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Fantasy sports used to be the province of stat geeks, the kind who made a hobby of analyzing every last box score. But today, it’s a mega-industry unto itself that’s only gaining momentum, from the stadium to the statehouse. Commentator Victor Wishna explains in  “A Fan’s Notes.”

We sports fans love sports because they are at once games of skill and games of chance. Lacing a line drive past a diving third-basemen—that’s skill. But then, the wind pushes it just foul. Such are the chances.

But what if, you know, you’re just pretending?

Katie Brady / Flickr--CC

Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, is in its fifth season as the home of Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer. For the money spent on what is regarded as one of the best soccer venues in the country, very little so far has been invested in Wyandotte County for youth soccer.

But changes are taking place.

The NFL Draft takes place Thursday night, and a Kansas City area high school graduate was projected to be among the early picks. That is, until the news came out this week about Shane Ray being pulled over on I-70 and cited for marijuana possession.

Ray, a defensive lineman from Bishop Miege High School, was honored two weeks ago by the Kansas City Sports Commission for his three-year career at the University of Missouri. At that time, he was asked about the NFL Draft.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Remember last year, when the Kansas City Royals were the underdog darlings of baseball? The team’s winning again this season, but it’s been a bit ugly.

Opposing pitchers have hit Royals players 20 times, including a nasty one Alcides Escobar caught in the head Wednesday night. The Royals have hit six in return. Umpires have already ejected Royals players nine times, the most in baseball, and two recent series culminated in bench-clearing brawls. The numbers reflect a fundamental issue: The Royals keep running afoul of baseball's unwritten rules.

Keith Allison / Flickr--CC

After five decades of hostility, President Obama is moving to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. There’s a place in Kansas City, though, where the two countries already seem very close: Kauffman Stadium.

Kendrys Morales, the Royals’ new hitting star is from Cuba, and across Major League Baseball the number of Cuban players is on the rise. But those players reached the U.S. as refugees, and some worry that warming relations with Cuba may actually crimp the supply of baseball talent from Cuba.

John Spertus / KCUR

A Kansas City-Oakland rivalry conjures up the thought of the Chiefs vs. the Raiders in the National Football League — but nothing in Major League Baseball. At least until this weekend.

The Raider’s withering performance on the football field in recent years hardly stirs up the glorious memories of the classic matchups against the Chiefs that dates back to the old days of the AFL in the 1960s — no matter how much the Chiefs attempt to manufacture a menacing growl.

Michael Zupon / Flickr--CC

Two Kansas City Royals players, their manager and two coaches were kicked out of Sunday's series finale against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium.

When it was all said and done, the Royals won the game, 4-2, and the series.

A’s starting pitcher Scott Kazmir says they left town angry.

“It leaves a bad taste in our mouth. It really does,” said Kazmir.

But Kazmir started the day by hitting Lorenzo Cain.

“I definitely didn’t like it,” said Cain.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Former Kansas City Royals All-Star Billy Butler is back at Kauffman Stadium Friday — but in a different uniform.

He's in his first season with the Oakland Athletics and getting used to wearing the green and gold uniform colors of his new team.

"Yeah, it's one of those things. It's my locker. I just knew what to put on," said Butler. "Yeah, it's different. I put on a royal blue shirt on this morning. I didn't realize I actually put a royal blue shirt on."

  

  The last time the Oakland A’s came to town, the result was one of the wildest come-from-behind victories in Kansas City sports history. Tonight’s rematch at the K marks an historic comeback of another sort, at least for one longtime fan favorite. Commentator Victor Wishna explains in “A Fan’s Notes.”

In the history of Kauffman Stadium, only a handful of men have stepped up to the plate more often than William Raymond Butler, Jr. His 2,422 appearances include seven home openers, one All-Star debut, and, of course, the bottom-of-the-ninth in Game Seven of the World Series. Tonight, he’ll be there again for the first time since. And, for the first time ever, this home plate won’t be home.

The Royals have started this year with the same intensity that electrified the city in October. It’s as if they don’t realize the season ever ended. Which makes it even harder to believe that Billy Butler, the man known as “Country Breakfast,” is now an Oakland Athletic. It’ll be tough to see him in that green-and-gold, only in part because no one looks good in those colors. The A’s will come in here looking to avenge their Wild-Card humiliation. But for Butler and fans, the sure-to-be-bittersweet reunion calls for a warmer brand of payback.

Karen Elshout / Missourinet.com

The Missouri Supreme Court Wednesday heard arguments from representatives of the Kansas City Chiefs and one of their past employees. The case revolves around alleged age discrimination over the Chiefs’ firing of Steve Cox, a former maintenance manager at Arrowhead Stadium.

Lewis Galloway, Cox’s attorney, says the Missouri Court of Appeals won’t let him present the evidence he’d like for a fair trial. And that’s what the Missouri Supreme Court will decide.

Beth Lipoff / KCUR

The energy was palpable at Kauffman Stadium, as fans filed in to watch the Royals defeat the White Sox 10-1 in the first game of the season. Though a light drizzle fell from a grey sky, there's wasn't an empty seat to be found. Standing room only tickets sold for more than $100. 

Couldn't make it to the game? The Up To Date team arrived at the stadium bright and early to capture the experience — check out the slideshow above.

Courtesy / jojowhite10.com

Legendary Kansas University basketball player Jo Jo White will be inducted in to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the hall announced Monday.

White, who played guard at KU from 1965-69, was a two-time All America at Kansas. He also led the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal at the 1968 games in Mexico City.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, White had a long NBA career with the famed 1970s Boston Celtics. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star with the team and helped the Celtics to two league championships, in 1974 and 1976.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

It’s a new baseball season, but memories linger from last year when the Kansas City Royals played in the World Series for the first time in 29 years. Monday’s Opening Day pre-game activities will commemorate that.

Opening Day also gives fans a chance to check out a new look inside Kauffman Stadium. Construction workers frantically gutted and restored the old stadium club area, known the last few years as the .390 restaurant. Gone are the large windows, the carpet, the tiles and the more formal settings open only to members. It’s replaced by an open air food and beverage destination called “Craft and Draft” and open to all ticket holders.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Baseball’s unexpected late-season surge of the Kansas City Royals caught the country by surprise last year. Along with that, players like Lorenzo Cain made names for themselves with brilliant plays on the field and speed on the bases. Though Royals are the defending American League champions, experts don’t rate their chances very high of even making the playoffs again this year.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Olathe Northwest High School graduate Willie Cauley-Stein is one of five finalists for the Naismith Award recognizing the best college basketball player. But here’s the caveat: He grew up in Kansas, but plays for Kentucky. The prevailing question is: How did the Kansas schools let him get away?

When the Kansas Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats played for the NCAA championship in 2012, Willie Cauley-Stein, who is now listed at 7-feet tall, was a senior at Olathe Northwest High School. The Jayhawks had 6'10 Thomas Robinson that year before he turned pro. They also had 7-foot Jeff Withey, a junior at the time. When Cauley-Stein decided to sign with Kentucky, he stunned his grandparents, Val and Norma Jean Stein.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

The city of Omaha made a lot of money over the weekend on college basketball fans who followed the Kansas Jayhawks and Wichita State Shockers to their NCAA matchup.

The most devout fans did anything they could to get their hands on seeing a game that, until Sunday, hadn’t been seen in a long time — it has some wondering if the two teams would play each other again soon.

When it was apparent that Wichita State was going to advance from Friday’s game against Indiana, Shocker alum Tony Townsend knew he had to find a way from his home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Omaha. He looked for tickets online.

There are two opponents the Kansas Jayhawks avoid if they had their say: the Missouri Tigers in any sport and Wichita State in men’s basketball.

But an unavoidable clash might occur in the NCAA basketball tournament. It might be entitled “The Omaha brouhaha” if KU and Wichita State win their first games in the NCAA basketball tournament.

That might mean something to Wichita native Perry Ellis, who Jayhawks coach Bill Self says was glad to see playing in the Big 12 tournament.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The 13th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones beat the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 70-66, in their typical style a —comeback, and won the Big 12 tournament Saturday night.

They trailed KU by as many as 17 points.

Cyclone forward Georges Niang, voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, said the Cyclones got a lift from the fans dressed in cardinal and gold.

Frankfort Convention Center / Flickr-CC

If you find yourself stuck in downtown traffic this weekend, then you’ll know that college basketball has once again taken over our town. In this March edition of 'A Fan’s Notes,' commentator Victor Wishna gets to the heart of the madness, with a look at the one tournament that started it all.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Though the Kansas Jayhawks won their 11th straight regular season title, they didn’t look like a championship team in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. But they beat TCU, 64-59, to advance to the semis.

Already without Cliff Alexander for their fourth straight game with an NCAA eligibility issue, the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks also played without their leading scorer, Perry Ellis, who has a knee injury. But KU coach Bill Self doesn’t want to go down the same road as last year when he lost his starting center, Joel Embiid, at the end of the season with an injury.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

The Kansas State Wildcats tip off the Big 12 tournament with a six o’clock game Wednesday against Texas Christian University.

The Wildcats know that their season will end if they lose.

K-State has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team this season. Its impressive wins are coupled with ugly losses. The season has been a head-scratcher for Wildcats coach Bruce Weber.

Post-season men’s college basketball gets underway Thursday at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City.

The MIAA tournament for Division II teams was the start of a national championship run a year ago.

Central Missouri’s march to the national championship last year was the fourth in the school’s history and the first under Coach Kim Anderson before he moved on to take over the Missouri Tigers.

After winning the championship, Anderson said other parts of the country probably don’t know how good the quality of Division II basketball is in this region.

In dramatic fashion, the Kansas Jayhawks clinched their 11th straight men’s basketball title in the Big 12 Wednesday.

At one point in the game, the ninth-ranked Jayhawks trailed 20th-ranked West Virginia by 18, but KU came back in the second half and forced overtime before pulling out the victory 76-69.

West Virginia played without two starters, but coach Bob Huggins was irked when asked about them.

“I’m not worried about those two guys. If they play, they play. If they don’t play, they don’t play,” Huggins said.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Many of last year’s Kansas City Royals (with a few new faces sprinkled in) gathered this week for spring training in Surprise, Ariz., but there was a different feeling on the field and in the stands.

Last fall, Royals fans departed from Kauffman Stadium subdued after losing Game 7 of the World Series. The San Francisco Giants denied the Royals and their fans a chance to celebrate their second World Series championship.

In the clubhouse, the atmosphere was somber, too. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain said the loss hurt.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Before most of the Royals’ players and coaches reported for spring training, the graphers were there. Waiting.

What’s a grapher? The term is short for “autographer,” someone who devotes him- or herself to collecting player’s autographs.

“We go to the ballparks, team hotels, and some of us who are more extreme go to spring training and travel to the All Star games," said Ethan Roth, who acquires and sells baseball autographs for a living. "It’s basically the art of getting an autograph without paying for it."

Kansas State Athletics Director John Currie says he and his staff are reviewing video of Monday night’s celebration after the Kansas State Wildcats’ upset win over the KU Jayhawks, and criminal charges are possible.

John Currie released a statement Tuesday that acknowledges the breakdown in security while the Jayhawks tried to leave the basketball court. Currie says K-State is working with local law enforcement to identify any fan who intentionally touched any KU player or personnel.

Currie added that action will be undertaken with such identified fans.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Storming the basketball court after beating the nationally-ranked Kansas Jayhawks is becoming a trend.

It’s the third straight game after a KU loss on the road that the opponent’s crowd stormed the court when the final buzzer sounded. Monday night, it was at Kansas State after the Wildcats beat No. 8 KU, 70-63.

Jayhawks coach Bill Self says he is concerned.

“You storm the court. You run in and bump everybody, stuff like that. This has got to stop,” said Self.

Missouri Mavericks

 No one would ever call Kansas City a hockey town. Oh, there’s plenty of ice, look around, but hardly any of it is indoors. Let’s just say this isn’t the best place for aspiring Zamboni drivers.

The only NHL franchise in our history, your Kansas City Scouts, lasted all of two losing seasons in the 1970s. A series of minor-league teams followed, culminating in the present-day, double-A Missouri Mavericks, who arrived at the Independence Events Center in 2009, and now may have that which eluded hockey teams here for decades: a future.

User: miranda / Wikimedia Commons

Legendary basketball coach Dean Smith died late Saturday at the age of 83 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  He grew up in Emporia, Kan. and went to high school in Topeka.  Though his only head coaching job was with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Smith maintained his connections in Kansas.

Knowing Dean Smith’s roots in Kansas, former Kansas athletics director Monte Johnson tried to hire Smith away from North Carolina in 1983.  They met in Albuquerque, New Mexico, site of the ’83 Final Four.

In college basketball, the eighth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks are maintaining their hold on first place in the Big 12 after beating Iowa State Monday night, 89-76.

With a victory over the Kansas Jayhawks earlier this season, Iowa State positioned itself as one of the few teams that could be a serious threat to break the stranglehold KU has on regular season titles.

The Jayhawks are working on winning their 11th straight title. But even after solidifying first place in the Big 12, Jayhawks coach Bill Self isn’t ready to celebrate yet.

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