Dinner and a movie. Movie and a drink. Festival and an ice cream. Blah, blah, blah.
Say hey, dating couples. With the Royals’ prospects looking legitimately up for the first time in forever, this might be the year to rank a date at the K high on the summer repertoire.
A sporting-event date in general has its naysayers, of course: Too much hassle. Too pricey. Not enough “us” time.
Don’t believe the naysayers, say the advocates of baseball dating. Of all the big-time sports, baseball is particularly well-suited for dating, especially for those in the early stages. And Kauffman Stadium is nicely appointed for couples.
The logistics of a baseball date can beat many of the aspects of a dinner date, a movie date, a concert date, even a date at another sporting event, says Melissa Braverman, the dating blogger of singlegalnyc.com.
Daters can benefit from baseball’s slower pace, interrupted by moments of excitement. That leaves room for conversation, but not the wide spaces during a dinner out, which can be an overabundance of time to fill with few distractions.
“It’s really a fun idea,” she says. “You’re experiencing something together and have the opportunity to talk about it. Especially first-daters need a chance to get to know each other without the pressure.”
Would she accept a baseball date?
“I don’t really go to baseball games very often, but I enjoy them when I go,” she says. “I wouldn’t be averse if someone suggested it to me.”
Which brings up some caveats. First, Kauffman isn’t the only spot for a local summer sports date. A T-Bones game at Community America Ballpark is a smaller-scale option. And a Sporting Kansas City soccer game is an exciting fan experience.
Second, no matter the venue, the asker should be highly tuned to the sports demeanor of the askee, Braverman says. As with any dating situation, folks need to honestly assess themselves and the other person. Is the invited person really willing to give it a shot or just being polite?
“I think you can read between the lines,” Braverman says.
And if you’re a baseball fanatic whose eyes are laser-focused on every pitch while the other person is not, probably you don’t really care who’s sitting next to you. That’s not a date, she says.
Radio personality Carrington Harrison from “The Drive with Danny Parkins” show on 610 AM knows about sports and about dating and about sports dating. He says he would rather go to a football game with a bunch of friends and take a date to the baseball game.
“Baseball’s just more casual,” he says. “I don’t feel the need to analyze every play.”
The price is right, too.
“You could have a fun time, maybe take advantage of some ticket deals, for about $60,” Harrison says.
Harrison recommends lower-level seats, in the $20 realm. Cheaper seats uber-high in the stadium could leave the wrong impression, he says.
The success of the date doesn’t depend on either party being in ridiculous love with baseball, Harrison says. Settle in your seats and watch the first three innings, he says, then walk around the stadium, go to Rivals Sports Bar, play mini-golf.
“I wouldn’t take a date to sit in the hot blazing sun, but on a 75-degree night in June, it’s one of the best places to be,” he says. “They’ve done a great job at Kauffman creating other things to do.”
Royals officials would agree with that.
“Of all the things you do on a date, we have 80 to 90 percent of them covered,” says Brad Zollars, Royals advertising and marketing director.
That sounded like a bold statement, so we asked Zollars, Toby Cook, who is Royals vice president of community affairs and publicity, and Melyssa Blanchett, director of premium services for Aramark at Kauffman, to help compile our catalog of dating do’s at the K.
Blanchett right away brought up the great view to share from the patio above Rivals Sports Bar — “a cool experience” — and a couple of must-try beverages, such as Rivals’ beer float, a concoction of oatmeal stout and coffee ice cream.
They didn’t offer that at the “old” ballgame.
We also tapped actual dating couples at a recent game. That night the hometown boys took a shellacking from the Cleveland Indians, but the evening was so summery gorgeous, with temperatures in the 70s, it was hard to be bummed.
Amber Lessor and Ryan Price of Kansas City, North, have been dating for four years, and Kauffman Stadium has always been a part of it. They looked right at home watching the game from the patio atop Rivals. The commanding view of the field and stadium is their favorite, they say.
Austin Whitley and Nathan Byrd of Lenexa are also veterans. They drove to Arizona for spring training, and their dog is named Sluggerrr, if that tells you anything. And while they mostly keep a close watch on the game, sharing a scorecard, they also like to get out of their seats to fully experience the “awesome atmosphere,” Byrd says.
“Later we’ll stroll all around and have some Sheridan’s,” Whitley says.
A night at Kauffman for a first date? Melissa Harper of Olathe and Ryan Hawks of Overland Park thought so. They found each other on an online dating site, realized they both loved baseball and here they were, first time out together. They also planned to stroll around the stadium, get something to eat and, who knows?
“Six dates in one,” Hawks says.
Ashley Guerrero and Richardo Becerra have been dating for years, but this night is their first time at Kauffman together, lured by the idea of being outdoors after a cold spring. But Guerrero acknowledges she’s not all that interested in baseball.
“I mean, no,” she says. “I never really followed the Royals. But I like being out here.”
“It’s something different from a movie,” Becerra says, “and not too expensive.”
Who can tell? If all this ballgame dating leads to that next commitment stage, the K might be the perfect venue for a marriage proposal. Cook says there are six to eight of those a season — bigger than life for all to watch up there on the Crown Vision video board.
“Sometimes it goes great,” he says, “and sometimes the person being asked looks horrified.”
12 things to do on a date at the K
1. Does his or her dating profile reference “long walks”? Doesn’t everyone’s? So make a 360 around the stadium for some fine people-watching — and dodging — while taking in the iconic sounds and smells of a night at the ballpark. Be sure to pause for a spray under the fountains.
2. Clearly no dating couple will last long without a game of mini-golf and a carousel ride. Throw in the batting cages for good measure. That kids stuff at the stadium’s Outfield Experience is couple-friendly, too. Tokens are $2. If your date is a true sports fan or a museum kind of person, stroll through the Royals Hall of Fame.
3. An evening at the ballpark doesn’t have to mean skipping dinner out. Two sit-down options open to all ticket-holders are the .390 Bar and Grill (that was George Brett’s batting average for the 1980 season) on the loge level and Rivals Sports Bar in right field. Or, the date-asker could organize tailgate grilling, always a fine way to send the message, “Yes, I will cook for you.”
4. A hot dog at the game is a fine tradition, but there are choices at some concession stands sure to promote discussion. Exhibit A is the new “pulled-pork mac and jack sausage” for $10.50 That’s a bun underneath a pepper jack sausage, which is topped with barbecue pulled pork, which is topped with macaroni and cheese, then bacon crumbles and finally scallions. Serious.
5. Guessing you’re not quite ready for that Crown Vision marriage proposal. That’s fine. But you can surprise your date with an “I love you, (name here)!” or similar sentiment on the left and right outfield video boards for $50. The messages are displayed in the middle of the third inning, so be sure to watch. You also get a 4-by-6 photo of the message. Part of the proceeds goes to Royals charities, a detail worth mentioning to your date.
Be alert for “kiss cam,” when couples are projected on the big screen and the whole crowd expects to see a smooch. If you’re with your date, not a good time to be staring at your phone.
6. A standard beer is OK, but a new adult beverage can be a conversation-starter. And possibly enhancer. Go to one of the Dark Horse Pubs on the first- and third-base sides or the restaurant bars and order a “Boys in Blue.” It’s $9, a lovely blue, for sure, and includes Rider vodka, blue Gatorade and Sierra Mist.
Got a grown-up sweet tooth? Rivals has a “beer float” (not the “root” kind), a pour of oatmeal stout over coffee ice cream for $10. Perfect for sharing. If your date is a wine person, try the Missouri-made wines from Le Bourgeois Vineyards. The Dark Horse Pubs also have mini-bottles of wine.
7. Can you legally gamble at the K? That’s a yes. Sellers are out and about with tickets for the 50-50 Raffle through the sixth inning. Buy one or more for your date: $2 for one chance, $5 for 3, $10 for 10 or $20 for 40. Some winners have walked away with upwards of $7,000. Half of the proceeds from that game’s raffle sales go to the winner, announced in the seventh inning, and half to Royals charities.
8. Could be kind of wacky, or possibly awkward, but definitely a shareable moment: Book Royals mascot Sluggerrr for an “in-game appearance” right at your seat. The big-muscled lion will come to you and do mascot stuff, although he’s not cheap: $100 (a portion goes to Royals charities).
9. Pick up a $1 scorecard at a souvenir stand. Maybe one of you can school the other on the ways of scoring a game. Or two veteran scorers can debate the finer points of marking the game’s progress. Probably you’ll score a few innings for fun and move on with your lives. So just be fine with that.
10. Feel the need to impress? This could work, and it’s brand new: Once seated, look around to see if there are seats where the two of you wish you were sitting instead. No, don’t try to sneak down there, a long-held baseball tradition. Instead, use your smartphone to download Major League Baseball’s free At the Ballpark app and select “Kauffman Stadium.” For a price, you can upgrade to the cooler seats right then.
11. Baseball extra credit: Start way early, point your vehicle downtown and take a spin through the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at 18th and Vine. Go a few blocks south and east to 22nd and Brooklyn for a quick pilgrimage to the site of the old Municipal Stadium. Speaking of pilgrimage, don’t forget Arthur Bryant’s BBQ is nearby at 18th and Brooklyn.
12. By all means do some mugging for photos. Fellow fans will help. The fountains are a natural, of course, and there’s no reason not to grab a shot with every statue — Muriel and Ewing Kauffman, George Brett, Frank White and Dick Howser.