Major league baseball came to Kansas City in 1955, when the Philadelphia Athletics moved there. In 1968, the Athletics relocated to Oakland, CA, leaving KC without a team. However, in that same year, Ewing Kauffman won the right to establish an expansion baseball franchise, then initiated a contest and invited area citizens to submit suggestions for a team name. The name “Royals” was selected from the entries, primarily because of the city’s long tradition with the American Royal. Each fall this organization hosts an event displaying championship livestock shows and horse and rodeo competitions, as well as the World Series of Barbecue. Although the American Royal has no formal connection with the baseball team, they complement and support each other in the KC area. The Kansas City Royals played in the 2014 and 2015 World Series, and won the Championship in 2015. Many will remember the I-70 Series in 1985, when the Royals outlasted the Cardinals in seven games and won the Series.
Across the state in St. Louis, the Cardinals are one of the oldest major league franchises. Established in 1882, they have been a St. Louis baseball tradition for many years. The Red Birds have won 11 World Series titles, second only to the NY Yankees, who have won 27. In 2010 the Cardinal franchise formed a partnership with Missouri Farmers Care, in efforts to increase awareness of today’s food production. The team’s 3.5 million faithful fans serve as its audience and, in a Missouri Farmers Care educational campaign to share production information, are given closer looks at what it takes to produce food. The St. Louis Cardinal network of 117 radio stations has spots during the regular 162-game season in which they discuss agriculture production. Also, at every Friday night home game at Busch Stadium, the trio of Sweet Bessie, Captain Cornelius, and Simeon the Soybean compete in a mascot race to the plate, while the stadium video board highlights facts about modern agriculture technology and production.
Missouri Farmers Care is a partnership of approximately forty Missouri farm-reflated businesses and companies and is a joint effort by Missouri’s farming and agriculture communities to support the men and women who provide food and jobs on which our communities depend.
Baseball and agriculture share more than just educational campaigns and entertainment characters, though. Farmers and ranchers across our state and our nation provide many of the materials and products that allow participants to play and fans to enjoy the game of baseball. For example, baseball uniforms are made in part from cotton, and besides being produced elsewhere, cotton is grown in seven Missouri counties. Baseball gloves and mitts are made from natural cowhide and leather, some coming from cattle raised here. Bats are made from wood—ash and hard maple—both of which are grown and harvested in our state. Balls are made of wool, rubber and cork, covered with either cow or horse hide, all of which are agriculture products and many of which are produced in Missouri. Much of the traditional baseball snacks and foods enjoyed at major and minor league facilities comes from Missouri products: hot dogs, popcorn, and roasted peanuts. All of these products have ties to our farming community. The small SE MO town of Bernie is home to Fancy Farm Popcorn, a corporation that sells millions of pounds of popcorn each year to food service distributors nationwide. This popcorn is used to supply concession stands at sporting event throughout our state, as well as across the country. KC-based Farmland Foods supplies hotdogs for Royals’ games. Farmland, owned by Smithfield Foods, produces about 6 million pounds of hotdogs annually for typical consumer sales and about 16 million pounds of bulk hot dogs for ball park fans. For use on the hotdogs, ketchup and relish are made from tomatoes and cucumbers, many of which are grown in our state. Butter for the Fancy Farm Popcorn comes from dairy cows; peanuts and sunflower seeds are grown by farmers; pretzels are made of wheat flour and vegetable oil; even the turf grass on the baseball field is grown by farmers and kept green with fertilizer. Every one of these products have growers and producers available in Missouri.
Each year it takes 40,000 trees to make enough bats for one season of baseball. Forty-eight percent of all wood bats are made from ash and, today, the other fifty-two percent are made from hard maple.
Wow! Who would have thought that farmers and producers would be so important to America’s Favorite Pastime?