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Meet The Team That Gets Kauffman Stadium Pumped Up

Jeremy Bernfeld
KCUR 89.3
The Royals' Steven Funke, left, directs an in-game promotion with PA announcer Mike McCartney.

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in October 2015.    

When the Royals take the field for their do-or-die Game 5 Wednesday night, all eyes will be on the players. But during the game, there will be a largely invisible team at work behind-the-scenes doing everything they can to get the Kauffman Stadium crowd whipped into a frenzy.

You might not know the Royals’ Event Presentation and Production team, but you if you’ve been out to a game, you’ve seen their work. It’s a crew of nearly 60 people dedicated to pumping you up.

The most visible part of the team is the promotions side: from the K Crew fanning out in the stands, to Slugerrr – yes, that’s the official spelling – the mascot, to the promotions crew that runs the Hot Dog Derby, they’re out in the stadium entertaining fans during breaks.

Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
The Crown Vision scoreboard in center field is more than 100-feet tall.

The production team sets the tone for the rest. They control Crown Vision, the 104-foot-tall video board in center field, which until recently was the largest video board in all of sports. The production team also controls the fireworks, runs the fountains, and strings together the video replays and highlight packages.

Together, it’s about making a baseball game an event that fans don’t want to miss.

“Definitely knock people out of our seats,” says Nicole Averso, who runs many of the promotions. “That’s always our goal here.”

In today’s world obsessed with hashtags, selfies and stats, the event team has their work cut out for them.

“From the moment they come here, if they’re tailgating to the moment they walk in, we are trying to captivate them,” says Don Costante, the man in charge of the events team.

Baseball, with its languid pace and constant built-in breaks, is uniquely suited to in-game entertainment. But it’s also steeped in tradition and many fans don’t want to be bombarded by flashing lights and demands for cheering. That’s a fine, and difficult, line to walk.

Every Royals game is different on the field, and Costante wants fans to feel that they’re each unique off of the field as well.

Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
The Royals' Crown Vision production team controls the video board display and edits highlight packages.

“We look at every game as a blank canvas and we paint a different picture every game,” Costante says. “We make it different and unique so that if you come to three, four, five games, even a home-stand, you see something different all the time.”

As fans remember, the extra baseball events were often the highlights of Royals games in the recent past, and Costante says with the team winning, management has asked them to tone down some of their efforts.

Despite less pressure to entertain, the events team hopes for more to plan.

“That parade,” Averso says. “That’s the goal right now. That’s what we’re planning. We had something set up last year and, unfortunately, we didn’t get to do it. So that’s something my boss and I have been very much looking forward to, is planning that that parade through downtown Kansas City and getting the trophy up there with all of the boys.”

First things first: win Game 5 and head to the American League Championship Series.

Jeremy Bernfeld is the editor of KCUR's Harvest Public Media. Find him on Twitter @JeremyHPM.

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