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As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Seeing Red - in Cardinals' Country

Rule #55 – Inspiration is everywhere.

     The alarm went off at a reasonable hour on day 5 of the Great Baseball Tour. After all, we only had to traverse the state of Missouri. On the map, we had a straight drive along I-70.
     You know, I sometimes can sympathize with European tourists who visit America. In Europe, you can train from one country to another. You can country-hop within a week. You can even drive to 3 or 4 countries in one week’s time, stay a bit, have a good time, and move on. I’ve talked to many visiting from European countries and they list their touring itineraries. They want to see Boston one day, drive “over” to New York the next, then drive to see the Grand Canyon, and then the Alamo, and then stop in Philadelphia. All this is done in a week or two. Many do not realize just how big the U.S. really is, and how congested some of the traffic can get. Not every area has public transportation. Trains don’t operate coast to coast the way they used to run. Many European visitors are amazed – and appalled – at the amount of time you need to travel from one place to another here in the States. Yet the drive through the middle of our country is beautiful and awe-inspiring, and something every American must do.
     St. Louis had a history of being a wild and crazy town - a reputation that goes back to pioneer days. Many a wagon train started from St. Louis and headed west. The people had to be a hearty bunch to survive that travel. And they still have to be a hearty bunch to survive the weather.
     I’ve watched the Weather Channel and saw the heat in the Midwest in the past. It finally hit me how bad it could get on this trip. We drove into the city on a 90+ degree day with high humidity. And it was only mid-June! The heat and humidity sucked the life out of most of us.
St. Louis sky line from I-70
One of the taller buildings in town
     St. Louis skyline was not as vast as Chicago’s or Minneapolis’. It had its fair share of high rises, but most of the taller buildings are riverfront. The highest point in the city is the Gateway Arch, in Jefferson Park along the Mississippi. 
View of the Gateway Arch - from our seats in Busch Stadium
Gate to Ballpark Village - on the site of the Old Busch Stadium
Fan experience at Ballpark Village includes restaurants and a Hall of Fame Museum

     The iconic arch is only a short walk from today’s destination, Busch Memorial Stadium – junior. This is the second Busch Stadium, built directly next door to the older, now demolished, one. The former footprint now houses Ballpark Village, home to fan experiences and restaurants. At this point, those fan experiences are not as kid-friendly as Kauffman Stadium on the other side of the state. But the space also houses VIP parking, so there room to make big changes in the future.

Room for Ballpark Village to grow

Five - count 'em, five - levels of seating here

Phillies in warm-ups created a sea of red
      We walked into a large ballpark with five levels of seating. Our seats today were on the second level in the outfield, under cover and still in foul ball territory. My eyes got used to the sea of red everywhere – red seats, red uniforms, even on the visitors. After all, the Cardinals were playing my Philadelphia Phillies today.
Fredbird, the Cardinals mascot, got the kids involved before the game with tractor rides around the warning track of the field. John Deere was visible everywhere here, even the tractor and trailers used for the tractor rides. There were cornhole games going on in other parts of the stadium. Trivia was a big game played for the house TV cameras. All of these events were broadcast on the scoreboard screen as player warm-ups and batting practice went continued.
FredBird with young fans on the John Deere tractor ride
     I was introduced to the no-fan zone in center field. This area got its share of home run balls, but fans are not permitted to venture on the beautiful green turf to retrieve the souvenirs.  The ushers guarded their turf with authority. If a ball was hit to the zone, fans could ask nicely and politely if the usher would give the ball to him or her. The usher then would have made the decision to retrieve the ball – or not. Societal enforced manners – hmmm, I could get behind that.
Center field No-Fan Zone - grass that will never have the fan foot upon it
     The game itself was predictable. The Cards won, and the Phillies lost.  The heat and humidity started to get to all of us, since it came too early in the season. The skies were getting a bit threatening too, toward the end of the game. It was really difficult to follow out-of-town scores on St. Louis’ giant scoreboard. There were way too many ads distracting the viewer. After the game, several of us set off to get something to eat in a cool, air-conditioned space. We walked a few blocks west to Joe Buck’s restaurant and grille. An hour’s wait for a seat? I don’t think so.
Too many ads to sift through - visually busy
Many of our party tried to get into the Gateway Arch after the game. It was at least a two-hour wait – something our schedule didn’t permit. Instead, we headed back to Ballpark Village and found space at the bar in Cardinal Nation restaurant. We got to the door just as the heavens opened up. All the servers at this place were friendly and talkative. We placed our food orders and then proceeded to take turns taking pictures of the place. Then we settled in and watched the TV monitors. We had our choice of baseball or World Cup soccer. There was also some great chatter with the family seated at the bar with us. The kids explained some of the soccer calls to us seasoned baseball fans.
Cardinal Nation restaurant and bar - in the bar area
How's this for a ceiling? And more flat screens than you can swing a baseball bat at...
     While we were eating, a deluge occurred. Talk about luck! It let up as we were finishing our food. We took some time after eating to walk around and take pictures of the Statues of Honor outside the main, home plate entrance to the stadium.
Statue of Stan "The Man" Musial

Bob Gibson's statue

"The Wizard called Oz" - Ozzie Smith
Timeline history of baseball in St. Louis- as a brick walkway outside the stadium
     Most of us were feeling mixed emotions by now, too. We had a great time in St. Louis, but felt so sticky from the humidity, we couldn’t wait to get to the hotel for a shower. We were enjoying each other’s company, but the bus ride was taking its claustrophobic toll. We wanted to keep hanging out at ballparks, but we were down to visiting our last one tomorrow. Things at home were starting to weigh heavy on our minds.
Center field clock - Orioles had the idea first
I was there!
     It was almost over and time to get back to normal… not yet. We still have one more to go. As Cubs fans would say, they saved the best for last.

Photos by Marge McGugan. No reuse without permission.

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