One Saturday evening early in the summer, 32-year-old Rachel Cahill went to Kauffman Stadium to see the Royals take on the Indians.
Cahill went to the game with Amy Laws, one of her best friends from St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Rounding out the group was Laws' fiance, T.J. Meyer, and his father. It was a gorgeous night, and as they drove over to the stadium, they joked about Laws and Meyer showing up on the Kiss Cam.
As they parked in the stadium lot, another car pulled in behind them. Out stepped the brother of one of Meyer's childhood friends from Wichita. Surprised by the coincidence, they chatted for a few minutes before the guy from Wichita went into the stadium.
Early in the game, the Jumbotron displayed a shot of Sluggerrr handing out hot dogs to the crowd. Onscreen, Laws saw her cousin and his family behind Sluggerrr. Then, midway through the game, the Kiss Cam operator walked by them, and Laws and Meyer got their moment on the big screen. Laws' phone rang. It was her cousin, telling her that he'd just seen her on the Jumbotron.
Not long after that, Laws and Cahill went to the restroom, where they ran into Molly Brown, the sister of one of their high school friends. "We saw you guys on the Kiss Cam," Brown said to Laws.
Back at their seats, Cahill looked up later to see Brown and her family on the Jumbotron.
"It made you feel like the stadium was supersmall that night," Cahill says.
Kansas City is a big small town. We hear that a lot.
According to some people who grew up here, that means overlapping social circles, smaller degrees of separation and the certainty of seeing familiar faces everywhere. It also means that gossip spreads quickly, people have to tread carefully, and long-held grudges can follow them wherever they go.
Good or bad, it shapes Kansas City.
In summer 2007, Cahill, her high school best friend, Kelly Connealy Bishop, and Kelly's husband, Robert Bishop (an occasional contributor to The Pitch), appeared on VH1's World Series of Pop Culture.
Only 16 teams from around the country made the cut for the show's second season. Cahill and the Bishops were elated to go to New York to compete. During the tournament, their team, Wocka Wocka, defeated three others to reach the championship round. Sadly, they lost the title — and $250,000 — to the Twisted Misters from New York City.
Wocka Wocka wasn't the only local team on the show. Westerburg High, which made it to the quarterfinals, consisted of Lawrence residents Andy Morton, J.D. Warnock and Eric Melin.
The weekend after Wocka Wocka's members found out they had made the cut, the Bishops went to a party in Lawrence and told everyone their exciting news.
"We're going to be on it, too," Morton replied with disbelief.
"It was very weird that we ended up flying to New York with this other team we knew," Cahill says.
Cahill has spent most of her life in the Kansas City area. She grew up on both sides of the state line and headed to the University of Kansas after she graduated from Aquinas. After KU, she moved to New York City, where she worked for MetLife and eventually decided to get a master's degree in education from Fordham University before coming back here to teach.
Living in a big small town, she says, "means that I always have the possibility of running into people I know."
And there are drawbacks. "It can be uncomfortable at times as a teacher," she says. One night at the American Royal, she turned around and saw the parents of a student. "I'm like, how many beers have I had? I felt like I couldn't talk to them."