KANSAS CITY -- Royals chairman David Glass remembers it like it was yesterday, even the way Johnny Bench's 480-foot home run sounded. It was the last All-Star Game here, in the summer of '73, four decades before the event would return as a full week of festivities.
"It was an exciting game," Glass recalled on Friday. "The National League actually won the game, but Johnny Bench, who's a guy I like very much, hit a home run -- the longest home run that I'd ever seen hit at this stadium at the time. To see one hit just out of sight was unbelievable.
"The interesting thing was, I was on a Hall of Fame committee with Johnny a couple of years ago. I said to him, 'That was the longest home run I've ever seen hit at Kauffman Stadium.' He said, 'Yeah, I did get that one pretty good.' I thought to myself, 'Things that make such a great impression on us sitting in the stands; he's done it before and he's going to do it again.'"
Those are the types of ballplayers who are about to converge on Glass's fine city of fountains, barbecue and baseball, putting a bright and Royal-blue spotlight on renovated Kauffman Stadium. The best players in Major League Baseball, the ones fans and players and two managers and MLB wanted most, will be showcased in the State Farm Home Run Derby on Monday night (8 ET on ESPN) and then in the 83rd Midsummer Classic (7:30 on Tuesday on FOX).
"They're fun. It's fun to see all the players," Glass said. "The other All-Star Game I really remember, I was in St. Louis, it was 1966, and Busch Stadium was new. It was like 110 [degrees]. Played a day game, and people were just dropping like flies. I mean, it was that hot. A lot of guys who were there, somebody had told them if you drink cold beer in real hot weather, it will cool you off, but it does the opposite, it dehydrates you. And they were just hauling them out of there.
"Then the game went into extra innings. I still remember Tim McCarver scored from second base with the winning run in the 10th inning, and we were just relieved to get that one over with."
It is their time now, their memories to make. This is what the Glasses and their organization and their city have worked toward for more than a year.
The chairman, who became interim CEO and chairman in September 1993 following the death of founding owner Ewing Kaufmann, and who became sole owner in 2000, was standing down the left-field line along with Royals president Dan Glass, watching special-needs boys and girls from area youth baseball programs take their hacks in the All-Star Challenger-Champions Game. Each child was matched with a buddy, members of the Royals' front office, each of them enthusiastically helping a child make a memory of a lifetime.
As Glass spoke, the grass around his feet did everything but flame up like a scene from "The Hunger Games." Someone announced it to the few on hand that the temperature was 112 degrees. Had these been the artificial-turf days of old, you could have added another 15 or 20 degrees. Fortunately, after consecutive days around 105, the weather is going to cooperate. "It's going to drop down just in time, and it will be comfortable enough," Glass said.
Dan Glass addressed the youth -- and their accompanying friends and families -- by saying with a grin, "Welcome to sunny Kauffman Stadium!"
Then he told them the most important thing: "We want you to experience the best day of baseball you'll ever have."
"I want this to be their day," he said. "I want them to experience baseball in a way they never experienced it before. Hopefully they can walk away from this as it being the greatest experience they've ever had, and if we do that, then we've done our job as hosts here."
The word has a profound ring to it, one that is earned and one that you work hard to carry. No one stages an All-Star event like Major League Baseball, and it rotates each year, going to the Mets' Citi Field in 2013 and who knows where in 2014. You can be sure that the bidding and the campaigning are intensive and impassioned, as it was here.
"It's exciting to be a part of this," Dan Glass said. "The teams that are lucky enough to be selected, we thank MLB for all the help in trying to get us to be one of those selected teams. Teams that have not hosted one need to do it. It's not only a great experience for the community, but it's a great experience for our entire organization.
"It's very competitive. It's been kind of stadium-oriented, it seems like, but we're kind of out of that era of new stadiums now. So it may get even more competitive, I think, going forward. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision. That's why the Commissioner is the Commissioner."
And speaking of the Commissioner, Bud Selig will be here and answering fan questions at the annual Town Hall Chat on Monday morning at FanFest. There will be plenty of discussion about baseball in Kansas City, about the hope for contention, about the quarter-billion-dollar renovation of "The K" that made a great ballpark even better.
"We were uncertain about the chance of even getting the game," Dan Glass said. "Then we heard we were awarded it, and with all that excitement that came over ourselves, all of a sudden it was like, 'Oh, this is a lot of responsibility here.' Not only to pull off the events themselves, but also to show the city off in a great light -- the great community we live in and all the beautiful qualities of the city.
"The one caveat for the team is the community initiatives. That's the part that keeps you motivated, really. Working a year and a half leading up to this day is all the community initiatives. Fortunately, a lot of the MLB initiatives are a lot of what we believe in as well, with kids and an event like this, with special-needs kids. Boys & Girls Clubs, RBI, working with the military, we do that, too."
The crowds will gradually roll in from points all over. They will enjoy MLB All-Star FanFest through Tuesday at the Convention Center, and they will enjoy Taco Bell All-Star Sunday. They will see their hero, George Brett, just about everywhere. They will experience a true thrill when the All-Star Red Carpet Show presented by Chevrolet hits The Plaza.
"It's going to be exciting," Dan Glass said.
There will be moonshots ahead, maybe one like the one Bench hit in '73. "We've seen some monster shots here at The K, but having these guys and with batting practice-speed pitches coming in, we've been talking for over a year now. What are going to be the iconic landmarks that are hit with baseballs?
"It's just something really special that you don't see every day."