There’s a reason people have an attachment to older stadiums from their youth. They can be the anchor for many living memories, and standing next to those same stone pillars or painted seats can take one back to an earlier time. In a world where things are constantly changing, where the next version of the iPhone is out months later, where the corner store changes hands many times over, or a new business development pops up seemingly overnight in an empty field, well, having that constant can be comforting.
I have been to Kauffman Stadium countless times in the last 29 years. I have walked up to the gates, sat in the half-full crowds, taken the kids for the walk around the outfield concourse. Last night, though, was different. I walked the stadium as part of the World Series Gala event, going down to the field to walk the track, sit in the dugout, and take in the feel from the field.
The feel is different than you might even realize while watching a game from the crowd, let alone on the television. That catch by Moustakas in the ALCS? Yeah, it was impressive on TV. You don’t realize, though, just how brave that was in the moment, until you look down at the now empty location where the dive over the rail occurred.
It wouldn’t be just a tumble, over a railing, into fan seating near the dugout. If not caught by fans, that play could have led to serious injury. It’s a deep well where fans, standing on the ground, are barely above ground level with their heads, and the railing is higher than that.
Or take the outfield fence. Leaps at the fence for a catch look stunning visually anyway. I’m not short. I won’t be confused with a high riser at age 40, but I can still (barely) catch rim on a basketball goal. I had to re-enact a leaping attempt at the fence while I was on the field, and I barely got my hand to the top of the fence in front of the right field bullpen. If there is a leaping catch over the fence in tonight’s game, well, that’s a pretty incredible jump just to get there.
By the time we made our way back up to leave, the field portion of the stadium was mostly empty. As my wife and I walked back up the stairs behind home plate to the main concourse, I had a moment. “What a Wonderful World” was playing on the stadium speakers. I looked back at the field with the World Series banners, looked across at the familiar crown scoreboard, felt the cool October air, and went back to 1985.
I can’t go back and see my childhood home where my dad used to play wiffle ball in the backyard growing up. It’s been long torn down and turned into an adjacent playground for the school next door. Most of the landmarks of my youth are gone. But for a moment, I felt an old familiar feeling.
Baseball has a lot of imagery with fathers and sons. Just Friday, we ran a silly story about a Royals fan offering to get players’ tattoos on his butt in order to get a pair of tickets for the game. But buried in the clickiness of that offering was this explanation of why, that only makes sense when viewed through the lens of the father and son. “Because it’s the World Series. I’ve been waiting 29 years. I need to go with my dad.”
I know the feeling. And for a brief moment, I felt it.
[photos via USA Today Sports Images and lisk5]