Set aside the bizarre ticket prices. Forget that cajillions of eyeballs around the globe were focused on the happenings on the field.
There were other things about the World Series that gave Kauffman Stadium a different vibe this week.
To call the ballpark even by its nickname seemed a bit, well, off these first two games. Because the K didn’t look or feel like the K fans normally experience on a school night in September or even a packed weekend series in summer.
Between the media swarms, carnival scene in the parking lot and the activity in the stands, here’s what told you the World Series was on at the old ballpark:
Meet Roy Gnome
Royals fans are forever having their pictures taken next to the bronze statues of former Royals greats George Brett, Frank White and 1985 World Series manager Dick Howser.
But only at the 2014 Series could you get a selfie with Andy, the nearly 10-foot tall Royals garden gnome.
“It just came out of nowhere,” joked Stephen Feilbach, who admitted to carving the 100-pound figurine out of styrofoam and hauling him from his home near Jefferson City.
Andy is one of 10 gnomes Feilbach has birthed at his studio, although the others he carved out of wood, with a chainsaw, as part of his Gnome Nation project on Facebook.
The goal: “To help release gnomes so that they may roam free again.”
Only Andy wasn’t going anywhere. He stayed for both games, out in a parking lot.
Guys in recliners
With ticket prices so high, Kevin Lawson of Sweet Springs, Mo., and Joe Biddle of Shawnee were not about to empty their retirement accounts to attend the first World Series here in 29 years.
Yet, they weren’t about to miss out on the excitement. So they hauled two roomy recliners to the parking lot and set up a 52-inch TV in the back of an SUV to watch the game.
Which is not all that uncommon of a sight during a Chiefs game, but when Royals tickets can be had for as low as $7 during the regular season, why would anyone bother, Biddle said, except during the World Series.
“Besides, the beer out here is a lot cheaper,” he said. “Unless someone gives us a ticket, we’re not going in.”
People watching the games on TV might have wondered who was that guy wearing the moose antlers whenever “Moose” (Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas) came to bat. And how in the heck did he get those big pointy things into the stadium, because they looked sort of dangerous.
We ran into the moose man Wednesday as he made his way to his seat, antlers at the ready.
“We got them at Cabella's,” said Craig Rookstool, a season ticket holder from Lee's Summit. “They're plastic.”
All the same, he had to get permission from fan services to bring them in, Rookstool said.
Not even a presidential visit brings out the national media the way a World Series does. The many antennae jutting out of the fleet of TV live trucks in parking Lot B looked like a pine forest after the bark beetles had their fill.
Inside the stadium, they swarmed the field during batting practice. As fans filed in two and a half hours before first pitch, there were easily more reporters, photographers and various TV crew folks crowded around the cages than both teams combined.
The Royals front office said some 1,400 members of the media were issued credentials for the games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Consider that at any game during the regular season, maybe few dozen media types might show up.
Need we say more? They were everywhere outside the stadium, and people were buying up tickets at crazy prices nearing $1,000 for nosebleed seats when two weeks before the playoffs a seat near home plate was going for $20 on StubHub.
Gone were those generic “Go Royals” rally towels the team was handing out before and during the playoffs.
Many of those keepsakes wound up on the pavement after the game. After all, how many does a fan need for their gym bag?
But because “World Series” was printed on the ones distributed to fans as they arrived this week, their value rose.
Nary a one was discarded by mid-game Wednesday.
Same went for the World Series soda cups.
There was a time when those who wore Royals caps and shirts were mocked for their futile devotion.
Now that blue team gear is the height of fashion, the Royals set up a special white tent outside the stadium’s main team store to handle the overflow crowd.
Something was missing
What was it? It just felt like something was missing at Wednesday’s World Series game, and it wasn’t the Royals fan from South Korea.
(That guy’s everywhere.)
No, gone were two staples of most Royals games, we realized.
No Kiss Cam! And no race of the condiments!
Mustard, Ketchup and Relish tore down the field earlier in the postseason, but for them it was no dice during the Fall Classic.
Men in suits
MLB does, indeed, run the Series. Corporate sponsors are awarded with tickets handed out all over the country.
Meaning, not necessarily Royals fans.
So it seemed like there was definitely a more business-like crowd in the suites and some of the pricier sections of the stadium where the high rollers from out of town dwelled.
But by the look — and sound — of the place, true-blue Royals fans appeared to occupy most of the house.
Always, the chants of “Let’s Go, Royals” were a reminder that, World Series or not, this could be nowhere else but Kauffman Stadium.
To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.