The Kansas City T-Bones originally started as the Duluth-Superior Dukes when the Northern League was re-established in 1993. The Dukes had some competitive seasons, even winning the Northern League championship in 1997 over the Winnipeg Goldeyes, but attendance began to fall. In late 2002, the decision was made to move the Dukes to Kansas City, KS, and plans were made to build a ballpark in the Village West shopping area, adjacent to the Kansas Speedway. The team name and mascot were both selected in fan contests, both of which reflected the region’s strong ties to the meat industry. Titan Construction designed and built what is now known as the award-winning T-Bones Stadium in a mere nine months and two days, just in time for the 2003 season.
The T-Bones played their first home game on June 6, 2003. They lost that contest 1-0 to Sioux City, despite a stellar outing by Lee’s Summit, MO native Jonathan Krysa. Left fielder Chad Ehrnsberger barely missed a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth (former manager "Dirty" Al Gallagher will tell you it was a fair ball). In the first season, the club posted a 43-46 record, staying in contention until the last week of the second half of the season. Eddie Pearson won the league's Most Valuable Player award after his June trade from St. Paul, hitting a league-leading .369 with a sizzling .404 clip in August. Pearson was selected as an all-star, along with center fielder Rick Prieto (.340 average) and closer D.J. Johnson (17 saves). Prieto was also named the league's Player of the Week for June 18-22.
Kansas City continued to build on their solid debut in 2004, making the playoffs after going 28-20 in the second half of the season. The T-Bones and Schaumburg Flyers battled to a decisive game five in the opening round, but Kansas City fell in the end. Following the season, T-Bones general manager Rick Muntean was selected as Co-Executive of the Year and Kansas City was named Northern League Organization of the Year.
The 2005 season saw the T-Bones enter the conversation as one of the best-drawing teams in all of independent baseball. Highlighted by a night that saw 9,013 fans witness a 3-1 win over the Sioux Falls Canaries on August 27, the T-Bones set a team record with 244,414 total fans on the season and finished with a per-game average of 5,555, putting them third in the Northern League and fourth in all of independent baseball for the season.
In 2006, the T-Bones played host to a few events that those in attendance will not soon forget. On May 23, in front of 5,967 fans, the T-Bones paid tribute to Kansas City legend Buck O’Neil by retiring his #22 and placing it on the left-field wall. On June 10, Kansas City took home their largest win in team history with a 24-1 victory over Gary. The game was called in the bottom of the seventh as heavy rains and lightning moved into the area while the T-Bones threatened to score yet again. The game set numerous records that still stand today, including largest margin of victory and runs scored.
The 2006 season also saw the Northern League All-Star Game come to Kansas City. The T-Bones kicked off the festivities with the Northern League All-Star Fan Fest on July 17, beginning with a home run derby that saw T-Bones players Charles Peterson and Greg Jacobs face off in the finals. Jacobs slugged eight home runs in the final round to earn the victory.
Up next was the Legends game, featuring former major leaguers Lee Smith, Fergie Jenkins and Vida Blue, as well as former Royal legends George Brett, Willie Wilson, Amos Otis and John Mayberry, along with many others. The teams were managed by T-Bones manager “Dirty” Al Gallagher and O’Neil. Otis hit the shot of the night when he took Jenkins deep in the first inning, giving the American Legends an early 1-0 lead. The American Legends would go on to win the contest 2-1.
The all-stars got their chance to shine on July 18, with seven T-Bones players named as starters. The highlight of the contest came when O’Neil stepped into the batter’s box as the leadoff hitter for the West All-Stars and drew a walk from T-Bones pitcher, Jonathan Krysa. The plate appearance made O’Neil the oldest person to ever play professional baseball. After a mid-inning trade, O’Neil would lead off the bottom of the first as well, drawing another walk and a standing ovation from the crowd of 5,975.
The game went back and forth, with the teams swapping leads four times. With the West leading 6-5 in the top of the ninth, T-Bones closer Byron Embry worked a 1-2-3 top of the frame, giving the East a fighting chance heading into the bottom half of the inning. It was time for the T-Bones to shine for their hometown fans as Craig Hurba led off the inning with a triple and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Jacobs to tie the game at six. Gary’s Jay Pecci then stroked a two-out single and stole second to get into scoring position for T-Bones shortstop Chad Sosebee. Sosebee connected for the game-winning single, giving the victory to Embry.
The team battled until the final week of the season but fell shy of the playoffs. Despite the disappointing end, T-Bones fans continued to show their support as Kansas City pushed their single-season attendance record to 269,205. Jacobs was named the Northern League’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Krysa was selected as the Northern League’s Pitcher of the Year after leading the league in wins. Hurba was also selected by Baseball America as a top independent league prospect, one of just eight players selected by the magazine and the only player selected from the Northern League.
Andy McCauley took the reins as manager for Kansas City in 2007, bringing an impressive managerial record to the squad. During the second homestand of the season, the team saw their 1 millionth fan enter the gates of CommunityAmerica Ballpark on June 2. On June 7, Rob Watson’s grand slam during the Toyota “Grand Slam” inning won recently retired season-ticket holder Tom Erickson a new car. The T-Bones went on to defeat the RailCats 19-3 in that contest. Later in the month, on June 23, the T-Bones crossed the 10,000 barrier for the first time with a single-game attendance of 10,345 in a game against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
Diamond legends of the past such as Ozzie Smith, Joe Carter and Frank White joined Willie Wilson in the Willie Wilson Legends Classic on July 14. The former major league greats gathered, reminisced and wowed crowds all while benefiting charity. Former T-Bones Director of Group Sales, Brandon Smith, made an appearance in the headlines on that day, falling just one home run short of tying Carter in the Home Run Derby prior to the contest.
The best single-game pitching performance of the season came on August 12 from veteran Rick DeHart who was making just his second start with Kansas City. The former Royals left-hander held Fargo hitless through eight innings that day, finally surrendering a hit to Adam Shorsher, the first batter in the ninth inning. Shorsher was the only blemish prior to the hit as he drew a walk in the third inning. A double play following the walk allowed DeHart to face the minimum through eight innings. Kansas City went on to win the game 4-2.
Kansas City held sole position of first place in the South Division for almost a month, and they even saw their lead over the first-half division champion Gary SouthShore RailCats grow to five-and-a-half games on August 8. But on August 14, with Kansas City up four-and-a-half games, the RailCats began an incredible run that saw them win 11 of their 14 games coming into the final series of 2007, a five-game set between Gary and Kansas City at CommunityAmerica Ballpark from August 29 – September 2.
With the T-Bones needing to win just two of the five games, the RailCats rode their league-best pitching and defense to three straight wins over Kansas City, forcing the T-Bones to win each of their final two games on September 1 and 2. One of those losses came in a 16-inning marathon on August 31, which the RailCats won 6-4. The game took five hours and 46 minutes, breaking the team record for longest game by time. It fell short of tying the Northern League record by just two minutes.
Anthony Boughner took the mound for the T-Bones on September 1 in front of a large contingent of 9,208 screaming fans. But the left-hander allowed a career-high 10 runs, nine earned, while walking a career-high six batters as the T-Bones fell 12-7, ending their playoff hopes. It was a bitter-sweet experience for the fans on that night as the T-Bones put on their inaugural “Heroes Night,” a celebration of the true heroes in our society: the first responders, from the military to the police, fire, EMS and 9-1-1 operators.
On Fan Appreciation Day, the final game of the season on September 2, 5,803 people saw the T-Bones defeat the RailCats 3-0 as super-utility man Nelson Gord became the first player in franchise history to play all nine positions in a single game. Watson started the game for Kansas City and Mario Delgado picked up his first career save. The attendance put the T-Bones final season average at 6,024 and their final total attendance at a franchise record 289,162.
Following the 2007 campaign, Kansas City was honored as the Northern League Organization of the Year for the second time in team history.
The Kansas City T-Bones were looking to bounce back in 2008 after a disappointing 2007 campaign. They did just that. Though the overall record at the conclusion of the regular season wasn’t impressive, the T-Bones were back in the playoffs. And after getting the final playoff bid in 2008, the T-Bones made the most of their opportunity.
The T-Bones won eight of their first 10 games before finishing the month of May 12-4. Kansas City fell back to the pack in June as they lost nine of their first 10 in the month and finished just 8-17 in June. The T-Bones battled back in July and August before making their playoff push during the last weekend of the regular season. The T-Bones were in as the fourth seed and had to play the Northern League’s regular-season champs, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, who had one of the best records in league history. Kansas City ended up sweeping Fargo in three games to advance to the finals for the first time in T-Bones history. The T-Bones then took on the Gary SouthShore RailCats, who were appearing in their fourth straight championship series. Kansas City used great pitching, good defense and power to take the series three games-to-one over the defending champs, despite the best efforts of Mother Nature.
Jim Fasano led the Northern League with 20 home runs during the regular season before a stellar postseason earned him the Northern League’s Playoff Most Outstanding Player award. He hit .462 with three home runs and 10 RBI for the T-Bones in the playoffs. Off the field the T-Bones enjoyed continued success. Just a season after welcoming the one-millionth fan through the gates the T-Bones reached a million-and-a-half fans. The T-Bones again finished second in the league in attendance, drawing 280,795 fans through the gates for an average of 5,850. Kansas City also pushed their single-game attendance to 10,403 on July 4.
The T-Bones also hosted the third annual Willie Wilson T-Bones Classic, which featured several baseball icons from the past, including Kansas City greats Willie Wilson and Amos Otis, as well as Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and 1993 World Series hero Joe Carter. The game included a memorable home run by Carter that gave the fans plenty of reason to cheer. There was also a big change prior to the start of the 2008 campaign when the T-Bones reached an agreement with Major League Soccer’s Kansas City Wizards, permitting them to play their home games at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. That resulted in an expansion in seating capacity and a new field layout. The infield went from a traditional surface to an all-grass infield. New bleacher seating was added down the left field line and above the left field wall and the left field berm was also removed and replaced with new bleacher seating with seat backs.
Kansas City followed up their championship campaign with another successful season in 2009, both on and off the field. On the diamond, the T-Bones won seven of their first 10 games before June struggles pushed them to the middle of the standings. The continued to fight throughout the season and finished in the fourth and final playoff spot, matching their finish during the 2008 campaign. The RailCats would get revenge, however, eliminating Kansas City in a closely matched opening round that went the full five games. Off the field, the T-Bones again drew more than 240,000 fans and maintained their position as one of the top five draws in all of independent baseball. CommunityAmerica Ballpark was also recognized as the league’s best field with the 2009 Northern League Playing Surface of the Year award.
Tim Doherty, who joined the T-Bones as a bench coach in their inaugural 2003 season, earned a promotion to manager prior to the 2010 season and made an immediate impact in his managerial debut. Kansas City won 13 of their first 18 games under Doherty and held at least a share of first place at some point through almost 60% of the season.
When the regular season ended, Kansas City posted the first winning record in franchise history at 58-42 and entered the playoffs as the #2 seed behind the RedHawks. On the campaign, the T-Bones offense set fire to the record books after leading the league in most offensive categories, including a league-record 162 home runs that shattered the previous mark of 123 posted by the Winnipeg Goldeyes in 1998. Jacob Blackwood fell just shy of the Triple Crown, ending the season third in average (.331) while pacing the circuit with a T-Bones single-season record 31 home runs and a league-best 86 RBI.
Kansas City matched up with the Joliet JackHammers in the opening round of the playoffs, taking the first two games before the JackHammers battled back to force a decisive game five. Joliet took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth before a two-out throwing error forced in the tying run for Kansas City. The game went into the top of the 12th with the score still at 4-4 before Joliet gained a 5-4 lead on an RBI double by former T-Bone, Brad Correll. Kansas City couldn’t be denied another championship series berth, however, as an RBI single by Blackwood again evened the score in the bottom of the frame. Then, with two on, the next batter, Gabriel Martinez, connected for a series-clinching blast to dead center for an 8-5 victory.
The T-Bones and RedHawks met in the finals, but Fargo proved too much in a three-game sweep that culminated with a one-hit shutout by T.J. Stanton.
The 2010 season proved to be another award-winning campaign for the T-Bones as they took home Organization of the Year honors for the third time in team history. CommunityAmerica Ballpark also earned its second straight Playing Surface of the Year award while Blackwood took home league MVP honors. Finally, with more great support from T-Bones fans, the team became the quickest organization in league history to surpass the 2 million fan mark, reaching the milestone during their eighth year.
In October 2010, Kansas City, along with the Goldeyes, RedHawks and RailCats, reached an agreement to join the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball beginning with the 2011 season. The move allows the T-Bones to re-kindle old rivalries with the Lincoln Saltdogs, St. Paul Saints, Sioux Falls Pheasants and Sioux City Explorers, while establishing a new one with the Wichita Wingnuts. With the four-team addition, the American Association entered the 2011 season as a 14-team entity and one of the premier leagues in independent baseball.
The T-Bones maiden voyage into the American Association did not turn out like the 2010 season of accolades. The club limped to a 48-52 record with Tim Doherty in his final season with the T-Bones. The team finished seven games back in the Central Division but would win six of their last nine to close out the season.
At the plate Keanon Simon hit a team leading .332 with six homers and 40 RBIs while Ray Sadler hit 22 home runs to lead the club and drove in 100 runs also tops for the club. In his second season with KC, he was well on his way to a career where he would lead the franchise in long balls when he was done playing in a T-Bones jersey in 2014.
In a last-minute change, Tim Doherty left for the Big Leagues, becoming a coaching assistant for the Boston Red Sox spot and leaving the Kansas City T-Bones looking for a last-minute move to fill the field manager role. Kenny Hook was about to get a quick lesson in managing an independent baseball team.
“I didn’t completely know what I was doing,” Hook said with a grin looking back on the season. “There’s a lot in terms of developing the roster with a salary cap and players’ experience to keep in mind. We had a great coaching staff with Andy Shipman (pitching), Bill Sobbe (bench) and Frank White (first base), but the roster was nearly set with guys who played Tim’s style of baseball.”
In spite of the trial by fire, the T-Bones finished with the second best regular-season records in franchise history, going 51-49, and were in contention for postseason play until the last week of the season.
In an ironic twist of future fate, Kansas City hosted the New Jersey Jackals and future T-Bones Manager Joe Calfapietra to open the season as the American Association and their sister league the Can-Am League played inter-league games during 2012. It would be five more seasons before Calfapietra returned to T-Bones Stadium but in the home club house office when he would take over the club beginning in the 2017 season.
Hook overhauled the roster during the offseason after coming in late to his post in 2012, with only nine of the 22 active players returning from 2012. Hook, who grew up in the Kansas City area as a Royals fan, tried to emulate one of the game’s grittiest players, Pete Rose. He would use Rose’s characteristics to preview his 2012 club. “We have a gritty team, with hard-nosed guys. Pitching was strong for us last year, and we have most of that core back. We have a solid outfield, including two guys who have played at the major-league level (Brandon Jones and Ray Sadler).”
“One area of concern was team speed, and we’ve improved that with (centerfielder) Kennard Jones to go along with Justin Bass and Devin Goodwin. Plus, we’re a stronger defensive infield with the additions of Felix Molina, Jairo Perez and Matt Padgett.”
“The biggest thing for us right now is to get off to at least a .500 start in our first 10 games,” Hook said. He knew how important that task would be as the T-Bones would get off to a slow start and never really recover. After splitting a pair of games to start the season at Wichita, it was a 2-6 homestand that added to a 3-7 start to start a six-game road trip. KC would finish 3-3 after a trip to Texas and sit at 6-10 after the first three weeks of the season. The Team never seemed to find traction and would stand at 18 and 32 at the midway point. By the time August rolled around, the team would run out of hope to get back to .500 with a 10-17 finish to close out the season.
On the field, KC native Lucas Irvine would pick up six wins and finish with a team low 2.96 ERA, also the lowest in the American Association. The offense was paced by Jario Perez and his 19 home runs and 72 RBIs and a .309 clip. He would tie for fifth in the AA in RBIs. Overall, the team would finish 40-60 in fourth place in the Central Division with a six-game end of season losing streak to finish 28 games behind Wichita. The T-Bones did avoid the cellar as Sioux City finished two games back of KC.
While a “rebuilding year” is often frowned upon by coaches in professional sports, 2014 fit that bill. In a sport where winning is of the utmost importance, no coach ever wants to admit to giving up and being in the midst of a rebuilding process, but that was the task at for 2014. The T-Bones welcomed a brand-new coaching staff and an almost completely new roster from a year before. The term rebuilding year would have perfectly described the 2014 Kansas City T-Bones. And based on the 2014 campaign, being in rebuilding mode was not necessarily a bad thing. Under first-year manager John Massarelli, the T-Bones showed vast improvements from their 40-60 ball club in 2013.
Coming into 2014, the T-Bones had one member who experienced 2013 in a T-Bones uniform, starting pitcher Rick Zagone. Obviously with completely new personnel and new leadership, the T-Bones looked like a completely different team that summer, especially offensively.
After leading the American Association in home runs in 2013, the T-Bones ranked towards the bottom this season in terms of power. But despite the lack of home runs, the T-Bones found other ways to score.
It all started with a different approach at the plate. The Kansas City coaching staff preached patience, and as a result they led the league with in walks with 406. Leadoff third baseman T.J. Mittelstaedt, in particular, led the league in walks with 92 to help pace the club in free bases.
Speed was the next component of the 2014 T-Bones offensive philosophy. Kansas City was second in the league in stolen bases in 2014 with 133. T-Bone Bryan Sabatella had a team-leading 40 stolen bases in 2014.
Like any team, the T-Bones went through a series of highs and lows over the course of the season. The club saw the return of former sluggers Ray Sadler and Matt Padgett. Sadler’s return allowed him to claim several club records, such as the most home runs (82) and RBIs (297) in franchise history. But perhaps the most impressive number was that of T.J. Mittelstaedt. Dating back to the season opener against Lincoln on May 15, Kansas City’s third baseman reached at least once in every home game at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, a streak he sustained for 51 consecutive home games.
Numerous other career milestones were achieved by members of T-Bones in 2014: Nick Giarraputo recorded his 300th RBI on May 24, Kris Regas notched his 60th save on June 11th, Pat Doyle recorded his 300th strikeout on June 19, Danny Richar stole his 100th base on July 21, Matt Padgett knocked his 200th home run on August 8, and Bryan Sabatella recorded his 500th RBI on August 19.
A pair of individual hitting streaks highlighted the offense this season. Robby Kuzdale rode a 14-game hitting streak from July 10 through July 25. That was the longest individual hitting streak by a T-Bones player until Bryan Sabatella crushed it late in the season.
Sabatella rode an impressive 22-game hitting streak from August 5 through August 29. Before his hitless game on August 4, he rode a small six-game hitting streak as well. Making his streak even more impressive Sabatella had a five-game multi hit streak during that stretch from August 8 through August 12.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the season was the first American Association All-Star Game since 2010. Kansas City had two of its players, reliever Kris Regas and “utility player” David Espinosa, earn a trip to the All-Star game on July 29 at Shaw Park in Winnipeg.
Espinosa was listed as a “utility player” because of his ability to play all over the field defensively. Offensively, Espinosa batted .290 with 29 RBIs and 18 doubles in 64 games prior to being traded to Wichita days before the All-Star game.
Regas found a home in the Kansas City pen in the role as the T-Bones premier closer. In 2014 Regas finished tied for third in the league in saves with 22. He posted a 7-3 record with a 2.70 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 66.2 innings pitched.
With an arm like Regas at the back end of the bullpen, the mentality of the T-Bones pitching staff was simple in 2014: “get to the ninth.” Because of this consistent performance by Regas, Massarelli felt comfortable throwing a combination of young guys into starting roles. One of those young arms was Derek Gordon, the younger brother of Royals’ outfielder Alex Gordon.
After finishing his collegiate career at nearby Park University, Gordon made his first professional start for the T-Bones on July 5 in a 10-0 win over Winnipeg. It was one of three complete games thrown by the T-Bones’ pitching staff in 2014, as Gordon tossed seven scoreless innings in game one of a doubleheader and struck out three.
A number of younger guys got a shot as a starter, but arguably the most talented pitcher in the rotation was veteran Daniel Barone. After stepping away from the game in 2009, the former major leaguer decided to return to the game he once loved in 2014 with Kansas City.
Unfortunately for Barone, his season was cut short because of a season ending injury he suffered early in the year. Before his injury, Barone was the clear ace of this rotation with a 5-3 record, a 3.09 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 10 starts.
Like any pitching staff, Kansas City’s hurlers relied on the defense behind them. For the T-Bones, they had one of the best all year. The defense was highlighted by one of the best defensive shortstops in the league in Vladimir Frias, who made a “smooth play of the game” on a nightly basis.
Despite missing the post season and posting a record of 48-52, the team finished winning their final six games and finished six games back in the Central Division in third place behind Lincoln. Despite the record, there were plenty of proud moments in the 2014 season to hang their hat on.
After going 48-52 in Massarelli’s first season with Kansas City, the T-Bones went 49-50 in 2015 and were in contention for the American Association’s wild-card spot until the last week of the season. The club missed .500 by a game, but the team was on the upswing, and it was enough that the team announced that they had extended the contract of manager John Massarelli through the 2016 season. The optimism was understandable. In 14 seasons as a minor-league manager, eight of Massarelli’s teams reached their respective playoffs. (Three other teams missed the postseason by one game or fewer.) When he became the fifth manager in T-Bones history in November 2013, Massarelli took over a club that had finished 40-60 in 2013 and hadn’t been to the postseason since 2010.
After and early 3-3 start and reaching 7-7 after 14 games, the T-Bones would find themselves chasing .500 in the first half of the season from that point onward. The Bones would close to within two games of the mark on multiple occasions and one game on another, but a 3-7 mid-June stretch dropped the team to 9-14. The T-Bones would swim upstream during the first half and would find their mark at the halfway point at 21-24.
The second half had one big highlight in August: The T-Bones won seven straight from August 8 to 14, the longest winning streak of the season and the longest winning streak since the 2010 Championship season. The final win of the streak was a Sunday 2-1 walk off winner over Laredo, the 850th career win for Manager John Massarelli.
“I’m not one to reflect during the season, but my first instinct with this is that it tells me I’ve been around for a long time,” Massarelli said. “I don’t know how many losses I have, but I remember those more than the wins. “More than anything right now, I’m glad for our guys that they’ve turned things around a little bit.”
The streak put the T-Bones at 37-42 with 21 regular-season games remaining, but the celebration was short lived. Massarelli would see his club win five more games in August while losing 16. The 5-16 finish would doom the T-Bones to a 42-58 finish and a spot in the bottom of the Central Division, 12 games behind Wichita. The T-Bones were the only club in the Central below .500.
At the plate Jake Blackwood knocked in 66 runs while Dalton Wheat hit a team leading .335. Anthony Gallas went deep 16 times in 2016 for KC. On the hill it was Mike Kickham who lead the pitching staff with a 2.83 ERA, which was also earned third in the AA.
The T-Bones did find themselves on the short end of a walk off no hitter on June 2nd at Gary, Indiana. Karl Triana held the T-Bones hitless and the RailCats scored a two out walk off win 1-0 to beat KC. That would present an interesting footnote for the 2017 season when the T-Bones would also be involved in a walk off no hitter.
2017 saw a change in the dugout for Kansas City. Masserilli was not retained following the 2016 finish, and the club turned to Joe Calfapietra to hopefully change the fortunes and direction of the T-Bones. Calfapietra came to Kansas City after a 14 year run with the New Jersey Jackals and with a philosophy of getting the best players and getting them on the T-Bones roster to hopefully sell their contracts as soon as possible to affiliated baseball.
Calfapietra retained the entire coaching staff of Bill Sobbe, Frank White and John West. The club got off to a 1-5 start on the first homestand, but the team would hit the road and win their next three series and get .500 on June 6th. From June 7th on the club stayed above .500. The T-Bones would climb to a franchise-high 16 games above .500 on August 13th and find themselves in the thick of the playoff race the rest of the season.
With the win on August 26th at Gary first year T-Bones manager Joe Calfapietra won his 900th career game. He hit the 50-win mark August 23rd at home against Cleburne for the seventh straight season.
On July 15th at Shaw Park the T-Bones and Winnipeg Goldeyes played the longest game in American Association history. A 5:25 minute affair that saw position play Kyle Petty pitch and right-hander Matt Sergey pitch left-handed in relief. Sergey had started the T-Bones final game of a three-game series at Fargo two days earlier from his normal right-hand side. The T-Bones dropped the game 12-11 in 14. No hitter - On July 27 Matt Sergey (2-1 walk off win vs TEX) tossed seven shutout innings in game one of a doubleheader. It was the second straight year the league had a walk off no hitter, the previous being in 2016 when Gary walked off in no hit fashion over the T-Bones. This not hitter like the 2016 feat the T-Bones faced would also feature an interesting footnote to the 2018 season.
How good of a season was it for KC? The T-Bones were 7-7 on June 1st on 2016 the latest the club was at .500 in 2016. In 2015, the club reached the .500 mark on the second to the last day of the season on September 6th. That followed reaching the mark at 12-12 on June 29th. The team was 1-10 at one point in 2015. In 2014 the club was 30-30 on July 18th and never reached .500 again and was 1-1 to start 2013 the last point the team was at. 500 that season. In 2017 the team reached .500 at 7-7 at Sioux Falls on June 2nd and stayed at or above for 93 days and 83 in a row. There were 109 days in the Season during 2017. The last T-Bone club to have that long run of success above the .500 mark was the 2012 season where the team was at or above .500 for 66 games from June 22nd until the end of the season. This club beat that mark 93 to 66.
The T-Bones would go into the final weekend of the season in a dog fight to end their seven-year play-off drought. The season would come down to the final day, Labor Day, the final inning and the final minutes of the season. Fargo had lost earlier leaving the final spot up for grabs. Over in Indiana the Gary RailCats were playing Lincoln and with a win, they were in. Kansas City needed to win over St. Paul to secure a playoff spot and Gary needed a loss because the RailCats owned the slight edge over KC in the season series.
Tucker Pennell hit a three-run blast over the mini monster in left to turn to rescue the T-Bones who trailed by three in the seventh. The teams would be even into the bottom of the ninth. During the final three innings, fans were scoreboard watching as Lincoln had a 1-0 lead over Gary. The T-Bones would work to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth but during the inning the news came down from Chicagoland that the RailCats walked off winners over the Saltdogs. The T-Bones would follow suit five minutes later with a walk off win of their own, but it would not push KC into the post season. The team would drop the tie breaker and yet still had posted their second-best record over all in the team’s history.
Cody Winiarski was named to the season All-Star team while Kansas City fought to stay in the hunt despite the team losing three players to Major League organizations and another to AAA Mexico. That number included staff ace Scott Carroll who was signed by the Chicago Cubs in early August. It would begin a new trend in Kansas City of becoming the leader in the American Association for player contracts being sold. The T-Bones would also have outfielder Joe Jackson on the 2017 squad for part of the year. Jackson, the great grandnephew of the legendary “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, made for some fun stories in every town the T-Bones visited in 2017.
Joe Calfapietra put together another outstanding club in 2018. The team once again broke the franchise win mark for a single season but finished second in the Southern Division to the league’s best club record wise, the Sioux City Explorers. A classic stretch drive playoff run during August helped the T-Bones fight off the Wichita Wingnuts for one of the Wild Card playoff spots in the American Association.
Before the historic run the club was once again setting a breaking franchise records. 500 and beyond-The T-Bones went above .500 on May 25th and stayed there the rest of the season. The team spent 90 days above .500 (84 in 2017) and reached a new franchise high off 26 games above .500 during the last weekend of the season. In 17 the club reached 16 games above on August 13 and hit the nine games above mark on July 6th. This season the team hit the 16 game mark on July 11th. Of note on August 13 this season the club was 21 games above .500 a Monday off day.
Streaking- The T-Bones won nine in a row in 2004 from August 21 to August 31. The team was able to tie that mark as the franchise longest with their nine-game ride from June 18th – June 28th. The T-Bones matched their 2017 season high six game winning streak Sunday June 27th and matched their two-year total of seven games from August 8 to August 13 on the 26th of the month of June. Only an unfortunate bull pen collapse on the 29th kept it from a perfect 10 and setting a new mark. Just play the hits- The T-Bones finished second in the league at the plate with a .295 team average and the second highest mark in franchise history. The high is .299 set in 2007. The team hit as high as .312 on July 1st then dropping to .289 in early August but then climbed back to .295. At one point before the affiliated clubs came to pluck the team of their number the club has the league’s top two hitters for average in Todd Cunningham (.403) and Dylan Tice (.375) and five other regulars were hitting over .300.
Riding the brooms- The T-Bones had seven sweeps in 2018. There may be none bigger than the sweep of Winnipeg on June 18-20. Ir\t was the first ever sweep of Goldie at Shaw Park in the history of the series. The T-Bones did sweep Winnipeg at what was then known as CommunityAmerica Ballpark in 2007 on August 3rd through August 5th. The next weekend the T-Bones recorded a back to back sweep with the broom and dust pan over Cleburne on June 22-24. The last back to back sweeps came in 2015 and 2016 for KC. The team swept Rockland of the Can-Am League on June 30-July 1st in three games then on July 3- July 5 swept Rusty the RailCats boys from Gary. That team also was off to a 1-10 start. In 2016 on August 8 – August 10 the T-Bones swept Lincoln at home then swept Laredo in four games. Well not stopping there the club would recorded their first ever three sweeps in a row feat with a sweep of Lincoln at T-Bones Stadium on the 25-27 of June. National League T-Bones- On Saturday June 16th due to an ejection of Adrian Nieto and an injury to Cal Towey, KC was forced to play their DH thus making the pitcher spot a batter. It did not fair too bad as Barret Astin recorded a hit going 1-for-2 and Joe Felimeno went 0-1.
No hit history- The T-Bones have tossed two no hitters in franchise history and in back to back years and against the same club the Airhogs. The most recent came July 5th in a 1-0 win in game one of the doubleheader. The previous came in 2017 on July 27 (also a Thursday) by Matt Sergey (2-1 walk off win vs TEX). The team has been in involved in three in the last three seasons with the 2016 event on the other end of a walk off not hitter at Gary.
Moving on up- The T-Bones have lost eight players during the season to affiliated ball and three more to Mexico, yet still somehow reached a franchise best 26 games above .500, make the post season and win a championship. Dylan Tice became the 38th Kansas City player and the eighth this season to have his contract purchased while with the T-Bone at St. Paul on August 3rd. In May, the Washington Nationals purchased the contract of outfielder Adam Brett Walker, and the New York Mets purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Cody Martin. On July 3, the Cubs purchased the contract of left-handed T-Bones pitcher James Buckelew. On July 7, the Cincinnati Reds purchased the contract of left-handed pitcher Carlos Diaz. On July 13, the Seattle Mariners purchased the contract of left-handed pitcher Joe Filomeno, and on July 17 the Texas Rangers picked up OF/IF Nick Torres. Taylor Featherston was plucked from the roster less than two weeks ago by the Cincinnati Reds on July 24th. Add IF/OF Frank Duncan to the mix signed by the Dodgers just a week before spring trainings. On that note the club has lost the #6 Dylan Tice and #9 Nick Torres ranked batting averages in the league. The team had three players also signed in AAA Mexico this season.
The Chosen few- Of the opening night lineup card in Wichita on the batting order only two starters remain from that night when the seasons ended. Adrian Nieto and Keith Curcio with Tucker Pennell on the bench as the backup catcher.
The trade- On July 8th Noah Perio Jr and Zach Walters were swapped between St. Paul and KC. The evidence suggest that the trade was beneficial for both clubs, but the finished product shows what a difference maker Perio Jr. was for KC this season. He would also be named the league finals MVP.
The post season -After missing out in 2017 on a tie breaker, the T-Bones had finally found their way back into the post season and for the first time as members of the American Association. KC would face their old rivals Sioux City in the first round of the playoffs. Things got off to a slow start with the T-Bones dropping game one at home but coming back to even the series in game two. When the teams moved to Iowa, Kansas City blew out the X’s in game three then dropped game four to set up a winner-take-all game five.
Danny Hayes RBI double that magically fell from the sky in the seventh would break a tie game and help push Kansas City ahead. The bullpen locked it all down as the T-Bones took the hard-fought series three games to two. The T-Bones would return to KCK for an off day before heading to St. Paul to face another long-term rival, the Saints.
The T-Bones had a blast in game one, routing the Saints at home to steal the first game on the road. St. Paul took game two, setting up a best of three in the “metro” for all the marbles. The T-Bones did not disappoint, sweeping the Saints at T-Bones Stadium. The Saints led early in both games, but Kansas City was resilient in fighting back to take both games. Alay Lago hit a two-run home run to erase a 3-2 Saints lead in the sixth and series MVP Noah Perio Jr. added a bases-clearing double an inning later to give Kansas City a 5-3 lead. The pen was stellar once again with Nick Lee and Cody Winiarski shutting the door down in the clincher.
The T-Bones won their first American Association pennant and third league crown in franchise history. The accomplishment was also part of a season where the T-Bones had a league-leading eight players contracts sold during the season and lost two more players to AAA Mexico. Calfapietra was named Manager of the Year despite the in season turn over and once again showed how to work the roster at the independent level. His philosophy of getting players hungry for a second and third chance paid off time and time again.
On the hill: