Ah baseball memories …
The walk-off homers, the game-saving double plays, standing in line on sun-baked concrete for half an hour in 100-degree heat downloading a cellphone app that is the only way you can get into the stadium.
Yep. That’s the state of the game at Kauffman Stadium circa 2022.
If you don’t have a smartphone, you simply can’t go to a Kansas City Royals game. And even if you do, it’s a pain in the part of the anatomy that gets bruised when you slide into a base feet-first.
I found this out the hard way on Saturday when I went to my first Royals game since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Silly me, I thought I’d just walk up to the ticket window, buy our tickets, and go inside and sit down, kind of the way I have since I went to my first California Angels game in 1974.
Instead, it was a hot and sweaty ordeal.
When the family and I got in line at the ticket window, we encountered a sign that said all tickets must be in the MLB Ballpark app and no paper tickets would be issued.
Forgive me for not knowing this.
While the Royals website encourages downloading the app, as far as I can tell there’s nothing at all on the site to tell you that it’s the only way in the gate.
And the ticket booth isn’t really a ticket booth anymore. It’s more like an outdoor IT help desk.
Almost everyone we were standing in line with was there because they were having trouble getting through the gate on tickets they’d already bought.
One after another, they passed their phones through a little slot in the bottom of the glass window and the people inside would do something arcane and time-consuming to get their tickets pulled up.
There were only three customers in line when we got there and it took 25 minutes for us to get to the window. The line grew substantially as the first pitch grew closer.
Meanwhile, my son went through the painstaking process of downloading the app, creating an MLB account and verifying his e-mail.
You know, fun stuff — the reason you go to a ballpark.
After we finally paid for our tickets and got them loaded into his digital wallet, it was another 15 minutes or so in line to get through the gate, largely because of people fumbling around with their phones at the entrance.
As my son put it, it’s like they’ve forgotten 100 years of experience in how to get people into a baseball game.
I called the Royals to ask why they do this to their fans. The “team communications” line was unanswered and the voicemail box was full. I tried another line, left a message and the guy who returned my call seemed to be under the impression that you could buy an actual ticket at the ticket window. He hung up when I asked for media relations.
The Chiefs do the same stuff, but I don’t really care because I haven’t been able to afford a Chiefs game since Matt Cassel.
But somehow, I always expect baseball to be more pure. Saturday’s game was a vintage-uniformed salute to the Kansas City Monarchs of the segregated Negro Leagues, and especially baseball legend Buck O’Neil, who rose from the humblest of beginnings to Monarchs stardom and eventually became the first Black coach in Major League Baseball.
But baseball tradition and culture is not the point of the Royals’ must-have app.
It’s just another tacky exercise in digital consumer tracking to sell you more stuff, and it enables the team to change ticket prices at a moment’s notice. That’s called “dynamic pricing” and the Royals’ website boasts that it “empowers fans by providing more options during their ticket purchasing process.”
George Orwell might have been proud of that line. Something tells me Buck O’Neil wouldn’t have been.