For Pete's Sake

Retired beekeeper saves day as bees delay Royals spring-training game

Here’s a coincidence: On March 8, 2015, the Royals’ spring-training game against the Angels in Tempe, Ariz., was briefly delayed because of a swarm of bees.

Exactly one year later, on Tuesday, there were bees at the Royals’ spring-training game against the Colorado Rockies at Surprise Stadium.

So should we assume that March 8 is Royals Spring Training Bee Day?

Naturally, The Star’s John Sleezer got some great pictures of the swarm.

Last year, Royals manager Ned Yost voiced his displeasure when the swarm of bees was exterminated. Yost called the incident a “mass bee genocide.”

“They’re just honey bees, man,” Yost said. “There’s a decline in honey bees. We need ’em.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Royals’ game was once again interrupted by bees. In the early innings they swarmed outside the Royals’ dugout near an open blue bag. The Royals’ coaching staff took cover in the dugout while at least two rows of fans adjacent to the dugout were forced to move.

The swarm threatened to delay the game, but Lowell Hutchison, a retired beekeeper from St. Joseph, came out of the stands assisted with the bee removal.

“I told (vice president of communications Mike Swanson), we ain’t killing those bees,” Yost said after the game, a 3-2 Royals win. “We better figure something out. But we’re not killing those bees. Luckily, we had a beekeeper from St. Joe, I told Swanny, ‘Just get a bag.’

“They had already devised that plan by the time I called them over. Just get a plastic bag, take ’em out and let them go.

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“There’s not enough bees in the world, boys. We can’t be exterminating them. I’m telling you, they are dwindling, and they’re so important to our environment, because they pollinate everything. It doesn’t make any sense for me to panic and kill bees.”

Hutchison agreed.

“Everybody was batting at them, and I was trying to tell them not to bother them and you’ll be fine,” Hutchison said later in a phone interview. “But there were a lot of them, I guess.”

Hutchison, 71, had received the spring-training tickets from his kids as a Christmas present. Of all the games for him to attend.

And you’ve seen movies where a person takes ill and people yell: “Is there a doctor in the house?” Well, things didn’t quite work out that way, but the beekeeper still was the hero. Hutchison told a police officer of his profession and that he might be of assistance.

“I happened to be sitting right behind home plate, and they settled just to my left. … It was like a small tornado, and it gets smaller and smaller as they settle down,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison offered to scoop up the bees and walk them out of the ballpark, but a stadium worker thought it would be better to put them in a large garbage bag. The bag was taken to an open area, and the bees were released.

“The best part was, I got to shake Ned Yost’s hand on the way down,” Hutchison said. “No dead bees, and everyone is happy.”

The crowd roared its approval. And nobody was stung.

“They won't mess with you,” Yost said. “Just don’t mess with them. Kind of like the Royals. Don’t mess with us, we won’t mess with you.”

Here are some other scenes or comments that people shared about the bees at Tuesday’s game:

Were you thinking the same thing that I was? Bees on March 8 later resulted in a World Series title. Could that be the Royals’ good-luck charm?

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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