After missing live baseball for the first time since the Reagan Administration last year, I made sure I hit the ballparks during my visit back to the States. First up was an American League clash between the Rangers and the Minnesota Twins, on a cool, gray day in late April in Texas. I was the fortunate recipient of a free ticket, given by a man with three boys in tow (one his son, the others friends). I thought I would have a nice conversation with them, especially after he told me of he and his wife's interest in teaching English in Vietnam once his children graduated. But, I guess his tickets were elsewhere, as they never showed up at the seats!
Anyway, it was good to be back at the ballpark. And the Rangers were very good on this day - Vicente Padilla pitched a complete game shutout, as Texas piled it on 10-0 to win the rubber game of the series.
A highlight was the sight of Jerry Jones's playpen going up next door. The Cowboys' stadium looks incredible, even at its just-post-skeletal stage. While I don't like the Cowboys, I am impressed with their future home.
The Rangers whet my appetite, but I was on my way to the best baseball city in America: St. Louis. I caught the Tuesday night game against Cincinnati, again in chilly weather. The first Reds batter hit safely, and then Redbird pitchers got 24 outs without allowing another hit (including the leadoff batter in a bizarre run-down double play to end the first inning). The bullpen took the one-hit shutout into the ninth, only to give up a two-run homer in the 7-2 win. Unfortunately, the bullpen's performance that night was just a hint of what was to come.
The Cubs came to town the following weekend, and we had seats in the Champions Club along the third base line for the first game of the three-game set. Only a half game separated the hometown nine from the northsiders for first place in the National League Central, which added some urgency to this early-season series (as if you needed that between these old rivals). As usual, the park was a mix of Cardinals and Cubs fans, with the normal sea of red (a Cardinals home game crowd resembles a college football crowd, with its to-a-man affinity for the home colors) nearly matched with large swaths and random sprinklings of blue.
That Friday happened to be my brother Alex's birthday, and he came up from Amarillo for the game. I was able to get batting practice tickets, which allowed us on the field for both team's BP. After, we got to hang out in the clubhouse and drink free, cold, free beer. It was great!
The game itself was pretty tight, but a couple of glaring miscues by Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano (no, not Roosevelt), much to the delight of the home crowd, gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead (he looked like a pitiful little leaguer out there). As baseball allows, however, the same Soriano crushed a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to tie the game. Only when Skip Schumaker hit his own two-run homer, of the walk-off variety, in the 11th was the game decided. Cardinals Win!
I get subtle reminders every once in a while of the things I miss. And I find that there are some things I don't miss at all. But, I really, really do miss baseball, especially going to games. Keep sending me your descriptions of the games you attend, from scores to highlights to food consumed. I just love it.