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Making Memories With My Son: A Weekend Of Baseball With The Springfield Cardinals
Saturday, July 30, 2016
We had eyed this date for some time now; a few months in fact. When looking at the promotional days and giveaways this was one that I had targeted early on as it was one of three games during the Springfield Cardinal's schedule where the giveaway included a replica World Series ring from one of the St Louis Cardinal's National League record eleven titles. That's right, the Cards have won the World Series eleven times, second only to the Yankees. We had made it to the May 28th game and received a 1946 ring and while there my son spun the $10 wheel and won a 1967 ring. Well, maybe spun isn't quite the right word: the wheel was broken and the very nice gentleman who was there offered him a choice of anything on the wheel for his $10. He chose the ring. That's my boy!
Then we were in Florida on July 7th when the 1926 ring was offered but while there I received a wonderful text from my boss. You see, he is a Cardinal fan as well and he was able to attend the game with his son and received two rings, one each for he and his son. He offered one to us! We gladly accepted and I countered with offering one of the two 1946 rings we had got if he was lacking that one in his collection: he was. So an even exchange took place by which we both won.
Then it was time for the final ring giveaway of the year this weekend, Saturday July 30th. This time it was a 2006 ring and to make it doubly attractive it was to be a replica of a particular players ring. There would be five different rings available and they were handed out in such a manner that you would not know who you got until you opened the box. Suspense all around! Would we get Jim Edmonds, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter or David Ecstein? All were heroes during the series and quality players. Edmonds had Hall of Fame numbers although he did not receive enough consideration to remain on the ballot after his initial opportunity; Carpenter was one of those fierce competitors that lives on in the Cardinal tradition; Eck is a fan favorite who did a lot with the limited tools he had, instead relying on his enormous heart and drive to succeed; Waino is still playing and is the leader on the mound for this year's team while Yadi is a Hall of Famer in the wings, destined to be enshrined as perhaps the best catcher in baseball history. Oh, who would we get?!?!
We opened his first and I was thrilled to see a Yadi ring. Perhaps the best of the bunch and definitely one that will be treasured moving forward. When we opened mine I found a Jim Edmonds ring, or Jimmy Baseball as he is known. One of the greatest center fielders of all time, Jim is known for his unbelievable running, diving, leaping catches to rob the opposition of sure home runs and base hits. I'll take that one for sure!!
But the day was not over just yet, as the game hadn't even begun. Prior to game time there was a parade of Corvettes around the field, ranging from the 1950's to the present. Beautiful one and all! As we sat there watching the parade we found that a possibility existed that a St Louis player would be rehabbing in Springfield this weekend, recovering from an injury. Brandon Moss was in town!
It is always exciting to see the youngsters play and know that someday, maybe, they will get a taste of the big leagues and we will know that we were there for their beginning, watching and cheering as they take their steps towards The Big League. But when a true big leaguer comes back to town it adds to the excitement level tenfold. Those of us who will never make the pilgrimage to St Louis will never see these Big Leaguers in person, and may rarely get to see them on the television unless we are willing to pay $100 a month for cable or other "services" in order to watch the games. Me? I'm a tightwad; I won't pay that much just for something that adds to one person in the house. But if they are in town, I will pay to watch a game live and in person, with a chance at an autograph for my son.
So we had driven over Friday afternoon to buy tickets and got great seats: front row next to the dugout, just feet away from where the team sits. Couldn't be better! But when we arrived two hours prior to game time we find a line, a long line, in fact five long lines leading to each of the gates entering the abode. Holy moly!
But eventually we get in and receive our rings, bought some nachos in a souvenir batting helmet ($13.75) and a drink ($4.75), found our seats and waited for the players to wander by on their way to the dugout. And we wait. And wait. We see most of the team go by and we quietly request they sign our book and bat, which most do. But we never see Moss go by. Ah well, it was much the same earlier this year when Jhonny Peralta was rehabbing here; he ended up hurting his thumb the day we were in attendance. Hopefully it would not be the same for Moss.
The game itself was great. We played the Double A affiliate of the in-state rival Kansas City Royals. Our pitcher, Austin Gomber, was making his second start in AA Springfield. Selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, he has progressed nicely and is one to watch. His left handed delivery is deceptive and he is a pitcher, not a thrower. In this game he allowed a single hit and walked two in his seven innings of work, leading the home team to a thrilling 1-0 victory. We ended up getting his autograph and I have no doubts by this time next season he just might be in the majors; he is that good.
July 31, 2016
Before we had even attended the Saturday night game, I had learned that another Cardinal would be coming to town on Sunday for a rehab stint. When I read the name I sat hushed, in wonder and disbelief.
Yes, the best hitter on the St Louis team, Matt Carpenter would be coming to town the very next day! I snuggled up to my lovely wife and asked her if she would hate me if I took our son to another game this weekend. Two in one weekend? That's what I was shooting for! Then I explained why and relayed the fact that this would probably be the one and only time we would get to watch Carp play; we will not go to St Louis as I just am not comfortable in that city. Been there twice; had bad things happen both times with the last trip having our van stolen off the Ramada Inn parking lot while we slept. And with the unrest in nearby Ferguson I am not ready to take a chance with my family's lives. Call me chicken, I don't care.
She said yes! Oh happy day! So I jumped in our SUV and motored my way into Springfield to buy tickets for Sunday's game. I was unable to get front row seats this time; third row was the best I could do, but that would be good enough.
So Sunday after the light shower that took out our power for almost three hours, we loaded up and headed into town. Paying $7 for parking again, we made our way across the street and took our place in line. The line wasn't nearly as long as it was Saturday so we were closer to the gates this time.
Let me say something here: you meet the nicest people in line. On both days we met wonderful people and spent the time talking away about this and that, the Cardinals and life, youth and cars. The time passed so quickly and when it was time to find our seats there were handshakes all around and well wishes between all parties. It was great.
Sunday we received a towel, a full sized bath towel emblazoned with the Cardinal logo and filled with the names of Major League players who had passed through Springfield on their way to St Louis. Very unique and I will end up hanging one on my wall at work. As it was Sunday it was Kids Ice Cream Day so off we went to find the person handing out ice cream sandwiches for the kids. Nothing makes a child happier than ice cream.
Walk up songs
It seems like every player has a song or three they have played when they walk up to the plate or come in from the bullpen. Mariano Rivera had perhaps the best ever walk up song in Enter Sandman by Metallica. The meaning behind this was simple: lights out, go to bed. Your day is done when he comes in to pitch.
But some of the walk up songs I have heard lately leave me wondering what in the world are they trying to say? I mean, songs like Ooh Baby I Love Your Way. Man, what are you saying?! This isn't instilling any fear or caution to the pitcher, it just sounds mellow and easy like you are no threat. What's next, Chuck Mangione or maybe Barry Manilow? Will someone "walk up" to I Write The Songs? Or maybe Bread's Baby I'm A Want You?
Whatever happened to ZZ Top?
This is a walk up song?
Then it was time for finding our seats in the madhouse that was Hammons Field. As we made our way down the steps we saw people. Everywhere. Lined up in the first few rows against the low wall separating the field from the stands were an untold amount of people, waiting and hoping to see Carp and Moss and get their autographs. Somewhere in that mess were our seats.
We eventually made it but I knew without a doubt that even if they stopped to sign a few autographs there was no way we would have a chance; none. You see, I am just too damn polite; I refuse to scream and holler, to thrust my way to the front, to stand in front of those who paid for their seats. And that is what took place. People who had not paid for seating in this area were lining the rows, precluding persons who had seats there from even getting to their seats. Rude, obnoxious, and very self centered, these people fought for space and the opportunity to grab a player and get his signature.
Yesterday, as we sat front row center we saw grown men in their sixties standing at the wall with a box of baseballs and a list. As a player approached they would run down their list, see if they had his autograph and if not would beg and plead with him until he came over and signed one of their balls. Another late teen boy stood behind us and stretched over our heads as we sat there, thrusting his bat at a player. I can not do that. I will try to make eye contact first, then ask "Would you mind signing this ___ for my son?" If no eye contact, no request. I will not be rude or demanding; can't do it.
Anyway, Sunday was by far the worst I had ever experienced. Literally hundreds of people stood and jostled where less than fifty would be seated. It was a madhouse. I told Caleb there was no chance, none for us to get either Moss or Carp's autograph today. He was good with it and that made me proud of him. I was also saddened for him, as we were making memories for him, memories I hope will last a lifetime. We have a book purchased over five years by Cardinal great and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith entitled "Hey Fredbird!". It is a children's book and we have gotten some great autographs in it over the years. We also have a bat, purchased just for him and his autographs. Jaime Garcia, Jason Simontacchi, Alan Craig, Shelby Miller and others adorn both items and we add more with each visit to the park. They are his and his alone and will carry him forward into adulthood and hopefully onward.
Today, we got only Austin Gomber at the gate as we entered. Ah well. Someday, maybe we will get Ozzie's but today was our shot at Matt Carpenter and Brendan Moss and it was gone, blown away by the throng of people before we even got a true chance.
The game itself was good, although we lost. Carp made a solid defensive play to start the game and a spectacular running away from the infield play to rob the opposition of a sure base hit on the next hitter. Great beginning.
Then he led off the bottom of the first with a line drive base hit. He was not able to score then but did a bit later after a typical walk. He works the pitchers better than anyone I have ever seen play the game; his eye is extraordinary and has to be approaching Ted Williams status. He almost never swings at bad pitches.
In the end, Springfield lost 5-2 and Carp went 1 for 2 with a walk while Moss had a strikeout and a hard hit line drive that was caught. He also had a long fly ball that brought Carp in for a score so overall they both did okay for an early rehab. Carp will improve as will Moss and will end up back in St Louis this week. We were fortunate to be able to see these Major League players play in our small town and will hold these memories dear as time goes on.
Caleb really got into the game as it went along and even joined in heckling the manager of the opposition when he came out to question a force play at second when they failed to turn a double play. The play was clean and legal but he wasn't happy with the outcome. He got upset, got more upset and eventually got tossed from the game. Oh, then he really went off! Yelling and pointing, shouting and in the face of the umpire involved, who stood his ground and refused to react. I was shocked when my mild mannered, quiet son yelled out during a lull in the "conversation"...
"Just accept your failure!!!"
His words rang out across the field and I am sure, no doubt in my mind, that that manager heard his words; there was no way he could not have heard. I laughed myself silly for the next few moments as did some in our section. My son...
The game ended and we made our way down to the right field corner as it was also Kids Run The Bases Day. A line of kids and parents formed and we joined it, made our way down to the field and I watched as he ran from first to home, streaking around the bases as fast as he could. I watched, and filmed as he ran. A smile was on my face and to me this was the best memory made this weekend.