The Home Opener

Baseball is back in St. Louis!

After what has seemed like a never-ending winter (that still isn’t over!), today’s Cardinals home opener came as a bright spot in an endless sea of grey. We had our traditional Opening Day dinner of hot dogs, brats, pretzels, and nachos, with special baseball cupcakes for dessert. All the fixin’s for Chicago-style hot dogs, chili dogs, and brats are quite a sight!

As always, I also took a picture of the Fab Five in their Cardinals gear:

Happy Baseball Day St. Louis!

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!