Monday, April 12, 2010

First Pitch

The St Louis Cardinals have a deal when you go to the park early on game day you can get the left over tickets from the visiting team and other random seats for 5.50 each. There are a few rules you have to follow, you have to buy a pair of tickets required to show identification to get your ticket, be in line fifteen minutes before the game and only so many of these are sold. It was pure chance determining which seats were distributed and you really didn't know until you got inside the stadium where you would be seated.

We had no plans on attending the home opener, hadn't bought tickets, but I ran the First Pitch idea past my brother and he took it from there. He went to the stadium early in the morning and happened to be number 261 in the line where only 275 people would receive ticket vouchers. We had our voucher but where would we sit?

Traci had done the First Pitch program in the past and ended up along the third base line a few rows up from the field. She said the seats were great. We talked with several people in the voucher line waiting to get into the stadium who stated they had been to the games using the First Pitch deal and had always been looking over the visitor's dugout with only four to five rows separating them from the field.

I would have gone early to pick up the ticket vouchers with Tom but Savannah started a journey of her own on this day. I accompanied her to her orthodontist appointment where she received her braces. The next eighteen months or so will be spent with metal in her mouth. She still looks wonderful.

We approached the gate with the hopes of sitting a few feet from the field, smelling the grass cut in the shape of the Gateway Arch while the Cardinals hopefully ripped through the opponent. We stepped through the checkpoint and Tom had the envelope in hand. The crowds were thick and we were separated a couple of times while trying to find a place to inspect the tickets. The fans all in red and white were yelling cheers to the home team. Beer and hot dogs floated by in little parades of excited fans. Ah the smells and sounds of baseball were back. How close would we be?

Tom removed the tickets from the small envelope and passed one over to me before looking down. The section number was 942 and below read the words Standing Room Only. I felt the excitement fade slightly and my legs grew just a little tired from the thought of standing through the entire game. The noise of the crowds and smells of bratwurst brought me back to reality. I had made it to the Cardinals home opener with very little foresight and planning. Thanks to the generous donation of time and effort on my brother's part I was going to see the first home game of the season, cheering on the team and yelling at the umpires while drinking beer and commiserating with fellow fans.

The Cards won 5-0 and the standing wasn't as torturous as I had thought it might have been. Eventually some of the fans cleared out and by the 6th inning we could spot several seats that were abandoned. We stood next to a couple of other fans who had secured the First Pitch tickets as well. It seems these fellows may have started drinking quite some time before the game. They were loud and borderline obnoxious but well received by myself and my brother. They kept us entertained between pitches as we batted back and forth mild complaints about the difficulty in being able to see the action on the field. If the people seated along the rail in front of us leaned back or forward this would change the number and positions of players we could see. It felt like we were watching the game by proxy, after the pitch was delivered we waited to see how the first baseman reacted always keeping an eye out for the tiny white blur to streak across our vision.

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We saw Albert Pujols, one of the greatest players of his time, hit a three run homer. We saw Adam Wainright bolster his ERA by going 7 innings without giving up a run. The game was a good one and the company of Cardinal fans was usually great, this was no exception.