The odds were not in Debbie Hassed’s favor.
It had been nine years since the Royals hit a grand slam in the sixth inning. In fact, every major league team had hit at least one grand slam in the sixth since the Royals last managed it.
But on Thursday, Hassed had a lot riding on the sixth: If a Royals player did hit a grand slam, the Overland Park woman would be $25,000 richer, thanks to a contest sponsored by Sonic Drive-In.
Hassed, her husband and 13-year-old son watched the game on television as Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez walked the first two batters. She shouted for her son to run and get “Lucky,” a stuffed dog her father won decades ago. She held onto it as a good-luck charm. The family waited for the next play on the edge of their seats.
Mike Moustakas hit the ball in what Hassed feared would end with a double play, but he made it to first on an error. With the bases loaded, Lorenzo Cain walked up to the plate.
“I heard the crack of the bat, and my husband was like, ‘That’s it! That’s it!’” Hassed said. “I saw that ball go over the fence, and I just went crazy. The phone started ringing, and the texts started coming in.”
And when George Kottaras, the next batter, hit a home run, it was another $100 for her.
Hassed has loyally put her name in for the contest about once a season for the past few years. This season, she picked up an entry form when she and her son were at a Sonic after one of his baseball games. There’s a better chance of getting picked if you enter the contest earlier in the season, she thought.
When Royals employees called her earlier this week to tell her she’d been selected as the contestant for Thursday’s game, the lifelong Royals fan and her husband even debated attending the game, but they decided to watch it from home instead.
The Royals held a check presentation ceremony for Hassed before Friday night’s game. The actual money should come in a few weeks.
For now, though, she’s just savoring the moment and hasn’t made any plans for how to spend it, despite the onslaught of suggestions people have been giving her.
“I just want to think about it for a while and not blow it all at one time,” she said.
Sonic partners with two other franchises for its promotion, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. But according to statistics from MLB.com, those teams had hit sixth-inning grand slams much more recently: the Astros in 2009 and the Rangers in 2008.