The 75-year-old man with thinning salt and pepper on top drives the same gold Ford Five Hundred past the same parking lot attendant and pulls into the same spot as the year before and the year before that and the year before and, well, you get the idea.
Denny Matthews steps out of his car in a navy blazer with gold buttons and a blue tie for his 50th opening day broadcasting the Royals on Thursday morning. He said he'd be here at 10:50. His gold watch reads 10:49. He's nothing if not dependable.
"We ready?" he said, smiling.
Matthews is the franchise's last remaining original employee. He predates everyone, and everything. His career is older than every Royals player, some of the coaches, a few of his broadcast partners, and Kauffman Stadium itself.
The team has raided his basement for old audio reels used in its Hall of Fame. He was the first person to say "Royals Win" on air, when Joe Keough singled over Tony Oliva's head in the 12th inning of the franchise opener.
The Royals are selling their history hard in this golden anniversary season. Promotions, giveaways, celebrations, the whole bit. The players wear a 50th-season logo on their left sleeves. Matthews, as much as anyone else, is that history.
He can tell the story of Muriel talking husband Ewing Kauffman into buying the team, because the doctor said Mr. K needed a hobby. He can tell you why Cedric Tallis liked to trade with National League teams, how Whitey Herzog taught a talented bunch how to win, and about how Tony Muser used to go off the second Matthews stopped recording the manager's show.
Matthews wears the club's 1985 championship ring, because it's smaller and more comfortable than the 2015 model. He only switched from a flip phone a couple months ago. He's a perfect proxy for this history.
His dad bought him a briefcase when he got the job, and Matthews has never taken anything else into a ballpark. There's a scratch on one side, where former Star sports editor Joe McGuff threw a typewriter onto it in the trunk of a cab in Detroit.
Inside the briefcase are copies of the same blank scorecard he's used for five decades, the same pair of sunglasses he bought in college, a solar-powered calculator, and a United States map he took from a flight early in his career.
Over the years, Matthews has broadcast all 864 men who've played for the Royals in 51 ballparks in 30 cities for two ownerships (plus a board of directors), six general managers, 19 managers (including interims), and generations of fans. Somewhere in Kansas City, a little girl listens to the same voice on the radio as her great-grandfather.
Back in the parking lot, Matthews slides into a golf cart for the short ride from the players' lot to the stadium. He's told that he must have called around 4,000 games in Kansas City alone. His face freezes, a momentary look of shock, and then comes the reaction you'd probably expect from a man who's seen it all.
"I hope I'm starting to get the hang of it by now," he said.
'Stay as long as you want'
Denny Matthews is asking what he should do with his blazer. Button? No button? He's never sure what to do when he's standing up, and he's due on the field in a few moments to speak to the crowd.
Then Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield walks by, grabs him by the shoulders, and this advice is better than anything about buttons.
"Shoulders out," Merrifield said. "Like this."
The second baseman with a Southern swagger puffs his chest a bit, makes fists and a mean face, and Matthews is in on the joke as he mimics the look.
"That's right," Merrifield said. "Look a little more broad. More beef."
They scheduled Matthews for 2 minutes, but as he's told three or four people already, how do you put 50 years into 2 minutes? Julia Irene Kauffman, the daughter of Ewing and Muriel and a member of the club's board of directors, came up to the broadcast level to ride down the elevator with Matthews. She told him to take as long as he'd like.
"I'd like to mention your mother when I'm out there," Matthews said. "Do you mind?"
"Oh my gosh, of course not," Kauffman said. "She would love that."
A highlight video of the Royals' history plays, from Lou Piniella's Rookie of the Year season in 1969 to high-def shots of Sal Perez and Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. When they get to Eric Hosmer's dash home in the World Series at Citi Field, all you see is the slide, not the throw by Lucas Duda — then with the Mets, now the Royals — and a team employee nods.
"Good editing," he said. "Good editing."
Then it's Matthews' turn, and he talks about the owners and the managers and the players and a special mention for Game 3 of the 1985 American League Championship Series, when George Brett went 4-for-4 with a double, two homers and a spectacular play at third that cut down Damaso Garcia at the plate.
Matthews is something like a clearinghouse for these things, and he calls that the most important game in franchise history — "without that, we don't see the Cardinals in the World Series, no way," he said.
The 1977 team is the franchise's best — this is near unanimous from anyone old enough to remember that far back, by the way — and Willie Wilson and Frank White are tied as the second-best player in team history. These are Matthews' opinions, and he's better positioned than perhaps anyone else.
He is colorblind — shades of red, green and brown give him trouble — but Matthews has, quite literally, seen it all for the Royals. He came close to leaving the team twice. The first time was after his third season, when the White Sox called and offered the job in Chicago. The second was in the 1980s, when KMOX in St. Louis wanted him to call the Cardinals, which Matthews admitted "was my dream job as a kid."
He would've thought harder about that one, but the timing was off. He'd just signed a contract and, besides, he'd grown happy and comfortable here. He used to take a right-hand turn out of the broadcast booth and walk down the hall to the owner's suite to catch a few innings.
Ewing Kauffman really liked Matthews, and Matthews was in awe of Kauffman. They never talked baseball during games. Usually business, or life, Kauffman relaxed and often smoking a cigar.
"You think it over," Matthews remembered Kauffman saying after the White Sox called. "But I really like how you do the games, and you have my word that you can stay here as long as you want."
That was 47 years ago.
At home in the booth
The final minutes of a 14-7 Royals loss to the White Sox are exactly as awful as that football score implies. The game will stretch 3 hours and 26 minutes, with 14 different pitchers used, and it is no secret that Matthews has a, um, distaste for long games.
"The way he's going about it, safe to say, is 'semi-interested,'" Matthews says in the ninth inning about White Sox reliever Juan Minaya.
Pitching changes have a sponsor, because in professional sports everything has a sponsor, and Matthews has started to joke along with it.
"Here's today's trivia question," he says during the ninth. "This call to the bullpen is sponsored by ... who?"
They break for commercial, and off air Matthews is told the new White Sox pitcher is Aaron Bummer.
"That's appropriate," Matthews says.
It's all done with enough of a twinkle that you know he isn't just complaining, but also with a tone that lets you know he isn't just kidding around, either.
Broadcast partner Ryan Lefebvre is asked his favorite Matthews calls, and the three that come to mind are illustrative.
1. On the infamous Chip Ambres play, which keyed loss No. 12 of what turned out to be a 19-game losing streak in 2005: "Fly ball left field, Ambres is there ... and he dropped it. Yes, he did. He was right there, and he dropped it. Two runs will score and it's tied."
2. The day after a long game with a small strike zone, Matthews called the first pitch: "Right down the middle for a ball, and here we go again."
3. After a completely naked streaker was escorted off the field: "Ryan, I must say you described what happened with great skill. But, if I could add just one detail, now that it's all said and done: Folks, it was no big deal."
On Thursday, the final out, mercifully, comes on a fly ball to right, and after the postgame segment Matthews packs up his briefcase — mail, scorecard, media guides, notes, pens, glasses, then finally the binoculars — and he's out of the booth and one floor up. This is what he calls his routine.
He jokes with Kathy Butler, a switchboard operator, and then waits out the crowd from a fifth-floor conference room. The key is to watch the line of cars going toward Gate 6. When it thins, Matthews knows he can hit the bathroom and walk to his car and have an easy 20-minute drive home. This time, the magic moment comes quicker than most. Matthews claps in mock-ish celebration.
"We deserve it after that game," he said.
The walk from the door to his car is maybe 200 yards, and he's stopped three times by fans — a middle-aged man with a flag to sign, a little girl who asks for a selfie, and a boy who asks Matthews to sign a ball.
Then, he gets to his car, and a parking lot attendant mentions a book he'd like Matthews' autograph on.
"I've been reading a lot about Royals history," the man said. "And your name is plastered throughout all of it."
Matthews smiles, makes a joke, and says of course he'll sign. By his own estimation he's a private and somewhat shy man, so this part of the job doesn't come naturally, but by now it's a comfortable enough part of his life. He gets in the Five Hundred — immaculate inside, with towels on the dash board — and exhales.
A good day, he says. He saw so many old friends, gave what he thought was a good speech on the field, and called a baseball game. Wasn't his type of game, but if nothing else the 1990s and 2000s taught him not to judge the quality of his day by the quality of his game.
Besides, he'll be back in 48 hours. Another chance to see his friends, make some jokes, and maybe watch a better game.