Off Season

There was an auction to sell off bits and pieces of Rosenblatt Stadium. Bidding started online a week before the live auction at the ballpark itself. There were very few online bids, so I took Michael to the event, thinking it might be neat to have something like this small lighted concessions menu sign to put on my basement wall.

But the prices at the live auction quickly went out of my price range. I seemed to only have one semi-decent photo of my boy and his dad at the Rosenblatt Stadium, so I had also been watching for the sign in the background behind my head. Meanwhile, Michael wanted something more fun and outrageous...

So... Since I already have a seat tag that Michael vandalized so I could keep it, and I already have some authenticated dirt, I decided I didn't need to put any of those other expensive things on my credit card. Instead— I bought a brick.

I told Michael that if I knew the right magic spell, I could plant my authentic Rosenblatt brick in the authentic Rosenblatt dirt, and grow a new stadium. I just don't know where we'd keep it.

Then, on a cold, rainy night in November, 2010, we were invited to a Big Event at a fancy hotel ballroom, where the Omaha Royals management would announce the results of the "Name the Team Contest". I had placed seventy votes to keep the name Royals. For the next five months, everybody I asked said that was their choice, too. Yet, the most telling statements regarding the results came from an article on the Omaha World-Herald's website:

The front office started work on a new name 18 months ago...
Omaha hired Plan B. Branding to help identify a new nickname...
The target audience is not baseball purists... The target audience is a young family of five with cash to burn on T-shirts and hats.
When the lights went out and "Omaha Storm Chasers" appeared on the big screen, fans cheered as if they'd witnessed a walk-off home run.

I beg to differ with that last statement. Fans didn't cheer. Trained sheep, raised on late-night talk shows, cheered. They've been taught that when you happily yell something at them, they should cheer. Royals fans were dismayed. Michael cried. He started to feel a little better after he saw a familiar face.

Another World-Herald article reported:

If you haven't read the stories or the extremely negative online reviews, the two new mascots are named Stormy and Vortex. Stormy is a green creature with a Slinky for a nose (representing a tornado, perhaps?). Vortex is a squishy tornado with a bat jammed through his body, presumably by an ex fan of the team.

I forced Michael to fake it and play nice with the "new guys"... even though I was completely disheartened.

The day after this Big Event, I was listening to KFAB news radio. Host Scott Voorhees was discussing the Royals' name change, so I sent him an e-mail. After a few minutes, he mentioned that he was going to read this e-mail, so I called everyone I knew (which was Jennifer), and told her to listen. After trying to drum up money for the local Homeless Shelter's drive for food, forty-five minutes later he was back on topic and, piece by piece, read my e-mail on the air, in its entirety. I had hastily written:

My family & I went to the Big Event last night, and when the announcement was made, my 7-yr-old son started crying.

I told my son that it was because everybody already HAS a bunch of Royals stuff, and they want us to buy a whole bunch of NEW stuff, and they don't want to pay any royalties to Kansas City. It's all about the fans... or at least their wallets-- ticket prices are going up next year, too.

Speaking of money, I'm wondering how much the franchise paid this Plan B Branding company to come up with the logos and mascots? The lions were cool, I'm not so enthusiastic about a fat green Philly phanatic, or the grey plastic pile of poo.

I also wonder-- What were the actual results of the fan voting? Your poll said 58 percent said we should keep the Royals? The fan vote currently on KETV.com shows 83 percent want the Royals name back!

They say this will help get kids interested in weather and science and stuff. Are these minor-league ball players going to be visiting schools, giving talks to get kids interested in meteorology?

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing... but here are just sad faces
For there is no joy in Mudville... the Royals are now Storm— Chases.

To the tune of Billy, Don't be a Hero by Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods

The mascots waddled out onto stage now
Herman and Spike were left behind.
And in the ballroom, sat my son Michael,
patiently waiting announcement time.
And next to him my wife and I worried,
hoping tradition wouldn't die
But Plan B said they'd now be Storm Chasers,
the name change vote was just a lie...
We sighed...

Michael won't be a Chaser
He doesn't like the new name
Michael, always a Royal
cried when they told him it changed
And as we reeled from the blow
we never felt quite that low, oh, oh
Michael won't be a Chaser
They have no soul.

Omaha's team would play out at Werner,
where ground was broke one summer day.
Even then we thought they'd be Royals
We'd be crammed in, to watch them play.
But when they said there WERE no more Royals,
some no-name team, some nowhere park
We knew they'd sold out all of their meaning
It broke my little Michael's heart...

Michael won't be a Chaser
Greed is the name of that game
Michael, always a Royal
cried when they told him it changed
And as we started to go
I said, "Mike, they just want more dough, oh, oh
Michael, don't be a Chaser
They have no soul."

I saw my little boy got a postcard,
A happy card for his birthday...
The letter said that he's number one now,
Signed by the Chasers on Ballpark Way.
I think he threw that postcard...

Michael won't be a Chaser
Greed is the name of that game
Michael won't be a Chaser,
They've got no soul.

The Omaha baseball team's management held an Open House to show off the new ballpark in January of 2011. After all the good times Michael and I had enjoyed, watching the Royals at Rosenblatt, I felt this was the complete antithesis of that. It was a dismal day. I couldn't help thinking that it was as cold as their hearts. And as empty as their promises.

Turns out I was completely wrong...

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