Our park," he says, "is huge, Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette would have loved to have pitched in it in their heyday. Our theory is to make the other guys hit the ball. If we don't walk anybody, we can win there." The left-field foul line at Municipal Stadium is 370 feet away and has a 22-foot-high fence. Center field is 421 feet and has the same 22-foot fence. Right field is 338 feet away, and its fence, stretching over to right center, is 40 feet high.
"There is no doubt," Roof says, "that many of us went into last season with mixed feelings about Dark. We didn't know what he was, and he didn't know what we were. That's all changed now. The entire team has great respect for him, because he lets you do your job without looking over your shoulder every minute." Third Baseman Ed Charles, the oldest regular on the Kansas City roster at 33 and last year the team's batting leader at .286, is another late-blooming major leaguer. He had 10 years in the minors before he made it with K.C. in 1962. After five years with the A's Charles appreciates the difference in the team. "In my first four springs here," he says, "we really had nothing to build on. Now we do. These kids want to win and make money. They've come off winning minor league teams. They know how to win. And Alvin Dark does a heck of a job handling guys, young and old."
Building a team on young pitchers is often a very risky business unless you have some hitting potential and good relievers. The Athletics have an excellent relief pitcher in Jack Aker, only 26 himself. Last year Aker worked in 66 games for Kansas City and tied a major league record for saves with 26. But hitting is going to come hard for Dark and his A's, though again they have the young boys that every team covets. Rick Monday, the first player ever drafted in the free-agent draft, got $104,000 from Kansas City, and Reggie Jackson got $85,000. Jackson is currently in the service, but Monday has a chance to stick with the team when the season starts. One morning last week Dark put Monday in the batting cage and stood behind hollering out situation plays. "Shortstop's covering second, Rick," he yelled. Monday promptly hit the ball through short. "Second baseman's covering," Dark said. The ball whistled through the hole between first and second. "Middle," Dark said, and Monday hit a scorching line drive through the pitcher's box and into center field. "Goodness gracious," said Dark.
Kansas City has Bert Campaneris at shortstop, and Campaneris has stolen 103 bases over the last two years. Danny Cater is at first base and last year Cater, at .278, was the fifth best hitter in the American League. The Kansas City outfield is in excellent shape defensively, but if one of the new players can break into that outfield and hit, a lot of people are going to be on that A's train as it moves out of Bradenton and up in the American League.