I've been meaning to write about this for months now, but since it's Spring Training and I've been looking for something different to post, I figured I'd share a funny story about my favorite personal baseball memory of 2008.
It was September 9, and my youngest brother Evan had scored some incredible front-row seats -- basically right on top of Kansas City's dugout -- for the Royals-Twins game at the Metrodome. The tickets were my birthday present from Evan and his wife, and you really can't give a die-hard Royals fan like myself a better gift than that.
The seats were amazing! I mean, we could lean forward, and look down at the Royals' players milling about in the dugout. Attending the game were myself, Evan, and two of our friends -- Mike and Scott -- and our first comments when we all got to our seats were something about being worried whether we could safely drink beer and sit in such close-range line-drive territory. Yes, we were in a potentially dangerous spot, and all of us had seen people nailed by shots off bats before.
Needless to say, though, the threat of being clocked by a foul ball didn't stop us from indulging in a beer or three...or four. Let's just say we were feeling pretty good, and I wasn't even too bothered by the fact that Kansas City was on its way to a 7-2 loss that night in an awful game for Brian Bannister.
Ryan Shealy was playing first base for the Royals, and between Scott and myself, we collected a total of five baseballs from Shealy as he walked back to the dugout in between innings! I kept the one I got, and Scott gave the rest away to the little kids who quickly learned of his generosity. But that isn't even my favorite part of the evening.
Late in the game, and still feeling good from the close-to-excessive beverages we drank, Evan decided it'd be funny to take something and "accidentally" drop it onto the steps of the dugout below. We weren't dumb -- though, that can be argued -- and so we started thinking about things that a person wouldn't usually drop on purpose.
The first suggestion was to take his credit cards and most of his cash out of his wallet, and drop that, but he didn't like that idea. So then it moved to a discussion about cash, and we wanted to see whether the Royals would give it back, or if we could perhaps get something else back in exchange. But the idea was still that we were going to try to make it seem like it had been an "accidental drop."
So, after coming to the conclusion that a $20 bill was the right amount, Evan did the deed, and casually dropped the money. It slowly fell to a spot on the steps, right by the Gatorade, the gum, and the sunflower seeds. We watched for what seemed like ages -- probably about 30 seconds -- before an unidentified member of the Royals finally snuck up, grabbed the bill, folded it in half the long way, and teased us by holding it out and running off to the end of the dugout.
Just like that, we thought our experiment had ended with a disappointing result. But Mark Teahen, who was playing third base that night, came over before he went out to the field, grabbed a bag of ranch-flavored sunflower seeds, and tossed them up to me. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Sure, it was a small bag of what were now $20 sunflower seeds, but it was something, and Evan laughed at it. It was a fun story to tell friends and family.
A few weeks later, in the final regular season game of the year at the Metrodome, the Royals were back in town. Before the game, I went down to a spot above the Royals' dugout during batting practice and got some autographs on the ball I had gotten from Shealy earlier that month.
One of the players who signed for me was Mark Teahen, and I chatted with him for a minute, quickly recounting the story and asking him whether he knew who it was who ended up with my brother's $20. He laughed at the account, and claimed that he had no idea who got the money. My guess is that it was a batboy or something, but we'll never know for sure.
But, as Teahen moved back out to the field for more pregame drills, he tossed me another bag of ranch-flavored sunflower seeds and smiled. I think he knows the answer to my question.