Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cole Hamels for a day

I wanted to share  one of my favorite baseball experiences, which occurred a few years ago:

When Bud Selig announced that Kansas City would host the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, I was super excited. At the time, I was working on my PhD at the University of Iowa collecting data for my dissertation. I was also a research assistant for the Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, a position that luckily afforded me the opportunity to generally make my own work schedule.

This was advantageous because I knew I wanted to attend anything I could related to the All-Star game. I recognized that I would probably not be able to afford tickets (except possibly for the MLB Futures game where top baseball prospects get their first chance at the spotlight), but I noticed a call for volunteers to help with preparing for the game. That sounded awesome, so I signed up and made the first cut to get an interview.

Interviews for potential volunteers were held at Kauffman Stadium about 6 weeks before the All-Star game. Initially, everyone sat in the seats behind 3rd base and listened to several MLB and Royals staff members discuss exciting things about the All-Star game festivities. Then we lined up for the interviews, which were held in the Diamond Club behind home plate. **Check out the Diamond Club link - it is truly beautiful and amazing.** The purpose of the interviews was to determine what role volunteers would be best suited for. My interview was short. I was queried about why I wanted to be a part of the festivities, what my experiences working with children were, and what my availability was during the week of the All-Star game.

I was informed a few weeks later that I was selected to be a player stand-in so that stadium staff could practice the timing of player introductions and the national anthem, etc. I was only available to practice this for one day, but it was awesome. I arrived at the stadium in the Royal blue All-Star game polo shirt that volunteers were given. We were given name tags of the player we would represent (I was given Cole Hamels, which was pretty cool), then brought out onto the field. This was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I had never set foot on Kauffman Stadium's hallowed grass, which had always been a dream of mine. Of course, those dreams usually involved me starring as a taller version of Freddie Patek, but I will take what I can get. I took as many pictures as I could of the field and dugout, but the real treat came when we found out that to practice the actual player introductions, a cameraman was brought out to film us and we would get on the Majestic Jumbotron, which has been a symbol of beauty (and crappy baseball) for my entire life. I had also never really been on a jumbotron and I wanted to capture the moment. After some quick planning, I realized that I would have a second or two to take a picture of myself while the cameraman panned the camera on me as I pretended to be Cole Hamels and wave to the imaginary crowd. As he neared me, my heart started racing and I got my camera ready. I knew I would only have one chance at a perfect picture and I did not want to waste it.

When the announcer called Cole Hamels' name, I stepped forward, smiled into the camera, my heart almost beating out of my chest, and snapped a picture towards the jumbotron. The picture is below. I was surprised that it came out.

In addition, I had a friend who was on the video staff for the Royals, who just so happened to be there that night. He saw me take a picture of myself on the jumbotron, and was able to send me a clip of the video from the camera. I have also posted that below.

Pretty cool story, huh? What's your favorite Royals or baseball memory?