by David Martin
With the costume he used to wear on the floor by his feet, the man who played Sluggerrr for 13 years testified about the arcs and velocities of the hot dogs that he tossed to fans at Kauffman Stadium.
Byron Shores estimated that he threw thousands of foil-wrapped hot dogs into the crowd in his time as the Royals mascot. One fling resulted in a lawsuit. On September 8, 2009, John Coomer was sitting along the third-base line when Sluggerrr threw a hot dog that struck his eye; his suit says the food-borne collision resulted in a detached retina and cataracts.
Jurors at the county courthouse in downtown Kansas City watched stadium video of Shores, as Sluggerrr, shooting hot dogs out of a gun and dispensing them by hand. Unarmed, he liked to mix up his method of delivery -- sidearm, underhand, no-look. "I was wanting to be entertaining," said Shores, who did not don the costume, which lay crumpled on the floor between the witness stand and the jury box.
Jurors learned that Shores threw a hot dog that broke the eyeglasses of a spectator in 2008. Shores said he apologized to the fan after the game.
The stadium's cameras captured images of Shores firing a hot dog Dan Quisenberry-style from the roof over the visitor's dugout on the night that Coomer was hit. The toss in question was not filmed, however.
Shores was a veteran mascot at the time of the incident. He portrayed Truman the Tiger at the University of Missouri. After college, he worked as Fredbird at St. Louis Cardinals games. In 1996, he joined the Royals, who offered him a full-time position.
Shores, a father of three who bears a passing resemblance to recent Saturday Night Live cast member Will Forte, said entertaining children was his first priority when he pulled on Sluggerrr's oversized, leonine head. He said he tried to be a high-energy mascot. "I didn't want to be a dud," he testified. "I didn't want to be lame."
The Royals dismissed Shores after the 2009 season, which ended a few weeks after the incident with Coomer. Shores said the club did not give him a reason for wanting to make a change. "Very short meeting," he said. Shores' replacement lasted only one season.
After finishing his testimony, Shores told a reporter that he was working in retail management.
Before breaking for lunch, jury members passed around the aluminum foil used by Kauffman Stadium food handlers. The trial is expected to conclude on Thursday.