January 2007

Caravan Changes Make Room for Smiling Kids and Full Stomachs

Blog Note – The Royals Caravan was scheduled to head to Nebraska on Monday, Jan. 15. However, due to the weekend’s winter storm, the trip was shortened by a day. Royals Director of Community Relations Ben Aken offered these comments on the day’s activities. 

When we received the disappointing news that we were going to have to postpone our trip to Nebraska for the Winter Caravan, we looked for alternatives for our day in Kansas City. Royals pitcher Ryan Braun took in a workout at Kauffman Stadium while we delivered the news to Nebraska media outlets and fans that the caravan schedule had changed. Following Ryan’s workout, we decided to make the best of the day and took in some KC BBQ before visiting children undergoing treatments at a local hospital. While he has spent most of his off-season where Carolina style is king, Ryan was happy to see why Kansas Citians do BBQ better.

After stuffing our faces with more beef brisket than we should, we headed over to see the kids at the hospital. For over two hours, Ryan visited with children and their families. Ryan was a big hit when he distributed Sluggerrr dolls and Royals Build-A-Bears, along with signing many autographs. Ryan_braun_and_kids_at_hospital

While we were frustrated we couldn’t travel to Nebraska for the Caravan today (a trip to his home state for this Royals Associate), it was such a satisfying time to create a few smiles for kids who probably have more on their minds than slick streets and winter storms.

Winter Storm Diverts Caravan

This weekend’s weather storm across the Midwest will shorten the Royals latest Caravan by a day. The team, in consultation with radio affiliates in Nebraska, has cancelled first day activities of the planned three-day winter caravan trip. "We don’t want to take any chances with our players and staff on the trip," said Toby Cook, Royals Vice President of Public Relations, "and we certainly don’t want to put our fans at risk."

Cook said Senior Director of Public Relations, Lora Grosshans, is making arrangements for activities Tuesday and Wednesday. An 11 am autograph session at Wal-Mart in Grand Island, Neb., has been cancelled for Tuesday, but the caravan should be able to continue its regular schedule Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.

Royals First Baseman Ryan Shealy will likely join the caravan Tuesday. His flight out of Florida Sunday night was cancelled. Cook said the Royals standout prospect Alex Gordon might not be able to make the trip at all.

"We’ll make it up to the fans and our radio affiliates somehow," Cook said.

Royals Pitcher Ryan Braun, Royals Hall of Fame Second Baseman Frank White and Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre will still travel with the group to Nebraska.

Filling Buck's Seat

Buck_3_1 On what ordinarily would have been just another Thursday in January, a Kansas City legend was instead remembered for the impact he left on a community.

Just in case you didn’t hear about our press conference Thursday afternoon, we announced the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat program with a presentation at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It’s a program where we will fill “Buck’s seat” at Kauffman Stadium for every 2007 home game with a member of the community who, on a large or small scale, embodies an aspect of Buck’s spirit. Check out mlb.com writer **** Kaegel’s coverage of the press conference and, if you have someone in mind, feel free to nominate someone via our online application found on royals.com.

Even though we’re sure we’ll get flooded with nominations immediately, we won’t be booking all 81 games right away. Instead, we’d rather keep dates open and collect nominations all season long, reacting to current events important to our area. Don’t worry though, we’ll have the seat filled for Opening Day! We actually Buck_oneil_legacy_seat_logoplan on honoring a special recipient who had a close connection with Buck.

We all know Buck was no stranger to Kauffman Stadium, planted in the seat he held for years behind home plate. And, obviously, it’s going to be hard to imagine anyone who would even come close to matching the legacy he has left. However, we are hoping all you out there in Royals Nation can help us find people who still deserve to be honored and who will join us in remembering Buck all season long.

Heading Home with General Tso's

Blog Note – The Royals Caravan wrapped up its Kansas leg Wednesday with a rousing send-off in Lawrence. Royals Vice President of Public Relations, Toby Cook submits this final report from the road. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will continue to report on caravan activities throughout January as well. And look for blog postings from Royals Director of Community Relations Ben Aken and his assistant Josh Diekmann next week from Nebraska.

Here’s a great excuse to carry out that New Year’s resolution and actually make it to the gym. The more you work out, the more you can eat and get away with it. That formula might not work for everyone. But it certainly carries weight, so to speak, with ball players. As you’ve been reading this week, caravan coordinator and Royals public relations superstar Lora Grosshans takes charge of these adventures. And Lora says she learned a long time ago that, if you keep Major Leaguers informed on what’s happening next and you feed them on a regular basis, they will sign every autograph request and then some.

So here we are at our last stop in a wild, three-day trip to beautiful towns and cities in Kansas. We made it to the Hy-Vee in Lawrence about 15 minutes late and found another huge line. Royals Player of the Year Mark Teahen, pitcher Todd Wellemeyer, and outfielder Shane Costa dutifully signed and signed, posed for photographs, and chatted it up with fans. One last request: Could someone check out the Chinese buffet just to the left of the signing area? We had noodles and General Tso’s chicken on the bus back to Kansas City. These guys burn a lot of energy staying in shape. We were just happy to provide the fuel.

This was a great start to the 2007 Winter Caravan season. After stops in Topeka, Manhattan, Junction City, Salina and Hutchinson on the first two days, our final day started with an hour-long spot on new Royals radio affiliate KSGO-AM in Wichita. For full disclosure, it was really about 40 minutes. Cole, our driver, was magnificent navigating that huge tour bus through big-city and small-town streets. The guy giving him directions to the radio station (the guy writing this blog) accidentally sent us to the opposite end of town. Oh, well. A chance to see more of Wichita. We made it fine to a great luncheon at Side Pockets restaurant, hosted by the Wichita Wranglers, where the players and Royals Assistant General Manager Dean Taylor signed their first thousand autograph cards. We took off north around 2 p.m. for a stop at the Emporia sports store Jock’s Nitch for another autograph session and then drove northeast for our final stop in Lawrence. Sluggerrr_kids_wichita_hyvee_ks_caravan__1 Sluggerrr thrilled parents and kids alike, some of whom dropped by on their way to the Kansas-Oklahoma State basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse. Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre and former outfielder Brian McRae met and greeted their many fans. And Lora went to work ordering Chinese take-out.

Folks, I joined the front office back in August, so this was my first caravan experience from "this side" of the autograph table. I couldn’t help but remember how important these stops were to me as a boy when the Royals came to my hometown years ago. Now that one caravan’s finished, I can think back on the many memories of an excited Royals Nation and the anticipation of a new season soon. And I can only hope that we made some lifelong Royals fans. I know we made some lifelong friends. If I don’t get to the gym soon, I will have to go on that diet. Makes me wish I was a big leaguer all over again and could get away with all that Chinese.

Front Office Handoff

Blog Note – The Royals Caravan headed into east-central Kansas this week for a three-day, eight-city trip.  Throughout the trip, Royals folks will be posting daily blogs from the road. This posting comes from Royals Vice President of Public Relations, Toby Cook. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will report on caravan activities throughout January as well.

A handoff at the Hyatt. Day Two of our Kansas Winter Caravan ended in a downtown Wichita hotel Tuesday with Royals General Manager Dayton Moore giving a high-five to Assistant General Manager Dean Taylor and grabbing the car keys. Dean joins us for our final day as Dayton returned to Kauffman Stadium to take care of more off-season business. We have had a great trip so far and are already looking forward to our jaunts to Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas and the Kansas City area later this month.

As you read from our blog Tuesday, the good folks at the K-State Athletic Department in Manhattan served as great hosts early in the trip. They let our players throw and workout at the school’s facilities early Tuesday morning before Mark Teahen, Shane Costa and Todd Wellemeyer went to give interviews at Royals Radio Network affiliate KJCK in Junction City. Next, we hit a Rotary luncheon at the Junction City Country Club where, once again, broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre emceed a Q&A session and managed to score with all but one or two jokes. Rotarians aren’t necessarily the easiest audience for comedy, but they sure seemed to love the Royals.

Our group boarded the tour bus early in the afternoon for a well-attended autograph session at Central Mall in Salina. Lora Grosshans’ parents came by to say hi. Lora’s our Senior Director of Public Relations, the main coordinator of the Winter Caravans and a native of nearby Minneapolis, Kan. She says this year’s Salina appearance matched years past; however that apparently wasn’t the case at Hutchinson Mall (Kan.). Hutchinson blew us out of the water with a line of fans that started at the food court and stretched until the shoe store. Of course, if you haven’t been to Hutch, this is no frame of reference. Suffice to say, it was an Opening Day-like line and the guys stayed well over our initial time limit to accommodate everyone.

Why not? There is no denying a renewed enthusiasm in a ball club that made some aggressive moves this off-season. Everyone along the trip so far wanted to give Dayton credit, which he refused to accept. That’s okay, though. Dean’s here now to do that for him!

Watch for a Day Three review on the blog Thursday.

Mascot Moves

Blog Note – The Royals Caravan headed into east-central Kansas Monday for a three-day, eight-city trip.  Throughout the trip, Royals folks will be posting daily blogs from the road. This posting from the trip’s first day comes from Royals Vice President of Public Relations, Toby Cook. You can read about the Royals Caravan on the home page of royals.com. MLB.com writer **** Kaegel will report on caravan activities throughout January as well.

I couldn’t help but notice Byron Shores studying the moves of Willie Wildcat Monday night. Willie is the mascot for Kansas State University Athletics, while Byron is the mascot coordinator for the Royals. Oh, who are we kidding? The big cat is already out of the bag. Byron is the guy who wears the Sluggerrr suit and plays an integral part of the second leg of the 2007 Royals Caravan.

This week we are traveling I-70 and points beyond to meet rabid Royals fans with Royals General Manager Dayton Moore and Royals 2006 Player of the Year Mark Teahen leading the crew. Leaving from “The K” early Monday morning, we made our first stop at Jeremiah Bullfrogs restaurant in Topeka. Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre hosted an hour-long luncheon with sponsors of WIBW Radio, who asked probing questions of Moore, Teahen, outfielder Shane Costa and pitcher Todd Wellemeyer. After the luncheon, the restaurant opened a huge second story area to the public for an autograph session where Byron jumped onto our tour bus parked out front to suit up and electrify the crowd with his “Sluggerrr” antics.

We said goodbye to the state capital mid-afternoon and traveled west on the interstate to Manhattan for a quick stop at the hotel. Bus driver Cole delivered us to Paddy O’Quigley’s on the west side of town for another autograph session, hosted by Royal radio affiliate KMAN.

Somewhere along the way, a debate broke out about our evening plans. Do we find a restaurant with lots of TVs to watch the National Championship college football game or do we accept the K-State Athletic Department’s invitation for courtside seats to Monday’s match-up with Texas Tech? With Florida pulling away from Ohio State early, we knew we had made the right choice to bus out to Bramlage Coliseum.

Ryan joined the K-State radio broadcast as a halftime guest, while Dayton sat behind the K-State bench as a guest of the University and the rest of us watched Texas Tech keep the Wildcats at bay in a disappointing loss for the home crowd.

(Side note – K-State Coach Bob Huggins made famed Red Raiders Coach Bobby Knight look mild this night. Huggins didn’t look like he wanted to “hug” a soul!)

But we did find a warm embrace all day long from Royals fans on an exciting first day. Look for a post Wednesday on our second day of the trip and an account of our events in Junction City, Salina and Hutchinson, Kan. Meanwhile, Byron says he has learned a few new moves but won’t be wearing Wildcat purple any time soon – he still prefers donning Royal blue!

“Barnstorming” Southeast Kansas

Blog Note – The following is posted by Royals Vice President of Public Relations, Toby Cook, who traveled to his native southeast Kansas Thursday for a one-day caravan with some recognizable Royals.  Royals Senior Director of PR, Lora Grosshans, also went along.  She and Toby will provide posts throughout a three-day trip to east-central Kansas next Monday through Wednesday.  You can read about that now on the home page of royals.com, and mlb.com writer **** Kaegel will report on caravan activities throughout January as well.

Ever timed how fast you can eat a burrito?

I haven’t either, but I feel like, if we had yesterday, we could have broken some kind of burrito-eating record. This was the lunch stop at Ernesto’s Mexican Food in Parsons, Kan., stop number two on our one-day Caravan.  Yeah, we barely let Royals 2006 Player of the Year Mark Teahen eat before sending him off to sign more autographs.

Royals Hall of Famer Frank White said it best Thursday when he labeled our four-stop trip as an old-fashioned “barnstorming.” Spending an hour or less at each location – Fort Scott, Parsons, Coffeyville and Iola, Kan. – we were obviously rushed. We did zip in and out, but we couldn’t help but notice the excitement of everyone we met. Our crew, which also included General Manager Dayton Moore and mascot Sluggerrr, met hundreds of fans who seemed to be just as excited about the upcoming season as we are. Iola, you definitely get the prize for most autographs sought out in an hour – at least 200!

All in all, it was a great – yet fast – kickoff to the 2007 Caravan and we are looking forward to heading west into Kansas Monday with a little more time to play with and a lot more fans to meet.

By the way, write in if you came to one of our stops Thursday. Which one did you attend? And did you see Sluggerrr eat that burrito in a minute and a-half?

New Year, New Season

Happy New Year!

Our break ended Tuesday, officially shifting our focus here at Kauffman from holiday treats to the 2007 season. We filed back into the office and, after attending a department meeting that went entirely too long, it is evident that we are not easing back into our work. Why? Because it’s January and, around here, that means Royals Caravan time!

We kick off the Caravan on Thursday with a one-day trip to Southeast Kansas, stopping in Ft. Scott, Parsons, Coffeyville and Iola. Look for Mark Teahen, Frank White, Dayton Moore and, of course, Sluggerrr on this first trip, Southeast Kansas fans. And remember: it’s Dayton’s first Caravan, so go easy on him…please!

Next week, we hit other parts of Kansas and then venture into Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas. The complete details (times, locations, attendees, etc.) are all spelled out here on royals.com.

It’s a new year with a new season just around the corner…are you getting excited?

On a side note, congrats to our friends across the parking lot – good luck on Saturday!


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