View Full Version : Kauffman ready for home opener

04-09-2009, 03:42 PM
KANSAS CITY -- We can't tell you who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the grand reopening of Kauffman Stadium on Friday afternoon. It's a secret.

But we certainly know who threw the first real pitch when then-Royals Stadium opened on April 10, 1973. It was Royals left-hander Paul Splittorff against the Texas Rangers.

"It was a strike to Davey Nelson," Splittorff recalled. "I was coming right after him."

Nelson bounced back to Splittorff to start a 1-2-3 inning, the Royals scored four runs in their half of the first and were on their way to a 12-1 victory in front of 39,464 fans, a gleeful inaugural.

"There was so much energy, I don't think anybody realized the temperature. It was cold and raw," Splittorff said. "But it was so festive, I don't think anybody cared."

That's the kind of day the Royals envision on Friday, when they celebrate the gala reopening of their stadium after a $250-million renovation that was completed in two years. Festive, that is, without the cold weather. The forecast calls for a high of 57 degrees with the chance of rain.

The gates will open for fans at 11:30 a.m. CT to give folks a chance to look around. The game time stands as 3:10 p.m. (although it will actually be a bit later) with the hope that the fans will be settled in their seats by then to find out what surprises are in store in the pregame ceremonies.

Not even the identity of the National Anthem performer has been revealed; we just know it'll be someone from the world of jazz, appropriate given Kansas City's jazz tradition. It will be accompanied by a jet flyover from Whiteman Air Force Base.

The first-pitch ceremony is sure to encompass some of the Royals' history in the stadium, but just who will be tossing the ceremonial first pitch remains a secret.

"It's a special ceremony that you won't want to miss that will have some highlights to it," said Don Costante, senior director of event presentation and production for the Royals.

There are two special events scheduled earlier in the day.

At 11 a.m. at Gate D, the official ribbon-cutting for the "new" Kauffman Stadium will be open to the public. Royals owner David Glass and club president Dan Glass will head a plethora of dignitaries at the event.

At 1 p.m. near the right-field fountains in the Outfield Experience area, a new statue of World Series championship manager Dick Howser will be unveiled. It will be alongside the relocated statues of George Brett and Frank White, who will attend the ceremony.

All fans at the game will receive a 2009 magnetic Royals schedule.

The new seating capacity at Kauffman is 38,177, down from the 40,775 before renovation. The game is a sellout and officials are urging fans to allow plenty of time to savor the new surroundings and the special occasion.

"Get there early," Costante said. "We're going to have magicians, balloon artists, caricature painters, face painters, air brush and a couple of live bands performing, all intertwined with the ribbon-cutting and the Howser unveiling. It's going to be a very festive atmosphere. It's going to be an historic day. The reopening of the new K."

The first opening was historic, too, of course.

"We got the lead, the first run, the first home run -- I mean everything worked out great," Splittorff said. "Big time in Kansas City -- new airport, Crown Center, the Chiefs had already opened there. It was called Prime Time in Kansas City. There were big events all over."

Amos Otis had the first hit, a bunt single that loaded the bases in that big first inning. Fred Patek scored the first run. Later, in the fifth inning, big John Mayberry clouted the first home run. It went to the right-field fountains, he recalled, which were not yet operating.

As a side note, the Rangers' manager was Whitey Herzog, who lived near the ballpark in Independence and was still a couple of years away from becoming the Royals' skipper.

"Whitey got thrown out," Splittorff recalled. "He was just ticked. I think he had a bunch of friends from Independence and he just wanted to go home early. They were down about 7-0 early. He got thrown out of his first game there and his last game there."

The latter, of course, came in the seventh game of the 1985 World Series when Herzog's Cardinals were trumped by the Royals in the stadium's biggest moment.

The second phase of creating big moments at the stadium begins on Friday.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

04-09-2009, 03:46 PM
Friday, April 10 Tickets Kauffman Stadium | 3:10 PM CT
NYY Andy Pettitte, LHP (0-0, -.--)
Yankees (0-2) @ KC Sidney Ponson, RHP (0-0, -.--)
Royals (1-1)

Scouting Report:
Yankees: Returning to the Yankees on an incentive-based one-year contract, Pettitte will make his first start of the year as the Yankees open a three-game series with the Royals. Pettitte led the Yankees with 204 innings pitched last year, grinding through late-season weakness in his pitching shoulder as the club tried in vain to secure a playoff spot. Pettitte's 215 victories are the third-most in the Majors since he debuted in 1995, trailing Mike Mussina and Greg Maddux. Pettitte was 1-0 with a 6.20 ERA in three starts against Kansas City last year and 12-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 22 games (20 starts) in his career.

Royals: Ponson jumped into the limelight along with Team Netherlands as the Dutch twice stunned the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. K.C. scouts liked what they saw from Ponson and signed him to a Minor League deal. He reeled off a stirring five innings in a Triple-A game. In two Cactus League outings, his numbers weren't good but he snared the No. 4 job. He is 90-106 in his big-league career.