09/05/2007 12:51 PM
The Kansas City T-Bones began the 2007 season with hope and optimism that year five would be a successful campaign for the independent club. With new manager Andy McCauley bringing his impressive managerial record to the city, the foundation for a true contender in the Northern League was in place. Having broken attendance records in each of their previous four seasons, the T-Bones looked to continue showing the Kansas City metro area their idea of Fun, Well Done.
Kansas City started the season on a positive note, going 4-3 in the first homestand of the year while averaging 5,571 fans per game in the first seven contests. Then, on their next homestand, the team saw their one-millionth fan enter the gates of CommunityAmerica Ballpark on June 2 in the form of Wayne House, showering him with numerous giveaways and prizes, including lifetime tickets to the T-Bones.
After salvaging one game in the first series of the second homestand, the T-Bones went on an offensive tear against the Gary SouthShore RailCats, sweeping them in three games where they outscored the division rivals 33-10. In the series finale on June 7, Kansas City had their first of three day games of the season where numerous day cares and youth programs attended and were treated to a book reading by the players. On that day, Rob Watson’s grand slam during the Toyota “Grand Slam” inning won recently retired season ticket holder Tom Erickson a new car. The T-Bones went on to defeat the RailCats 19-3 in that contest. Gary starter Jason Shelley missed the Northern League record for earned runs allowed in a game by one, leaving after surrendering 12 on 13 hits in three and one-thirds innings.
On June 12, outfielder Brad Correll made his way back to affiliated baseball when his contract was bought out by the Boston Red Sox. Correll batted .333 with six home runs in 24 games with the T-Bones and went on to play in the California League playoffs with the Lancaster JetHawks.
Kansas City began their assault on the franchise attendance records on Saturday, June 23 in a game versus the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, where they drew a record 10,345 fans. The total surpassed their previous record by over 1,000.
The second annual Redneck Weekend took place from July 6-8 as staff and fans celebrated mullets and other traditions in the redneck vein, including a Spam, spray cheese and boxed wine night, as well as the fierce competition of the Redneck Olympics. Senior Director of Ticket Operations Brandon Smith got into the action as he got a mullet haircut on top of the third base dugout on July 6.
Center fielder Aharon Eggleston and pitcher Kenny Durost represented the South team in the Northern League All-Star Game on July 10. Teammate Mario Delgado was also elected to represent the T-Bones, but he used the break to recover from an injury and rest up for the second-half.
Diamond legends of the past such as Ozzie Smith, Joe Carter and Frank White joined Willie Wilson in the second annual Willie Wilson Legends Classic on July 14. The former major league greats gathered, reminisced and wowed crowds all while benefiting charity. Brandon Smith made another appearance in the headlines on that day, falling just one home run short of tying Carter in the Home Run Derby prior to the contest.
After a disappointing first half of the season on the field, Kansas City struggled to get things going at the start of the second half, going 3-5 in their first two series. But the team responded quickly, winning seven of their next 11 games before posting their first of two five-game win streaks from August 2-7. During that span, the T-Bones won three straight contests over the Winnipeg Goldeyes in their last at-bat, walking off with victories in each game from August 3-5.
Attendance averages continued to climb and on July 21 the attendance average rose over 6,000 per game for the first time in franchise history. During that week, the T-Bones set new franchise records for Wednesday and Thursday crowds, and season-high marks for Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
The team moved into first place on July 29 and continued to perform, winning six of their next seven. They hit a bump following the win streak, dropping their next three contests before winning eight of 11 from August 11-22. Anthony Boughner overcame his first-half struggles to shine in the second half, posting a 5-1 record with a 3.27 ERA over 74 and one-thirds innings prior to his final start of the season on September 1.
But the best single-game pitching performance of the season came from veteran Rick DeHart on August 12, just his second start with Kansas City. The former Royals left-hander held Fargo hitless through eight innings that day, finally surrendering a hit to Adam Shorsher, the first batter in the ninth inning. Shorsher was the only blemish prior to the hit as he drew a walk in the third inning. A double play following the walk allowed DeHart to face the minimum through eight innings. Kansas City went on to win the game 4-2.
Kansas City held sole position of first place in the South Division for almost a month, and even saw their lead over the first-half division champion Gary SouthShore RailCats grow to five-and-a-half games on August 8. But on August 14, with Kansas City up four-and-a-half games, the RailCats began an incredible run that saw them win 11 of their 14 games coming into the final series of 2007, a five-game set between Gary and Kansas City at CommunityAmerica Ballpark from August 29 – September 2.
With the T-Bones needing to win just two of the five games, the RailCats rode their league best pitching and defense to three straight wins over Kansas City, forcing the T-Bones to win each of their final two games on September 1 and 2. One of those losses came in a 16-inning marathon on August 31 which the RailCats won 6-4. The game took five hours and 46 minutes, breaking the team record for longest game by time. It fell short of tying the Northern League record by just two minutes.
Boughner took the mound for the T-Bones on September 1 in front of the T-Bones second-highest crowd in franchise history – 9,208 fans. But the left-hander allowed a career-high 10 runs, nine earned, while walking a career-high six batters as the T-Bones fell 12-7, ending their playoff hopes. It was a bitter-sweet experience for the fans on that night as the T-Bones put on their inaugural “Heroes Night,” a celebration of the true heroes in our society: the first responders, from the military to the police, fire, EMS and 9-1-1 operators.
On Fan Appreciation Day, the final game of the season on September 2, 5,803 people saw the T-Bones defeat the RailCats 3-0 as super-utility man Nelson Gord became the first player in franchise history to play all nine positions in a single game. Watson started the game for Kansas City and Delgado picked up his first career save. The attendance put the T-Bones final season average at 6,024 and their final total attendance at a franchise record 289,162.
Delgado finished the season with 136 hits, breaking the previous franchise record of 131 set by Ray Brown in 2004. Watson finished with 132, giving him the second highest total in franchise history. Delgado and teammate Geoff McCallum each posted one five-hit game a piece in 2007, a feat that had been accomplished just four times in team history. Watson reached safely in 45 of 46 home games in 2007, the only game he failed to do so coming in the final homestand of the season, snapping a 44-game home on-base streak which was the longest in the league in 2007.
For four straight weeks, starting on July 22, the T-Bones had players awarded Northern League Player of the Week honors. Calvin Pickering became the first T-Bone in 2007 to be recognized, and was soon followed by Watson on July 29. Delgado and Matt Schweitzer took home Player and Pitcher of the Week honors on August 7 and DeHart followed with Pitcher of the Week after his near no-hitter on August 12. Watson was the only T-Bone to take home Player of the Month honors when he was recognized for the month of July, becoming the fifth T-Bone to win the award since they moved to Kansas City in 2003.
Watson was recognized again at the end of the year by T-Bones fans as he took home the Buck O’Neil Fan Favorite Award. He joined with Delgado as both were named co-MVP by their coaches and teammates. Schweitzer was the team’s choice for Pitcher of the Year.
While the team came up just short in the end, the foundation has been laid for next season. With a good portion of the players expected to return, the 2008 season looks to be even more exciting. The T-Bones would like to thank the world’s greatest fans for coming out in record-breaking fashion yet again and we all look forward to seeing you out at CommunityAmerica Ballpark next year for another season of Fun, Well Done!