Kansas City Royals' mascot Sluggerrr emulated Herbie Husker's celebratory first pitch Saturday at Kauffmann Stadium.
Photo by None

A 12th Birthday Dream and a ‘Hip-Hip’ for Mike Riley

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York’s N-Sider

Official Blog of the Huskers

Saturday’s Husker Night at The K was the best one yet, and that accolade goes well beyond the Royals’ Danny Duffy ending Toronto pitcher Aaron Sanchez’s 10-game winning streak in a 4-2 Kansas City win. 

Kauffmann Stadium was packed, the weather was perfect, the popcorn was fresh, and the N-Sider returned to Lincoln Sunday with two unexpected memorable takeaways.

First and foremost, we arrived at the ball park early, along with 7,069 Husker fans who bought their tickets through a special promotion that included a commemorative cap. Seven sixth-grade boys pulled those classy hats on their heads, grabbed their baseball gloves and headed to the first-row seats surrounding the outfield for batting practice.

First row, from left: Nick Murphy, Ryan Pikey, Carter Henderson, Max Holdhusen, Payton Henderson, Will Stroud, Will Cruz.                    Second row, from left: Big Red Cheer Squad members Bradyn Brownell, Brighton Kathol, Katie Harrison.
Nebraska's Cheer Squad Takes the Time to Salute and Celebrate a Birthday

“Those seven sixth-graders had an absolute ball all day long,” Brad Holdhusen said. “We drove into the parking lot at 1 o’clock, enjoyed a kids’ tailgate and played games. Then we got in the long line to get their hats and take advantage when they opened the front-row seats.”

Max Holdhusen, the “dream birthday” honoree and grandson of Husker running back legend Jeff Kinney, was celebrating his 12th birthday. “It was super that Husker Night happened to be on Max’s birthday,” his father said. “It was perfect for Max and six of his Overland Park buddies.”

Birthday Boy's Friend Snared an Alex Gordon Batting Practice Home Run Ball

It was a lucky day for Payton Henderson (pictured above). He secured a baseball that cleared the outfield wall in batting practice. Learning quickly that Alex Gordon, his favorite Husker player, had hit the homer, Payton offered to give the baseball to the birthday boy as a present.

“Nah,” Max said. “I want to catch my own home run someday.”

Even though 7,069 was the official ticket turnstile for Husker Night, the count multiplied dramatically with Big Red fans choosing to buy lower seats months ago and taking advantage of a magical evening that included Herbie Husker throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Husker fans also enjoyed the attention on the big screens in between innings, extolling the virtues of Gordon, plus all sorts of Big Red trivia.

Not Surprisingly, Toronto Bluejay Fan Says Riley Well Respected in Canada

Since Nebraska has a national reputation with the longest fan sellout streaks in the history of NCAA football and NCAA volleyball, I couldn’t help but ask three Toronto Bluejay fans where they lived and how often they support their team on the road.

Larry Marks (above left) is a buyer for a medical company. He, his wife and son live in Ajax, Ontario, a Toronto suburb. Like Big Red fans, they enjoy supporting their favorite team on the road and decided visiting the reigning World Championship team would be intriguing.

I asked Larry if he was a Canadian Football League fan. “I’m a big CFL fan,” Marks said. “It’s much different than the NFL, but very fun to watch.”

CFL Fan: Everybody Had Great Respect for Riley When He Was in Winnipeg

I couldn’t resist. “Have you heard of Mike Riley?” I asked.

“I know who he is. He was a big-time coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” Marks said. “I’m a Toronto Argonaut fan, but everybody had great respect for Riley when he was in Winnipeg. He was a very, very, competent coach, who was loved by Winnipeg. Even his opponents’ fans respected him because his teams were so disciplined. It’s been a long time since he left, and I don’t know if Winnipeg ever really recovered.”

Here's a timely footnote: This Friday night, the Argonauts (4-2) host the Blue Bombers (3-4) in Winnipeg. I have no idea if the Blue Jays' fans are ready to multi-task as sports fans in August, especially when the Royals exploded to beat Toronto again, 7-1, Sunday in KC. The loss dropped Toronto to one game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the lead in the American League East, and I suspect that baseball's global stretch drive is more important with one notable exception – the Olympic Games, depending on the sport and the status of every home country.

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include city, state)

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