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!

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!

The Top Five–St. Louis Area Attractions

I’ve been thinking lately about my favorite places in the St. Louis area, so I decided to come up with a “Top Five” list. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down, and I really wish I could have added a sixth location, so that Eckert’s could get its due (see what I did there?), but I finally settled on these five places:

  • Busch Stadium–There is no place in St. Louis that I’d rather be than at the ballpark, watching the Cardinals win!
  • Missouri Botanical Garden–Even though less than a year ago, we’d never even been to the Botanical Garden, it’s quickly become a favorite destination for the entire family. I love seeing how things change, even from week to week. And the special events are fantastic!
  • Grant’s Farm–This has long been a family favorite location. Where else can you ride a tram through a deer park, feed goats, ride a carousel, take in an animal show or two, visit some cool old conveyances, and drink a free beer (if you’re of legal age)? I can’t think of any other place like it!
  • Seamus McDaniel’s–I know what you’re thinking…Seamus McDaniel’s, home of the best burger in St. Louis, isn’t an “attraction.” Well, to our family it is! And some of my favorite memories can be traced back to that restaurant, so it’s definitely one of my favorite places in St. Louis.
  • Forest Park–I suppose this one is kind of cheating, because a.) It includes a whole bunch of individual locations; and 2.) It’s so obvious. But Forest Park is a special place. Home to many free, family friendly attractions like the St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the St. Louis Art Museum, plus host to many local festivals, and a fantastic place to enjoy the great outdoors, whether you’re going for a walk or having a picnic, Forest Park is a true St. Louis treasure, and a place I enjoy visiting regularly.

What are your favorite locations in St. Louis?

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!

Busch Stadium Tour II

So, um, seven months ago (!!!), Ryan and I took the children on a Busch Stadium tour. I briefly mentioned it here, but never got around to sharing pictures. Since I posted about the tour the first time we went, shared a fantastic dugout picture from last summer, and because so much time has passed, I won’t recap everything…I’ll just hit the highlights. I will say, we had the two best possible tour guides  I could have imagined (Fred and Jay)…they not only both had an incredible amount of baseball knowledge, but they had awesome personal stories as well!

I did get a better peak at the Cardinals Club this time, the exclusive restaurant at which green seat ticket holders get to eat:

You tend to notice new or different things (or just see them from a different perspective), each time you take the tour (or visit the ballpark at all, really):

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I never tire of the view from the field!

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It may be a bit colder now than the day we visited Busch Stadium, but tours are offered all year long, and it might be just the right thing to help you get ready for Spring Training, and feel a little Cardinals spirit, even in the bleak midwinter that is February!

What Can You Say About a 22 Year-Old Boy Who Died?

Cardinal Nation is reeling today, after having some time to process yesterday’s tragic news about the death of outfielder Oscar Taveras.

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Taveras was so young…only 22 years old. People his age aren’t supposed to die, not for any reason. But I’m not sure that his age is the only thing that makes this so upsetting. Of course it’s horrible when someone in the prime of a very promising life is lost too early, but I think there’s something else here that makes it even harder to take.

Professional athletes are our heroes. They’re almost super-human. Their strength and speed, coordination and mental toughness, make them achieve more on their worst day than we could ever hope for on our best. We revel in their accomplishments like they are our own, cheer them on, and talk about them incessantly, as you do when you’re discussing a hero.

Super heroes aren’t supposed to die. They’re so powerful on the field, that we assume that extends to their private lives as well. Even those of us in St. Louis who have seen this happen too often in recent years want to believe that this kind of tragedy just can’t happen again. We assumed that our rookie had a long, promising career in front of him, hoped he would be a Cardinal for life.

Well, he was. It was far too short of a life, and we never got to see his potential fulfilled. But his career, as brief as it was, was spent here. And “Minor League Guy” left Cardinal Nation with great memories of his first game at Busch (where he hit a home run that literally seemed to tear open the sky and bring the rain), and his last (another home run, in the playoffs, no less), and all those games in between, where we saw and will always remember his infectious smile and joy in playing the game.

Rest in peace, Oscar. You will be missed.

Baseball Summer 2014

This was another fun “baseball summer” for the Markel family! It was also a little different for us this year, because we had quite a few free tickets to Cardinals games…18 of them, to be exact. Since a lot of these tickets had to be used in pairs, I took each child to his or her own game at Busch Stadium…well, his or her own, plus Chickadee, who everyone requested come along! We did make it to a few family games, as well, plus a few other fun baseball outings!

Our first game of the season was part of the Opening Series on April 9. It was also part of a field trip that we even took Moose out of school for …the Weather Bash at Busch. A morning of science followed by an afternoon of baseball…it doesn’t get much more fun than that!

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Busch Stadium, Infield Pavilion–Section 356, Row 9

On April 25 “Facebook Friday” finally came to our area. This is something the Cardinals have been doing for a few years now. Every Friday afternoon, Fredbird makes an appearance at a different location, and gives out tickets and beakings. I’d been wanting to get to a Facebook Friday for a while, but it seemed like they never came to the Metro East, until that Friday, when Fredbird showed up in Fairview Heights!

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On May 14, Moose and I had tickets for his special game (courtesy of Facebook Friday), and they were even tickets to a Cardinals-Cubs game. Unfortunately, this was as close as we got that day…the game was cancelled due to rain literally as we walked up to the gate. Moose was very disappointed.

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On May 18, Ryan and I took everyone to Busch Stadium to celebrate our 13th anniversary. It was a beautiful day, and we were lucky enough to get the same seats as we had at the game in April!

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Busch Stadium, Infield Pavilion–Section 356, Row 9

On June 19 I took the children to a Gateway Grizzlies game to celebrate Honor Roll night for Moose’s school. This is always a fun outing, and the Grizzlies had a great season this year, and also hosted the Frontier League All-Star game, so it was a fun time to visit their ballpark.

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GCS Ballpark–Section 121, Row H

Turkey had another season in parks & rec baseball, and this year, he got to play on four different fields over the course of the season, which was a new record for his team. It’s hard to believe he’s played for so many summers, and we’re not sure what next year will look like for him, but we enjoyed watching him play as a Pirate again!

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On June 27 we visited Fredbird at our second Facebook Friday of the year…and this time, he was even in our town! The children also finally each got a “Flat Freddy,” which we had tried to find at AT&T Stores earlier in the summer, but they were always out.

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On July 8 I used the tickets we got at the second Facebook Friday to take Moose back to Busch Stadium…and this time, we got to see a game!

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Busch Stadium, Left Field Porch–Section LP1, Row 10

On July 14, we took the children on a Busch Stadium Tour as part of summer school. They were very excited to see the parts of the stadium they don’t usually get to visit, especially the press box and the Cardinals dugout.

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That same day, we also went to the new Cardinals Museum, which is a beautiful, well-done tribute to Cardinals history.

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And we visited the new Cardinals Hall of Fame while we were there, which is located just outside the museum.

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On July 26, the children and I drove to Waterloo to see the Belleville Stags, a vintage baseball team, play a game. It was more fun that we could have imagined, and we are now huge fans of vintage baseball!

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On August 3 we went back to Busch Stadium to celebrate Fredbird’s Birthday as a family. This was Build-a-Bear day at the ballpark, which is the one game we try to get to every year. This was also the first time Chickadee had her own ticket to the game…she doesn’t need one to get in, yet, but to get her stuffed Clydesdale she required a ticket, and there was no way she was going to leave with her pony!

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Busch Stadium, Left Field Pavilion–Section 369, Row 14

On August 12 we took our baseball road trip of the summer…to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. It was a fascinating place to visit, and we all learned a lot!

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While we were in Louisville, we also visited the Louisville Slugger Walk of Fame. Of course, everyone’s favorite bat was the one belonging to Stan the Man!

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On August 15, we visited Qdoba for Facebook Friday #3 of the summer. It was at this point that I realized that we must be Fredbird groupies, but I don’t mind. Chickadee gets so excited every time she sees him that it’s totally worth it!

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On August 19, it was Ladybug’s turn to go to the game with me (and Chickadee). Once again, we used our Facebook Friday tickets, and had a view we don’t usually get since we’re usually in the upper deck!

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Busch Stadium, Lower Left Field Box–Section 179, Row 12

On August 20, I took just Chickadee to a game. It was a lot of fun to just sit with her and talk to her about the game…she is truly the most enthusiastic fan in our family! Unfortunately, we had to leave early, because a storm was rolling in, and I didn’t want to get stuck downtown with a toddler in bad weather.

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Busch Stadium, Infield Terrace–Section 448, Row 11

On August 30, the game that we had tried to attend earlier in the season was made up. This time, Turkey went with me, since Moose went to a different game in July. We had a great time watching the Cards play the Cubs, even if the Cubs did win that one.

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Busch Stadium, Right Field Box–Section 130, Row 25

September 2 was Bunny’s night at the ballpark. I swear I could see our house from our seats in the very last row of the very top deck of the stadium, but even though heights make me nervous (to put it mildly), the view was amazing. The workout I got from the walk down every single flight of stairs to the exit while carrying a sleepy toddler was just a bonus…

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Busch Stadium, Infield Terrace–Section 454, Row 11

On September 13 we went to the Cardinals Kids Club party for the first time. It was kind of a disappointment, and if people buy the Kids Club memberships just for that party, I’d think they wasted their money. But we still got to walk around the stadium, which is always fun.

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Even though the party was a disappointment, because we had Kids Club memberships, we were able to get 1/2 price tickets to the Cards-Rockies game that night, and it was a lot of fun! While we were at the ballpark, the children got to try out the pitching speed machine, which they really enjoyed. We also got to see a group of service members from Fort Leonard Wood present a giant American flag in center field, which is quite a sight to see. It was a nice way to end our season at Busch!

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Busch Stadium, Infield Terrace–Section 448, Row 11

For the rest of the season, we’ll be watching on TV, and looking forward to going back to Busch next year, whenever that game might be!