Happy Birthday to me! I spent it here:
After the seventy-five mile drive from Centralia, IL to St. Louis, MO with Michelle and our friends, Ashley and Jenny, in tow, we arrived at a parking garage and I walked past a hotel and saw this:
My first view of Busch Stadium! Woo-hoo! I’d get to be here for two games on two consecutive games (my birthday present) but before that–we had to eat! We found shelter from the brief thunderstorm at a restaurant called Caleco’s:
And had, among other things, the delicacies known as Toasted Ravioli. Mmm… so good. The rest of the food was okay–but it was the atmosphere that I really appreciated! A great place to hang out before, during, or after a game. As we lunched the rain stopped (as predicted) and I got a surprise giant piece of chocolate cake for my birthday dessert. Awesome… and at 2:30 I went to scope out the stadium while the girls headed downtown to shop. They’d be meeting me later. I took a lot of photos and I won’t bore with all of them… but here’s a brief tour of what I saw:
Then I headed to the Left Field Gate:
I looked through the fence when I got there, stuck my camera up high and got a shot of:
Yes! There would be batting practice! Things were looking up after a mostly rainy day of driving. Next, I headed toward the Team Store and statues of former Cardinal greats:
And then I went down to the All-Star decked out Third Base Gate:
Then went toward Home Plate before heading all the way back around to view the Right Field and First Base Gates and then, finally, Center:
At this point it was time to get in line.
I was about fifth in line and I spent the remaining time before the gates opened by talking to a local family, checking e-mail on my phone, and occasionally peering through the gates to see if I could see any baseballs flying into the right field stands, where I’d be headed. Game time was scheduled for 6:15pm so the gates were going to open at 4:15.
They did and I ran in and just sort of stood in awe (after checking for Easter eggs, of course). Then I headed to center field and took this panoramic photo:
Eventually, after I didn’t snag anything during the limited time the Cardinals were hitting, I snapped more photos as the Astros took the field:
My first ball of the day came from rookie pitcher, Bud Norris. I’d been watching the Astros warm up and as Norris finished he tossed it right to me. Well, I would not be shut out at my first time in this new, beautiful stadium. I had my very first Houston baseball and it was marked with that notorious “H” that collectors know and
love hate. Since it was my first one I was pretty excited. And about three minutes later Alberto Arias, after having another pitcher stand against the wall below me and act like a batter, threw a few “pitches” that I called balls and strikes on… he was at a two-one count and then he flipped me the ball. Sweet!
Chris Coste, pictured in the center above, threw me Ball #3 on the day and the eighty-sixth of my life after shagging a ball in right. I didn’t even ask for it, I just happened to be looking at him and he wanted to toss the ball over. Super cool! It was a nice, clean baseball, hardly used, gleaming white. Except for that giant “H” on it, like the other two that day. Oh, Astros.
BP would be ending soon after that and I was back in center field trying to catch a Hunter Pence homer. Then I moved to the bullpen and got Jeff Keppinger’s attention. He tossed me a ball but it was coming in a little low and a Cardinals fan put his hand up (ungloved) and did NOT catch it. Instead it fell into the bullpen and stayed there as the Astros headed off the field… along with five other balls. Later a groundskeeper came in and rounded them all up. I tried to plead my case (a kid next to me even lobbied on my behalf) and even told him it was my birthday–a card I hadn’t wanted to play–but the groundskeeper tossed them all to otherpeople. Bah!
I was stuck on three baseballs for the day. Not a bad showing by any means. About that time I got a call from Michelle. She and the girls were in the stadium and were heading up to our seats–she said, “Just go ahead and do your thing and I’ll see you later.” I love my wife–happy birthday to me! So I ran around to the Astros dugout as Fredbird the Redbird rode by on an ATV:
I hoped to snag a ball as some of the Astros finished playing catch but that didn’t happen. After that I snapped a bunch of pictures of different views around the stadium as I headed up, up, up to our actual seats to meet up with the ladies. Before I went up I sat in right field as Pujols and Holliday batted juuuussst in case the happened to hit a home run. They didn’t… well, not in that inning. After arriving at my seat I watched a couple of innings. The second time Matt Holliday stepped up to the plate he smacked a homer, his first of two on the night!
And his first two as a Cardinal. Boy, their lineup is GOOD now… My NLCS prediction: Dodgers and Cardinals.
Here we are up on the top level of the park:
It’s a bit dark but I like it. Next, I headed up to the highest point of the stadium waaayy out in left field and snapped this:
And then we continued our travels as I continued to take panorama after panorama of this stadium:
Above, from the top row of the upper deck. Below, the view from the third base side with the great scoreboard and the Gateway Arch in the background:
Really, it’s a beautiful place to watch a game (and it didn’t hurt that it was a perfect summer night on August 1st) but for snagging it’s kind of rough. Big pregame crowds and a lot of different segment and sections. It’s hard to run around freely but the security isn’t too bad. I think I only got yelled at once and that was because I was standing on a bleacher instead of the floor.
In the seventh inning with Chris Carpenter still on the hill and throwing a gem we met up with our friends back at our seats (in Section 442–I took this photo earlier in the day):
And I parted ways with Michelle temporarily… heading to the Cardi
nals dugout for the end of the game. I got this great shot of Albert Pujols coming off the field after grounding out:
And here was my view during the last two innings:
I watched as Carpenter pitched a complete game and beat the Astros 3-1. Matt Holliday was responsible for two of those runs, smacking two solo shots. After the game ended I tried to get a ball from Tony LaRussa but couldn’t get his attention. I then scoured the seats after folks left and picked up a Cardinals magazine, some baseball cards and a few ticket stubs. I met up with Michelle and the girls and we took a few photos before the drive home:
I knew that I’d get to come back very, very soon!
Here I am with the three baseballs I snagged:
I really like Busch Stadium. It’s new, family-friendly, and pretty darn fun. There’s not a bad seat in the house (I know, I went past all of ’em) and I love how passionate the Cardinals fans are–everyone’s wearing team gear and even the seats are red so the stadium looks full even when it isn’t… not that that happens very often. Over 45.000 were at this game and almost all of them stayed until the very end… something I’m not used to in Southern California.
The next day’s game would be a day game after a night game… and I simply hoped I’d end up with a ball somehow despite the huge crowd I was certain was going to be there. Also, it was just Michelle and I going to the Sunday game… some quality time with the wife… some ballhawking… let the birthday celebration continue… stay tuned.