Kauffman Stadium one of Majors' hidden gems

Kauffman Stadium one of Majors' hidden gems

Kauffman Stadium one of Majors' hidden gems
Having been lucky enough to travel to and work in all 30 Major League ballparks, in addition to a number that are no longer standing, I'm often asked to choose a favorite.

It takes a politician's tact to size up an audience quickly enough to produce an honest answer without starting an argument, and mine usually goes like this:

"Safeco Field in Seattle is great. So is Coors Field in Denver ... and I love Petco Park in San Diego. No place can match Fenway and Wrigley for history, and the views at PNC in Pittsburgh and AT&T in San Francisco are unmatched. But I really like Kauffman Stadium."

Kauffman Stadium? Outside of a Nolan Ryan no-hitter and the 1985 World Series, it's tough to think of signature moments there. KC hasn't exactly been the top-of-mind backdrop for Cooperstown-worthy events. Heck, even the George Brett pine tar game happened in New York. So it is that explaining my affinity for "The K" is akin to defending the virtues of a really good meatloaf, or rationalizing why you still listen to the Beach Boys: I just like it.

The park's signature feature is the "Water Spectacular" behind the right-field fence. (Even the Midwest is given to a little Siegfried and Roy-like pizzazz every now and then.) At 322 feet, it is the largest privately funded fountain in the world, and even in this "wow factor" era of giant scoreboards and video screens, the fountains still manage to grab us and make us smile.

But beyond the waterworks, great sightlines and easy feel, part of Kauffman Stadium's appeal is that it thrives despite being crafted in an era of ballpark construction that is looked back upon with regret -- a time when the term "multi-use" invaded our lexicon and when artificial turf and concrete got more consideration than bluegrass and brick.

Kauffman Stadium, or Royals Stadium as it was known back then, opened on April 10, 1973, and stands as that rare modern design that has outlasted its now-extinct contemporaries in Pittsburgh (Three Rivers), Cincinnati (Riverfront) and Philadelphia (Veterans), among other places.

Sure it's easy to enjoy a ballpark as a fan -- after all, you're there on leisure time. But Kauffman Stadium's intuitive layout makes it a favorite among people who work there, the writers and broadcasters, ushers and concessionaires, as well.

Among players, "The K" has received high marks for its batters-eye background and brilliantly manicured playing surface -- one that markedly improved when the synthetic stuff was ditched for real grass in '95. A decade later, another round of changes led to expanded concourses and new outfield seating. As the saying goes, even the Taj Mahal needs a new coat of paint every once in a while.

The Royals' home of nearly 40 years may not have the dramatic views of a fabled skyline, nor has it been romanticized in prose in the way of Wrigley's Ivy or Fenway's Monster. But for my money, the site of this year's All-Star Game may just be the best ballpark too few people in baseball talk about.

Matt Vasgersian is a host on MLB Network and can be seen regularly on MLB Tonight. This article appears in MLB Insiders Club Magazine, vol. 5, issue 4. To subscribe and join the Club, click here: mlbinsidersclub.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.