Dispatches from Kansas City: “Did you have a decent time?”

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HardballTalk’s Drew Silva is filing regular stories from this year’s MLB All-Star festivities in KC. Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four. Part Five.

When I picked up my press packet Saturday from the will call window next to Kauffman Stadium’s Gate C, it included an invitation to something called the “2012 MLB All-Star Gala” — to be held in a nearby tent after the Home Run Derby late Monday night.

I presumed it was another event for sponsors to strut their stuff and give out free samples to fans. It wasn’t.

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Through the security gates and past a giant glass statue that looked like something off the set of a Superman movie, I entered the best party I’ve ever attended (well, since college). There were three stages — all featuring blues and jazz bands — and open bars at every turn. I ate candied bacon, expertly-prepared cowboy ribeye and slices of roasted duck while chatting with the industry people I recognized and meeting the ones I didn’t.

Frank Thomas dished out hugs and drank aluminum Budweiser bottles, posing for pictures whenever asked. I discussed the Justin Upton trade rumors with Arizona Republic beat writer Nick Piecoro and the underrated D.C. nightlife with Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The tent didn’t clear out until just after 1 a.m.

I received a gift as I left — a commemorative All-Star baseball resting atop a gold crown — and shook my head in disbelief on the long walk through the then-nearly-empty Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadium lots.

source:  “Did you have a decent time?” asked an elderly man in a yellow security polo, directing what little was left of the Derby and Gala traffic. “Rarely had better,” I responded, completely meaning every word of it.

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Today I toured the Boulevard Brewery with ESPN’s Amanda Rykoff, a must-follow on Twitter for any baseball fan. We got to try out a test brew called “Hoppy Wheat,” which tasted even better than it probably sounds. Word is it’s being released to the public via small shipments in about three weeks.

After the tour and subsequent sampling we hit up Danny Edward’s BBQ on the reccomendation of our brewery guide. The burnt ends were melt-in-your-mouth terrific and the smoky baked beans contained chunks of pulled pork. I had never heard of the place and my cousin who has lived in this town for 24 years has never been, but it was as good as any barbecue joint I’ve tried on this trip. That’s Kansas City for you. Go off the beaten path and you’re still in pretty great shape.

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source:  As I sit out in left field tonight watching the end of the All-Star Game, I can’t help but feel reflective.

Between the first-time press box experience, the up-close-and-personal media day and the many beers and plates of world-class barbecue in between, this past week has been a spectacular whirlwind.

I fell deeply in love all over again with this supposed cowtown. I exchanged dialogue with some of my idols in the baseball-writing profession. I got an email from Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, exclaiming that he was “LOVING” my work. And I was given the freedom to share it all in whatever way I saw fit.

“Bless my heart, bless my soul, didn’t think I’d make it to 22 years old,” belts Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard in a track called “Hold On” that I’ve been spinning with regularity since my trip first began in suburban St. Louis. I didn’t have many well-thought-out goals as a kid. I could never envision myself as a grown up — with a job and a level of respect from peers — so I never tried to. Now I can’t wait for what’s next.

Braves’ prospect Ronald Acuna wins AFL MVP, helps clinch AFL Championship Game

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The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.

At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.

Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.

Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.