also continue to report on caravan activities throughout the month.

There is something comforting about homecomings. The Royals Caravan trip to Nebraska provided several for members of this group. 

Last fall, third base Coach Brian Poldberg asked if the Royals Caravan could visit Carter Lake Elementary School, in Carter Lake, Iowa — just outside of Omaha. This was, of course, the same school he and his three sons attended and where his wife Lori served as the PTA president for over nine years. It was apparent from our first arrival that the teachers and children of the school knew Brian more as a PTA parent than a Major League coach. However, he was able to introduce his ‘co-workers’ (Major League Baseball Players, a baseball legend, a radio broadcaster and a large dancing lion in a baseball uniform) to the kids, showing that there was another side of the man who brought popcorn to school throughout the winter. Needless to say, they were impressed! Caravan_at_carter_lake_elem_3

Homecoming for Alex Gordon came in the form of an attention storm in Nebraska. From the moment we first pulled into inPlay for the Omaha Royals luncheon, people were looking for Alex. Several people came up to him for autographs, a camera crew directed their attention to him as he walked into the meeting room and the Omaha Royals organizers rushed up to give him directions on the day. However, Alex handled the situation with class and maturity: answering questions during the Q&A portion of the lunch, conducting several media interviews and signing a whole gaggle of autographs. However, one could expect Alex to receive this amount of attention in the Husker state. He was born in Lincoln, Neb. (a Royals fan none-the-less), played baseball at Lincoln Southeast High School, had an outstanding career at the University of Nebraska where he was awarded the Golden Spikes award (the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for college baseball) and recently was named the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year. So, needless to say, Nebraska is proud of their native son. 

(This all after Alex experienced a crazy travel schedule which included being stranded in New Mexico with a blown tire, a friend’s wedding in Arizona and a Midwest snowstorm that canceled flights.)

Omaha was also familiar to pitcher Ryan Braun who spent over a month playing for the Royals minor league team, first baseman Ryan Shealy who played at Rosenblatt Stadium when he was with the Rockies Organization and Royals legend Frank White who played for the Omaha Royals in 1973.

Since I grew up in nearby Papillion, Neb., it was fantastic to see how downtown Omaha had changed throughout the last few years. Even better was seeing my dad and a few of his friends at the Luncheon on Tuesday. For our traveling party, these homecomings felt good.

Riding to Nebraska in Style

Blog Note – Although shortened by the winter storm, the Royals Caravan trip to Nebraska got off and running Tuesday morning, heading straight to York, Neb., for a visit at York Middle School. Community Relations Director Ben Aken offers these comments on the first day of activities. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will also continue to report on caravan activities throughout the month.

Sometimes a four-and-a-half hour bus ride is nothing to write home about. However, when that four-and-a-half hour ride is spent on a bus like what we are riding on, it becomes a lot more fun.

White_caravan_busAfter the weather held us back a day, we had some time to make up on our Nebraska Caravan trip, which meant driving straight from Kauffman Stadium to York, Neb., Tuesday morning. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time on our bus. So, I thought I’d give you a peek inside our luxurious ride.

Stepping on the bus, we immediately are greeted by our bus driver, Cole, a guy who is earning his keep with some amazing maneuvering in and out of these small neighborhoods and communities we are making him take us to. Next to Cole is a passenger seat, which works well when it’s time to give directions. The bus then opens up into what I like to call our “living room,” equipped with leather couches that are perfect for lounging on to watch movies or a show on the bus’ satellite TV. Yesterday, we took in several episodes of “The Office” as well as the latest “King Kong” movie.

The kitchenette is next and includes a table area where we all gathered yesterday evening to listen to Royals Hall of Fame second baseman Frank White tell stories of the 1977 Royals, who finished first in the division with a 102-60 record. White, an eight-time Gold Glove winner, also joked about how he was robbed of winning Gold Glove No. 9 in 1988. (That year, White had only four errors – all throwing errors to four different first basemen – but still lost the Gold Glove to Harold Reynolds, who finished with 18 errors that season!)

Past the kitchenette is the bathroom – no comment there – and then six bunks, which have been heavily used throughout these caravans already. Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre claimed one immediately and we’ve discovered that mascot Sluggerrr can often be found taking his catnaps in another.

More leather couches line back of the bus with another TV mounted in the corner.Braun_caravan_bus Players such as pitcher Ryan Braun watch TV, chat on their cell phones or relax with a handheld Nintendo DS game back there. It has become the unofficial “quiet area” on the bus.

All in all, I’d have to say this bus is definitely a home on the road and 2006 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year Alex Gordon agreed when he popped on the bus for the first time Wednesday morning, adding, “And it’s a big improvement from last year!”

Teahen at Youth Baseball Clinic

Teahenkids_07bb_clinicIt might have been cold outside, but Mark Teahen had no problems heating things up inside at the YMCA Baseball Clinic Saturday. Representing the YMCA Challenger Baseball program, the 2006 Royals Player of the Year generated a lot of excitement as an instructor for the more than 50 kids who came out to William Jewell College. The two-day clinic, which also received a surprise visit from 2006 National League MVP Ryan Howard, benefited the construction of the Challenger Sports Complex that is set to open in Kansas City by summer 2007.

Bundled Up and Ready to Go!

Under bright, sunny (and cold!) skies, the Royals Winter Caravan took off from Kauffman Stadium this morning for a shortened trip to Nebraska. This past weekend’s winter storms that crossed the Midwest caused us to cancel the first day and a-half of activities in Nebraska. Two of our three current players scheduled to appear on the caravan ran into travel issues and our radio affiliates agreed the weather was too much to overcome Monday. But, even with the weather setback, we still are looking forward to hitting the remainder of our stops!

And, here’s some good news for our Nebraska Royals fans: Royals first baseman Ryan Shealy and Minor League Player of the Year and Nebraska native, Alex Gordon, hope to join pitcher Ryan Braun by tonight. We expect Shealy to make an event in Lincoln Tuesday evening, while Gordon is expected to catch up with the group Wednesday’s activities, including an event in Omaha at inPlay, 1502 Cuming Street. You can read more about the caravan on the home page of royals.com, and look for more postings from the road on this blog Wednesday morning.


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