St. Louis Cardinals
L: T. Wood
W: S. Miller
S: E. Mujica
Busch Stadium: Baseball Heaven?
St. Louis is a city that gets quite a lot of love despite being in the middle of the country. Much of the attention is focused on the coasts with New York and Boston grabbing the majority of the headlines. Recently the Los Angeles teams have been making waves, but for the most part the National media tends to focus on the East Coast when it comes to baseball. Being the second most winningest team in the majors is one way to keep your name in the headlines, but having an extraordinary fan base is what makes St. Louis a city that every baseball fan needs to visit at least once.
I have spent the last several days obsessively tracking the weather on the radar map fearing that I may experience my first rain out of the tour. I left my hotel at around 2 PM and as soon as I hit the highway the clouds above exploded with a downpour that stopped traffic. What should have been a 20 minute drive took an hour. Driving down the highway I leaned forward in my car as if those extra inches would help me see more than three feet in front of my bumper. The whole way to the stadium I had resigned myself to missing the game. Once I reached the stadium it looked even worse.
After parking my car I realized that I had just paid $10 for the privilege of standing outside in the rain. As I stood underneath an awning in front of the stadium, I spoke to several groups of Cardinals fans who had traveled from cities two hours or more away from St. Louis just to catch a game. A theme began to develop as the night progressed as I met more people visiting Busch Stadium from out of town than at other stadium thus far. There is a reverence to the game of baseball that I felt here that I have not felt in many other parks. I used to feel it at the old Yankee stadium and I have felt positive energies at most of the parks I have visited (Marlins Park being the one glaring exception), but baseball means quite a lot to the people of St. Louis and you can feel it in the air.
After a couple of hours walking around the stadium and trying to protect myself from getting drenched as much as I could, I finally looked down at my ticket and realized that I had seats in the RedBird Club. I was happy to head to the indoor section above home plate and get some food where it was dry. Inside the RedBird Club there were food stands, a seating area and several TVs that were playing MLB Network and games in progress. Since it was too rainy for me to explore the stadium, I relaxed in doors and chatted with some Cardinals fans. If it had to rain during my tour, I am glad it happened on a day I had club seats. While I sat inside staring out at the tarp on the field, I decided to order tickets for the next night's game just in case there was a rain out. Even if the game was going to be played, I wanted to explore the stadium and that was not going to be possible with the rain still pouring down.
With the delay I had plenty of time to find some food. In fact, the night went on so long I ended up having two meals at the stadium for the first time. First up was a Kosher Dog from one of the many food stands in the RedBird Club. Sadly, I have to say that this was the first bad meal that I have had since starting this tour. Later on in the evening I gave Busch Stadium another chance with the pulled pork nachos from the nacho bar, but I have to say that this has been the weakest ballpark for food.
Fortunately after a two hour and four minute delay the game was underway. For the rest of the evening the weather was eerily perfect. The clouds cleared away and the temperature returned to a pleasant 69 degrees. Thanks to the wonderful ushers at Busch Stadium, I had a nice dry seat to enjoy the game.
Before young Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller took the mound I noticed that the Cardinals are really stretching the idea of the “ceremonial first pitch”. It is common practice these days for most stadiums to have two ceremonial first pitches before the game, but I honestly lost count of how many people came trotting out to the mound. There were more than a dozen people who individually came out to throw a “first pitch”. I use the quotations because at a certain point the word “first” loses it's meaning.
During the game I chatted with an interesting woman who became a Cardinals fan because of her husband. He did not allow her to simply sit by his side during the game while he enjoyed himself, but rather taught her how to love the game as well. He showed her how to track the ball in the field and how to keep score. Sadly he passed away in 2005, but she continues to come to Busch Stadium bringing other first timers to the ballpark to pass on her knowledge. It is truly a beautiful story. I spoke to Linda for the podcast which you can subscribe to on the right. I also spoke to the couple pictured left for the podcast after they appeared on the kiss cam during the game. This was their first time on the kiss cam and to say that they were excited would be putting it mildly.
The game itself was well played. Cardinals rookie phenom Shelby Miller turned in another masterful performance before getting pulled due to a leg cramp. In the seventh inning there was a play at the plate that sent Cubs manager Dale Sveum into a bit of a tizzy. From my vantage point it certainly looked like Sveum had a point, but sadly for him umpire D.J. Reyburn saw it a little differently.
After spending over eight hours at the stadium the game finally came to a end. It is a bit annoying how amazing the Cardinals organization is. The fans are knowledgeable and friendly, the team is perennially near the top of the league, the farm system constantly churns out big league talent like Shelby Miller and the stadium is beautiful. If the food is the only thing they need to work on than I think the front office is doing a fine job of representing a great baseball city.
I will be back for more tomorrow, hopefully with nicer weather that will permit me to explore a little more.
Next up: Busch Stadium Game #2
First Pitch: Too many to count
Game Time Temp: 69
First Pitch Time: 8:04 PM
National Anthem: Local kids
Seventh Inning Stretch: Live Organ Music
Total Pitches Thrown: 234
Total Hits: 13
Total Singles: 10
Total Doubles: 2
Total Triples: 0
Total Home Runs: 1
Total Walks: 4
Total Strike Outs: 12
Total Errors: 2
Ejections: Dale Sveum
Game Time: 2:43
Attendance: 44,172 (100.4% full)
Home Plate Umpire: D.J. Reyburn
Miles Traveled: 50 miles
Time in Car: 1 hour 40 minutes
Sleep Time: 10 Hours
Bottles of Water: 6
Food Eaten: 2 energy bars
Ballpark Food: Kosher Dog, Pulled pork nachos
All Star Game Ballots filled out: 1
Money spent on parking: $10
Money spent on ticket: $75.80
Cost of Program: $5
Money spent on food: $18.00
Total money spent on Merchandise: $20.00
Total Money spent at stadium: $128.80
Total Money spent today $198.00