Archive for Thursday, June 12, 2008

Harvey could be big draw

June 12, 2008

The original plan for the evening called for a five-person Pop-A-Shot tournament at Dave and Buster's, with the loser being committed to a bull ride at the Saddle Ranch Chop House.

The Pop-A-Shot happened, but the bull ride did not. We'd made a late start on that 2007 summer evening thanks to a detour to CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

The Kansas City T-Bones recently had signed former Kansas City Royals player Calvin Pickering, so we decided to catch a game and see if the beefy slugger would jack a home run or two.

Among other things, it's signings of former major leaguers like that that make small market Independent Northern League teams like the T-Bones so intriguing to watch.

You get a blend of small-time guys sacrificing everything they have to get their shot at the big leagues, and you've got fallen professionals just trying to hang on to the game they love. The performance is rarely perfect, but the passion the players bring is worth more than the $6 admission.

On Tuesday I had flashbacks to that summer afternoon when a T-Bones press release popped into my inbox with the headline: "T-Bones Sign Former Royal Harvey."

That's right, Ken Harvey is returning to Kansas City.

A Major League All-Star in 2004, Harvey last played in the big leagues in 2005 when back problems sapped the power from his swing. He bounced around the minors for a while but pretty much disappeared off of the baseball radar.

With Kansas City sitting at second place in the league, fans already have plenty of reasons for excitement - and the second-place position on the league's attendance chart is proof that they are paying attention. The signing of Harvey should only add to fans' interest.

I know I'll be paying attention.

Harvey's value was legitimized when he was in a race for the American League batting title for the first half of the 2004 season. He showed the ability to hit for both power and average. He also played with intensity and heart, never afraid to dive for the ball or hustle to take an extra base.

He had some seriously comedic moments, too, such as being hit in the head by Matt Stairs' relay throw from right field while playing first base against the San Diego Padres on July 3, 2004. The play allowed the winning run to score.

Harvey's struggles were never the result of a lack of effort, though. That's what makes him an exciting pick-up for the T-Bones.

Those who remember his days as a Royal likely have fond - and perhaps humorous - memories of Harvey, and most will pay closer attention to the T-Bones during the next few weeks to see how much he contributes. If he hits a few long balls, he could become a serious draw this summer.

If not, he'd still be worth checking out for a game or two on a calm night during the summer. In all likelihood it'd be more exciting than a game of Pop-A-Shot, and perhaps as entertaining as watching your buddy ride the bull.

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