Benedictine College Helps Sponsor KC Royals Pitch Relay on MLB Opening Day

Ravens and Royals Once Again!

Benedictine College Helps Sponsor Historic Pitch Relay on Opening Day

Published: Monday, April 4, 2016

Major League Baseball Opening Day for the World Champion Kansas City Royals included a lot of festivities, from raising the championship banner to creating the longest ceremonial first pitch in history. And Benedictine College was right there in support of everything.

The first pitch was set up as a relay, with 2,500 fans throwing the ball along a 9.49-mile route from Kansas City’s Union Station, where the Royals’ victory celebration was held last November, to Kauffman Stadium. Benedictine College was one of the sponsors of the Relay the Way event, which raised over $100,000 for the Urban Youth Academy, a multimillion-dollar project designed to promote baseball and life skills beyond sports to children in the urban core. It is scheduled to open in the 18th and Vine District this fall. The relay was conceived by Kansas City-based advertising agency VML, which was founded by Benedictine alumnus Matt Anthony ’81.

The relay began with the first toss by Royals’ General Manager Dayton Moore, who gave last year’s Commencement Address at Benedictine College. Ten people from Benedictine also participated in the relay, tossing the ball along Dubiner Circle inside the stadium grounds. They included Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis; his wife, Amy; Abbot James Albers, OSB; S. Bridget Dickason, OSB; Athletic Director Charlie Gartenmayer; Director of Marketing & Communications Stephen Johnson; and four Raven baseball players: Tyler Darrow, Hunter McDaniel, Sean Miller and Devon Sesler.

When it came time to raise the championship flag inside the stadium, that honor was given to Kansas City firefighters Dan Werner and Chris Anderson. They had survived last October’s deadly building collapse on Independence Boulevard in which two of their comrades perished. Werner graduated from Benedictine College in 1999 and was a standout tight end for the Raven football team before going into public service.

Finally, Carolyn Watley ’76, former board member at Benedictine College and president at CBIZ, was chosen to sit in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat behind home plate for the opener. Watley serves on the Capital Campaign Committee for the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy with Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Royals' general manager Dayton Moore, former U.S. Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond, Royals' Hall of Famer George Brett, former Major League Baseball star Joe Carter and community leaders Terry Bassham and Michael Carter.

The late John "Buck" O'Neil was a first baseman and manager with the Kansas City Monarchs in the American Negro League from 1937 to 1955. After his playing days, he worked as a scout, and became the first African American coach in Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs. O’Neil spent many days supporting the Royals from the same seat behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium, both as a scout and a fan. To honor him, the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat program fills "Buck's Seat" for every home game with a member of the community who, on a large or small scale, embodies an aspect of Buck's spirit. 

As for the Opening Day game, the Royals went on to defeat their World Series opponent, the New York Mets, in a scheduling twist that had never happened before in the history of baseball. All in all, it was a great day to be a Royal, and a Raven!

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.