José Canseco — yes, that José Canseco — will be at CommunityAmerica Ballpark on Sunday to take part in a celebrity all-star game and other festivities before and after the independent-league T-Bones play St. Paul.
Canseco, a central figure in Major League Baseball’s steroid scandal of the 1990s and the author of several books since — including a 2005 tell-all entitled “Juiced,” in which he outed fellow performance-enhancing drug users like former Oakland A’s teammate Mark McGwire — is touring the country to raise money for various charitable organizations and attempting to break standing records for the longest baseball and softball home runs ever hit.
Is Canseco a pariah for snitching on his buddies or a pioneer for being the first man to offer his public PED mea culpa? Kansas City fans can debate as much Sunday while discussing how Canseco never quite solved Royals pitching: His .238 career batting average and .722 OPS against KC are the lowest he compiled in either statistical category against any American League opponent.
Then again, he did smash 18 of his career 462 homers against the Royals.
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The festivities are part of Canseco’s 10-week Home Run Tour — a 16,500-mile journey through the U.S. and Canada in a 40-foot custom RV.
Canseco, 50, is scheduled to take part in the celebrity game around 3 p.m., followed by T-Bones batting practice, an autograph-signing session during the first three innings of the T-Bones’ 5 p.m. game, and a postgame home-run derby. The derby promises to be worth sticking around for, as Canseco takes on three challengers who tried out last week for a chance to best the former home run king.
Canseco’s appearance at the Kansas City, Kan., stadium will benefit Harvesters, an area food bank. Fans who bring non-perishable food items for donation on Sunday (at Gate B) can purchase two-for-one select seats.
Canseco’s goal on the tour, along with helping to raise money for charitable organizations like Harvesters (and promoting a new documentary about his life) is to break the world record for the longest softball home run — 510 feet, by Bruce Meade in Amarillo, Texas, in 1978.
Sort of like Canseco’s MLB legacy, meanwhile, the longest baseball home run seems to be a matter of opinion.
Some say it was Mickey Mantle’s estimated 634-foot blast for the Yankees against the Detroit Tigers in September 1960, but Bill Jenkinson of the National Baseball Hall of Fame claims the mark really belongs to Babe Ruth and his 575-foot homer on July 18, 1921, at Detroit.
In any event, expect Canseco to belt balls a long, long way Sunday evening. Like Meade, who stood 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds in the 1970s, Canseco remains a strapping man of 6-foot-4 and not far off his playing weight of 240.
“This will be fun for the fans and the kids,” Canseco said in a story posted recently by Yahoo. “I’m going for 600 feet for both records to really raise the bar.
“I have a 572-foot softball bomb at the College of the Canyons (in Santa Clarita, Calif.) that was unofficial, so I think it is possible.”
Before retiring in 2001, Canseco hammered an AL-best 42 homers in 1988 and 44 in 1991. The AL Rookie of the Year in 1986 and MVP in 1988, he was also baseball’s first 40-40 player — hitting 40 home runs and stealing 40 bases in 1988.
From Kansas City, the so-called CansecoMobile will roll on to similar appearances in Bakersfield, Calif., (Tuesday), LA (Aug. 10), New York (Aug. 16-17) and Canton, Ohio, (Aug. 24).
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