One Nation

I spent a good chunk of yesterday at Busch Stadium, taking in the “One Nation Classic.” It was billed as the Closing Ceremonies for the Winter Classic, which was held at Busch on January second.

The One Nation Classic had several parts. When I got there, people were skating on the ice on the field. This was actually a surprise to me, as I had not heard about that part. I don’t know if it was available to anyone who had a ticket, or if you had to pay extra or know someone to get to participate, but it was fun watching people skate on Busch’s ice!

After the free skate was over, there were three events that I did know about. First, a skills competition between “Team Steen” and “Team Pietrangelo.” This was a lot of fun to watch…at times it was silly, and at other moments, you really got to see how talented the players are. It included events such as a 3-on-3 competition, a hilarious relay race, and a hardest shot competition. In the end, “Team Pietrangelo” won by a score of 14-11.

Next up was St. Louis’ Greatest Pick-Up Hockey Game. This featured “Team Stillman” (of the Blues) vs. “Team Dewitt” (of the Cardinals), and included former players from both teams such as Peter Stastny and Jim Edmonds, and other personalities. Fredbird and Louie even made an appearance…have you ever seen a giant cardinal on skates? It was fun to see the fur and feathers fly, especially when they both ended up in the penalty box! Like the skills competition, the players wore a prototype jersey that was designed in 1966, but never actually worn by the players…it was so cool! I think my favorite part was the very first goal, which was scored by Bill Dewitt against Darren Pang in goal. In the end, though, Team Stillman prevailed, and won by a score of 5-4.

The final event was a first responders game between local police officers and local firefighters. I’m not going to lie…I was so cold at that point, that I left almost immediately after puck-drop. But it was cool to see how many participants there were…both teams even had their own jerseys! I will say that I think the police team had an unfair advantage, as their lineup included not only officers, but members of the DOD and the NGA!

I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Winter Classic activities…Ryan got to go to both the Alumni Game, and the Winter Classic itself. He got the best view, because by the time I got to Busch, they had removed the guitar from the field, and the banners from outside the stadium. Fortunately, he got some good pictures for me, allowing me to live vicariously:

It was definitely a cold day at Busch, but I’m so glad I got to go and see the ice for myself. Who knows if and when the Winter Classic will come back to St. Louis? I hope it does someday, but for now, I have some great memories of seeing Busch Stadium in a whole new light!

The Home Opener

Today was the Cardinals home opener. As always, we enjoyed it from the comfort of our home:

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Even though we had a big Opening Day dinner for the season opener just over a week ago, we had another special ballpark-themed meal today:

It was a fantastic Opening Day. The rain left the area just in time, the sun came out, a nice breeze was blowing, our rookie Hazelbaker had an awesome game, and the Cardinals pounded the Brewers. You really can’t ask for more!

A Ballpark Style Feast for Opening Day

Today was Opening Day, not just for the Cardinals, but for all of Major League Baseball. No, the Cards didn’t play at home, and no, they didn’t win, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our traditional Opening Day feast that Ryan started several years ago!

We had all your traditional ballpark foods: hot dogs (with a variety of toppings, including my homemade chili), brats (I like mine with sauerkraut and spicy mustard), nachos, and Super pretzels. We even had sundae cups for dessert!

And, as always, I took a picture of the children in their favorite Cardinals gear:

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After waiting (rather impatiently) all winter, it’s hard to believe another Opening Day has come and gone all ready. I’m just hoping this first game wasn’t a harbinger of things to come for the Cards, and they have another great season!

Leadership

It was the moment that no baseball fan wants to see. Watching on live TV, as a favorite rookie gets hurt. Not just hurt in a “Oh great, another one might have to go on the DL, and we’re going to have to seriously think about playing Oquendo, and Kozma may actually have to catch,” way, but in a “That man is not moving, I hope this isn’t a life-threatening situation” way.

But, that was the Cardinals game last night, after Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos collided in the outfield, with Bourjos’ knee making contact with Piscotty’s head. It looked awful, especially as you watched Piscotty crumple to the ground and lie motionless, while Bourjos waved frantically for help.

The players were stunned. Many of them dropped to their knees, and I imagine more than a few were offering a quick prayer. The crowd was stunned. Bourjos looked stricken. Can you imagine what must have been going through his head?

But there was an unsung hero as the drama on the field unfolded, someone who, after only playing with us for a single season, already clearly exemplifies everything the Cardinals organization holds dear. Someone I hope gets a nice, long contract in the off-season that will have him staying with us for a good, long time.

Jason Heyward.

We all know him for his amazing defensive plays. He’s not the current Golden Glove winner for nothing. And we know he can come through at clutch moments with the bat, as well.

But what I saw on the field last night was the type of leadership you always hope to see from professional athletes, but in reality, you don’t get to witness often.

You might have missed it. The focus was totally on Piscotty, as was right. But, if you were paying attention, off to the side, came Heyward. Bourjos was clearly agitated, and Heyward began talking to him, and casually led him away from the frightening scene. I don’t know what was said. I don’t even know if Heyward was really thinking about what he was doing, or if it was just an instinct to help out his teammate, and try to get his mind off of what happened. But, it was a much-needed action…one look at Bourjos’ face made it clear that he was upset, and probably feeling some guilt, and possibly also in physical pain himself. So Heyward stepped up. He couldn’t do anything for Piscotty…that was left to the trainers and doctors. But he could do something to help the man still standing, and he did.

At the major league level, you expect to see highly skilled players. But true leadership is rarer. The guys that smooth out a bad situation, or light a fire under their teammates’ tails when necessary. The guys that can lighten up the mood in the clubhouse, or tell their teammates that it’s time to get serious. Heyward himself is still a young player, and still new to the Cardinals organization, yet he’s already showing the ability to take on that kind of leadership role.

We acquired Heyward for his known skill in the outfield. We need to keep him because he’s the kind of leader our team needs. Get that man a contract, and sign Heyward!

American Girl Night at the Ballpark

Tonight was American Girl Night at Busch Stadium, so of course I had to take the girls. It was very fun!

We had good seats:

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The highlight of the evening was seeing Kolten Wong hit a grand slam…very exciting! Ladybug has been wanting to see a grand slam for a long time, so it was a dream come true for her, and I enjoyed watching her excitement. We had a very fun girls’ night out!

Back at Busch

Today was our first trip of the season to Busch Stadium! I don’t think anyone was more excited than Chickadee:

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Then again, everyone was pretty excited to be back in Baseball Heaven!

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Our seats were in the right field loge. Not too bad, except for the foul pole:

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Chickadee was so excited that fell asleep before the game could even start. (Don’t worry…she woke up in time for the National Anthem!)

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Somebunny spotted a Cardinals bunny at the Build-a-Fredbird store…since she had some allowance money saved, we stopped in. Her siblings even bought her new stuffed friend a Cardinals shirt…I love seeing their generosity in action!

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The children really loved being back in one of their favorite St. Louis locations!

Of course we had to see Fredbird…it took a couple attempts to get everybody to look at the camera, and never all of them at the same time. Thus is life with five children!

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This was one of the most fun Cardinals games I’ve ever been to…and that’s saying a lot. It was pretty humid, but not too hot, and the sun stayed behind the clouds for most of the game. Yadier Molina and Jason Heyward received their Gold Glove awards before the game. The St. Louis Blues playoff game started during the Cardinals game, and there was a great energy of support for both teams…they kept showing Blues recaps on the scoreboard, and the organist even got involved…Let’s go Blues! Both teams won, so it was a spectacular day to be at Busch Stadium, and an even better one to be in St. Louis!