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Saying Goodbye To Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran photo above courtesy Keith Allison/flickr

Audio: George Brett in Cooperstown, 1999

By Ian Echlin

I have a special fandom toward Carlos Beltran ever since we were paired on-field. I was an honorary lineup participant around ten years old before a Sunday afternoon ballgame, and our short back-and-forth chat sticks with me to this day.

As a ‘90s kid, I only knew about watching the Kansas City Royals when they were at rock bottom. I got used to everyone counting the Royals out of contention before the All Star Break. As grim as the playoff picture seemed, I remember Carlos Beltran as a player who added something positive to a franchise deep in a hole.

Beltran represented one of the players I grew up wanting to like and follow closely. I remember watching Opening Day in 2004 after school. As excited as I was that baseball was back, I’ll never forget Beltran’s walkoff homerun to start the season with a win against the White Sox.

Beltran and second basemen Carlos Febles, Dos Carlos as they became known, made an impact as rookies in 1999. I remember hearing the skeptics and I wondered how long those homegrown players from that time would play together. Or when and if they would be dispersed for greener pastures.

I now realize that Beltran is probably the only Hall of Famer to go through the organization the same time my generation started buying baseball cards and playing little league.

All of those players – Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney – stood out as my favorites with Beltran. They could hit and score runs, but the back end of the Royals bullpen struggled to protect their leads.

Carlos Beltran won the American League Rookie of the Year in 1999, and there wasn’t much to brag about within the organization after that. It was in the middle of a drought in the Royals farm system, and I wondered if Beltran would ever get to see a winning season during his time in Kansas City. After a 9-0 start in 2003, the Royals finally put together a winning record (83-79) with Beltran seemingly hitting his peak at the age of 26. He hit 26 homers, drove in 100 and stole 41 bases.

Beltran gave fans like myself a reason to go to the ballpark.

But everything I heard as a kid regarding free agency would sadly come true. In the end, the Royals as a small market team chose not to shell out the millions to keep everyone.  The same season he started Opening Day with the walkoff homerun would be his last in Kansas City. I remember hearing about how the Royals had to wheel and deal in mid-season in hopes of getting a decent return for trading Beltran.

It happened when Beltran was traded to Houston. I was upset since I was emotionally invested and hadn’t grasped the business side of the game yet. The young baseball fans like myself held on to Carlos Beltran autographs. I had to hope the best for him after Kansas City.

It’s hard to blame Beltran as a client of Scott Boras to seek free agency. He was searching for a contending team.

It ended up being a long search for the much-coveted World Series ring he earned this year with the Houston Astros. After his 20-year career and seven teams, he deserved a ring. As much as I would’ve loved for him to win it in Kansas City, I was happy for him.

I believe Beltran has the stats comparable to Hall of Famers. With a solid resume, I think he’ll eventually be inducted in Cooperstown. Now that he’s announced his retirement, it’s just a matter of time before he gets the call.

I had a chance to visit Cooperstown for the 2010 induction weekend. When Beltran gets the call, I’d hate to miss it and hope Royals fans join me for my trip back to Cooperstown.

Carlos Beltran

SEC and Missouri Tiger Fans Still Saying “Show Me Football”

Photo courtesy of MU Athletics

By Greg Echlin

Not much has changed for the Missouri Tigers since entering the Southeastern Conference as far as earning respect.  But these days, it comes from MU’s own fan base in the Show-Me state.

Take Missouri’s coach-killing win, 50-17, over Tennessee for example.  For the Tigers’ last home game, a crowd of 50,637 showed up, which in a stadium that seats more than 71,000 looks vastly undersold for a team that had won three in a row, plus moving closer to bowl game eligibility.  The day after Missouri won, Vols coach Butch Jones was fired.

Surely after scoring 63 points against Missouri last year, then allowing 433 rushing yards to the Tigers’ offense this year, the Vols’ reversal was the last straw toward Jones’s dismissal. It can’t be about Missouri’s improvement from one year to the next, can it?

This appears to be the same song-and-dance as winning back-to-back 2013 and ‘14 SEC East Division titles in only the Missouri Tigers’ second and third years in the conference.

Missouri Tigers Mizzou
Missouri Tigers fans supporting Mizzou outside Faurot Field at University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. There’s no “I” in team. Comments encouraged below 

The territorial media brethren in the heart of SEC football country was incredulous.  The narrative during those two seasons wasn’t: How good were the Tigers?  Instead, it was about how much Florida under Will Muschamp had slipped after losing to Missouri in both years, or how Mark Richt was losing his grip on the Georgia program.

It wasn’t long before both of those coaches moved on against their wishes.

This season, in the midst of the Tigers’ best winning streak under Coach Barry Odom in his second year, Missouri’s fan base has been hesitant to buy in.

Missouri Tigers fans file into Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium to watch a Saturday evening game against Tennessee. The Tigers won 50-17.

Before Gary Pinkel retired from coaching after the 2015 season, he practically had to beg for MU fan support every year, besides the 2008 Cotton Bowl, the Tigers earned a bowl game invitation.

The Missouri players, however, have a different view.  Anthony Sherrils, a senior from Hogan Prep HS in Kansas City, says he senses a positive vibe.

“It’s a great climate,” said Sherrils, the Tigers co-leader in tackles against the Vols with six.  Sherrils also recovered a fumble and came up with an interception.  “We’re winning.  Fans are happy.”

With remaining road games at Vanderbilt and Arkansas, the Tigers have a chance to position themselves further for a possible invitation to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Whether that’s enough for the fans in the Show-Me state to climb aboard is the prevailing question this season.

Jack Sock At The ATP World Tour Finals With Help From His Kansas City Team

Photo Courtesy of ATP World Tour

Jack Sock from Overland Park, Kan. ranks No. 9 in the world in Men’s Tennis Singles. He’s advancing to play Roger Federer in ATP World Tour Finals.

While Sock hasn’t been able to beat Federer in the past he’s constantly competing with the greatest tennis players in the world. In the Kansas City area his team of doctors, coaches and friends help him along the way.

Here’s how Jack Sock thrives on the world tennis stage:

Link to Greg Echlin’s full story at KCUR.org

Former KU and MU Football Prospect Pays Off—For Iowa State

Photo credit Iowa State Athletics Communications

By Greg Echlin

There’s a reason the Kansas Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers continue to struggle in football under David Beaty and Barry Odom respectively.  They’re letting the best prospects slip away. Continue reading Former KU and MU Football Prospect Pays Off—For Iowa State

John Schuerholz Excluded From Royals Hall of Fame While Enshrined in Cooperstown

Perhaps the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame executive board needs to be re-assessed.  Curt Nelson of the Royals Hall of Fame seems to be the only one who appreciates the roots of the success in the Royals franchise.  Sid Bordman, a former sportswriter for The Kansas City Star, wrote stories about the Royals from the team’s inception in 1968 and well past the first game in franchise history in 1969.  But he has never been asked to be a part of the committee that considers those from the Royals’ early days.  Consequently, some of the important early figures in the history of the Royals go unrecognized.

LINK: Greg Echlin’s full story for KCUR.org Continue reading John Schuerholz Excluded From Royals Hall of Fame While Enshrined in Cooperstown

Royal Agenda For The All Star Game

On the baseball diamond, the 88th All-Star game will be played with no World Series home field advantage on the line for the first time since 2002.  So what’s really going on amid the All-Star break festivities in Miami?  Most likely, a lot of text messages between GMs all over baseball and the Kansas City Royals are no exception.  The non-waiver trading deadline is just around the corner.

Link to Greg Echlin’s full story on KCUR.org Continue reading Royal Agenda For The All Star Game

Florida And LSU Seek Series Championship

By Greg Echlin
Though the University of Florida is in search of its first national title in baseball, the Gators are playing in the best-of-three title series at the College World Series for their third time.  Southeastern Conference foe LSU is no stranger to baseball championships as the NCAA’s team of the 90s.  The Tigers, however, are playing in their first title series since 2009.
All in all, these two teams wear familiar colors at the College World Series while the teams located closer to Omaha struggle to get that far.  Iowa and Nebraska made the 64-team bracket, but each failed to get past the first weekend.  The most notable natives of either Iowa or Nebraska are linked to other programs in the College World Series.