UPDATE: The long-awaited game between the Kansas City Royals and Omaha Storm Chasers will not be played.
The Royals announced on Twitter that the Monday night game at Werner Park was cancelled because of inclement weather.
According to the Storm Chasers, the game will not be made up. Tickets may be exchanged at the Werner Park ticket office for tickets to any 2018 Omaha contest for equal/less monetary value.
Kansas City had not played an exhibition against its top minor-league affiliate since 2000. The Royals played their final spring training game Sunday in Arizona, and open the major-league season Thursday at home against the Chicago White Sox.
Omaha opens its Class AAA season April 5 when Colorado Springs visits Werner Park.
It’s been so long since the Kansas City Royals last visited their top affiliate in Omaha for an exhibition game that none of the players who will suit up Monday has participated in one.
But Brian Poldberg has. The Storm Chasers manager was a catcher for the Omaha Royals from 1983 to 1985 and recalled facing the big league squad at least once at Rosenblatt Stadium during his Triple-A career.
“We used to have them, but in April or May when they’d have an off day. We played at least one — if not two — between ’83 and ’85,” he said. “It was neat getting to play against the big league club in Omaha.”
Poldberg has coached or managed in the organization since the late 1980s and has seen a lot players come through the farm system before reaching Kansas City. But he also remembers what it was like for him and his Omaha teammates to have their opportunity to shine in the exhibition.
“You got a chance for the big league manager — and the big league staff — to see you play,” Poldberg said. “Whether he had seen you in that type of situation before, it gave you a little more adrenaline.”
Kansas City manager Ned Yost has seen some of the Chasers who will be in the opposite dugout Monday recently in spring training. Inevitably, he’ll end up relying on them at some point in the future the way he has former Omaha players like Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy and others.
Many of the former O-Royals or Chasers will be at Werner Park for Monday’s 6:05 p.m. game between the major league club and its top affiliate. Both teams are celebrating their 50th season this summer.
“It’s exciting to welcome these young men back,” Chasers President and General Manager Martie Cordaro said. “We’re eager to see how this propels them into their season opener. We’re really excited for Royals baseball this year. There’s been a lot of changes, obviously, but I’m really enthused with a number of the moves the organization has made. We’re ready to celebrate year No. 50 and support the Royals through a 50th season.”
Cordaro and Chasers owner Gary Green have wanted to bring an exhibition game with Kansas City to Werner for some time. They worked with Royals Assistant General Manager Scott Sharp to get it done.
“This is the one event that was somewhat eluding us,” Cordaro said. “Our relationship with the Royals is why this is happening. If it wasn’t as strong as it is, they would not be playing in Omaha. If they didn’t believe in the relationship as they do, they would not be playing in Omaha in March. We’re really eager to have the game, and we know the fans are going to have a fantastic time.”
Tickets for the exhibition game, the first played at the 9,023-seat stadium, went quickly when they were first put on sale for the public. The Chasers released a few more recently, and those were also sold quickly.
The game is being met with much more anticipation than the last exhibition between Omaha and Kansas City. Their meeting at Rosenblatt Stadium 18 years ago — in April 2000 — drew an attendance of 3,976.
“It’s been a long time,” Poldberg said. “I know the game sold out within 24 hours from when the tickets went on sale. It’s good for the city of Omaha to get this and come out and see the big league team. It’s been a while since they’ve done it.
“I think it’s kind of neat that they got it to take place.”
Both teams arrived in Omaha on Sunday and will be leaving town right away after the game. Kansas City opens its regular season at home Thursday against the Chicago White Sox. The Storm Chasers will return to Arizona for a week’s worth of games before flying back to Omaha late Saturday night.
First basemen Frank Schwindel and Ryan O’Hearn, who have combined to hit 12 homers for the Royals this spring, are among the players expected to suit up for Omaha on Monday night. Others include one-time Nebraska infielder Cody Asche and former Creighton shortstop and Royals prospect Nicky Lopez.
The Chasers open the regular season April 5 at Werner Park against Colorado Springs. Cordaro said Monday’s game with Kansas City was the perfect way to start off a milestone summer in Omaha.
“I think at the end of the day, what this exhibition is about is a celebration,” he said. “It wasn’t planned to be a 50th season kickoff, but obviously it is. For this to be the celebration kickoff, there’s nothing better.”