When was the last time someone won the Royals’ grand slam promotion before this week?
Grand slams don’t happen all the time, but they’re not exactly a blue moon, either. So getting one Royal to hit one in the sixth inning of any of their 162 games should happen occasionally, right?
As Royals fans know, nothing in the past 10 years has come easy for the team.
Lorenzo Cain’s grand slam in the sixth inning of the Royals’ memorable 10-7 Independence Day comeback win over Cleveland was the first winner in the team’s promotion since 2004.
Since that time Kansas City has hit 21 grand slams, but none came in the sixth inning required to win the contest. Overland Park’s Debbie Hassed won $25,000 as the prize in the promotion sponsored by Sonic Drive-In.
Sonic has similar promotions with the Astros and the Rangers, both of whom have had sixth-inning grand slams in the last five years.
In a statistic which may serve as a coincidental illustration of KC’s struggles since its last winning season in 2003, every other team has had a sixth-inning grand slam since the Royals’ last one in 2004.
Who hit that other “moneyball”?
Outfielder Abraham Nunez, who hit five home runs — two of them grand slams — in his 59 games with the Royals in ’04.
Nunez — not even the most famous Abraham Nunez that played baseball in the 2000s — hit a grand slam against Oakland’s Mark Mulder in the sixth inning of the Royals’ 10-3 win on Aug. 13, 2004.
Rookie John Buck, who had just been acquired six weeks earlier in the Carlos Beltran trade, hit a second slam for the Royals in the eighth inning — the only time KC has ever had two slams in one game.
That was the second contest winner of the season, however, as Matt Stairs won some money for a Royals fan with his slam in KC’s 15-5 rout over Cleveland on April 20, 2004.
Jeriome Robertson issued an intentional walk to Juan Gonzalez to face Stairs in a lefty-lefty matchup. Stairs jumped on the first pitch.
"Trust me," Stairs said at the time, "if he throws that pitch 10 times, I might only hit it one time."
Combined with Cain’s, the 2004 slams were the only winners in the 15-year history of the promotion.
Who is the last Wichita State player to play in the NBA?
Former Shocker guard Gal Mekel might be among the most unlikely NBA players in Wichita State history if he makes the Dallas Mavericks, with whom he committed to sign a multi-year deal at league-minimum salary.
Mekel, 25, played two unspectacular seasons for the Shockers under Mark Turgeon and Gregg Marshall between 2006 and 2008 before leaving for his native Israel to sign with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s pro organization.
Now a two-time Israeli league MVP, Mekel is poised to be the first Shocker in the pros since Maurice Evans’ last game in the 2011-12 season.
Evans, who played a season and a half for Wichita State in the 1990s, transferred to Texas. He went undrafted when he left Austin in 2001, but played for seven NBA teams over the next 11 years.
The last player with exclusive WSU ties was Wichita Heights grad Antoine Carr, who wrapped up a 16-year career in 2000 with the Vancouver Grizzlies.
Other Shockers playing against Carr in the 1990s were Xavier McDaniel (1986-98) and Cliff Levingston (1983-95).