The Royals Road Often Traveled: I-29


Before 2012, the Royals knew they’d be looking for help from their bullpen. With a bevy of arms available and worth using at the big league level, they made it known that they weren’t going to be shy about using options on players to keep players fresh.

That turned out to be the case.

Whether it was a pitcher or position player, the Royals made ample use of those option years, sending players to and from Omaha with regularity (though mostly through the first four months of the season). There’s a group of players who got quite used to the stretch of I-29 that connects Kauffman Stadium and Werner Park in Omaha. How many?

The Royals sent a player to or from Omaha 76 different times.

“We have the car packed up for you already, Nate.” Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The Road Warrior of 2012 is Nate Adcock, who traveled that stretch 11 times. He started the year in Omaha, then came up on April 28. Just two weeks later on May 12, he was sent back to Omaha, only to return to the Royals two days later when Danny Duffy went on the disabled list. The trip wasn’t very long though, and he went back to Omaha on the 17th. He barely had time to get settled before coming back on the 19th. By the end of May, though, he was headed back to Omaha. I’m guessing he’s on a first name basis with some of the gas station attendants.

That’s a lot of time on the road and a lot of miles logged.

According to Google Maps, their estimated distance from Kauffman Stadium to Werner Park on I-29 is 198 miles. It takes about three and a half hours.

In those 76 trips, based on those estimations, Royals players have logged 15048 miles on the road going to and from Triple A to the big leagues. That’s more than thirty runnings of the Indianapolis 500. That’s more than a round trip from Kansas City to Tokyo.

That’s a lot.

That’s 79,453,440 feet. If you’re up to date on your baseball internet memes, that’s 14,667,424.77 Altuves. That would total the distance of 193788 home runs that would just clear the fence to straight-away center at Kauffman Stadium (410 feet).

That’s the trail they blazed.

Other random figures:

  • Assuming 22.5 miles per gallon (average fuel economy for newer cars), that would expend 668.8 gallons of gas.
  • Based on the average price of gas from opening day to today ($3.72), that would accumulate a dollar amount of $2487.94 in gas spending.
  • That amount of money could purchase 83 reserved seating tickets to the 1985 World Series.
  • You could purchase parking for 829 cars in 1985 as well for that World Series.
  • Sticking with that theme, you could purchase 497 programs from the 1985 World Series with that money.
  • Purchasing all three (parking, ticket, program) would cost $38, meaning that 65 people could enjoy all three at the 1985 World Series.
  • That gas money could have purchased 366 Z-Man sandwiches at Oklahoma Joe’s.

Royals players have spent around 15808 minutes in the car going to Omaha and back. In that amount of time, you could:

  • Count off 948480 seconds.
  • Watch the classic Major League (run time: 107 minutes) 147.73 times (and it would be awesome every time).
  • Pump up the volume and sing along to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer” 2522 times just like the fictional band Stillwater from Almost Famous.

But maybe you want to stick with the baseball movie motif:

  • You could watch Field of Dreams 147 times, as it has the same run time as Major League. Go figure.
  • You could listen to “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers (the song playing as Ray Kinsella drives to Boston to meet Terrance Mann) 2117 times with a 7:28 playtime.
  • Of course, the movie was based on the book “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella. You could listen to the audiobook of “Shoeless Joe” 34 times (7 hours 45 minute length).
  • In the book, Ray actually kidnaps J.D. Salinger. You could listen to his famed “Catcher in the Rye” (14.5 hours) in audiobook format about 18 times.

In other words, the Royals used a lot of time shuttling players back and forth. As the starting rotation stabilized as the year progressed. In August, they called up five players from Omaha and that was it. That’s after 15 trips in July and 22 in June. Will Smith‘s establishing himself and Jeremy Guthrie‘s hot stretch contributed to that.

It goes to show what a starting rotation can do for a team. The bullpen was used less frequently, players were allowed to settle into roles and – no surprise – the Royals won more games. When you’re not burning through relievers or asking Louis Coleman to pitch more than two innings in mop up duty, it helps everyone (nothing against Coleman, that’s just how he ends up being used out of the ‘pen).

Next year, the peripatetic approach shouldn’t be necessary. Ideally, the Royals will pick up a couple of pitchers who can chew up innings while also shutting down lineups. That can allow the Royals to stick with a bullpen that can be used when it suits them, and not as a way to just get through a game. The pitching staff, hopefully, is optimized.

Some of the position players, like Jason Bourgeois, probably won’t be up and down next year, depending on how the Royals end up setting their 40 man roster this winter. Position players weren’t moved up and down nearly as frequently as pitchers were, but injuries necessitated some movement.

None of this is to say that the Royals shouldn’t have used the options at their disposal and their close Triple A affiliate to their benefit – far from it. Injuries happen. Players end up designated for assignment. Some minor leaguers force a team’s hand. There’s always going to be movement. It’s interesting to note that these KC-to-Omaha moves were nearly twice as frequent in 2012 than in 2011. Next year, hopefully, those road trips should fall back to around that figure again. Hopefully, that means Kansas City doesn’t need much help all year long.

(Note: all of these figures are estimated. Your mileage – literally – may vary.)