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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • A memorable day at the ballpark

  • I remember my first postseason baseball game like it was yesterday. Six days before my 15th birthday my parents took me to my first Major League Baseball playoff game in Oakland, California. It was the Oakland Athletics hosting the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
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  • I remember my first postseason baseball game like it was yesterday. Six days before my 15th birthday my parents took me to my first Major League Baseball playoff game in Oakland, California. It was the Oakland Athletics hosting the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
    My parents got a hotel room across from the A’s stadium, Oakland Alameda County Coliseum. The day started out great as I got two major league baseballs during batting practice. The first came from the A’s when future Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley tossed one up into the stands and I caught it. The second was a batting practice homer off of another future Hall of Famer, Roberto Alomar of the Blue Jays that I fought for and came up with at the bottom of pile of fans. But, as great a start as I had, my first trip to the postseason didn’t turn out to well as the A’s lost the game to the Blue Jay’s 7-6.
    Eckersley, who went on to become one of the greatest closers in baseball history, gave up a game-tying home run to Alomar. The A’s went on to lose the game to Toronto in extra innings. It’s a game I will never forget.
    Living in Cardinals country, I am still an A’s fan, but I am raising my kids as Cardinals fans. Two of my three children (ages 7 and 3) love baseball and watch it with me when I am home. My 7-year-old son Caiden even sits and watches games or the MLB Network if I leave the TV on after I leave for work. Caiden is such a big baseball fan that he constantly tells his mother that he is going to play for the Cardinals when he “gets bigger.”
    Anyway, Wednesday I turned 35 and decided I wanted to spend my birthday at the ball park watching postseason baseball. I have been to the past two World Series, Game 3 in Texas during the 2010 season and Games 1 and 7 last year for the Cardinals.
    So the hard part was deciding what could I do to make this year’s game on my birthday memorable? The answer came to me pretty quick and I decided to take Caiden out of school so he could go to the game with me and experience his first NLCS game.
    Arriving in St. Louis early, my son got to see the Clydesdales and team mascot Fred Bird. In fact, he had his picture taken with both. He also got a chance to listen to some live music being performed by Cosmic Cow. After a while, Caiden wanted to play catch, so there in the parking lot we broke out our gloves and played catch, just like I used to as a kid.
    Page 2 of 3 - When the gates opened, we went in and got our rally towels. We made our way to the bleachers for some batting practice and while a couple of balls did land near Caiden, he did not get any.
    After wandering the stadium and meeting up with friends and former co-workers, and stopping by the Family Pavilion Kids Zone, we made our way to our seats. And when the game started, Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse started the game off with a called strike before striking out Giants lead off hitter Angel Pagan.
    Cardinals lead off man Jon Jay opened the Redbirds’ bottom half the first with a hit by pitch, but nothing came of it.
    The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the third, but the crowd erupted in cheers following a double-play by Hunter Pence to end the Giants’ threat. That whole time, after every Giant out, Caiden was waving the rally towel given to all fans before the game.
    With two outs in the bottom of the third, Jay singled and moved to second on an errant pick-off throw. When Matt Carpenter hit a two-run bomb to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead, the crowd exploded and Caiden joined thousands of fans cheering and waving their towels.
    “That was a good home run,” Caiden said after Holliday flew out to end the third.
    As much as the home run by Carpenter excited Caiden, David Freese is his favorite player. Every time Freese batted Caiden got excited and cheered. He did the same thing when Freese first came out and took his position at third base to begin the game.
    Rain started to come down after the sixth inning, but we were dry in our seats as they were under cover. Right after Freese’s double in the seventh, the rain really came down. Caiden said he was a little cold, but he stuck it out.
    An intentional walk followed by a base hit and the bases were loaded for St. Louis. That brought up Shane Robinson with one out who grounded out, but also knocked in Freese to increase the Cards’ lead to 3-1. Giants manager Bruce Bochy went out to make a pitching change, but at that same time the umpires called a rain delay, at about 5:45 p.m.
    So, Caiden decided we should head back to the Kids Zone. It was a great idea as it was dry and gave him stuff to do. After spending an hour in the Kids Zone, Caiden decided he wanted to go for a walk and that led to what will be the memory of this game for me.
    In the court yard area, kids were playing kickball on a concrete field with a tennis ball. What made this so fun to watch, was that it was still pouring rain. Caiden asked if he could go play with them. While I was hesitant at first, I relented and off he ran to join the others playing in the rain.
    Page 3 of 3 - Watching Caiden play in the rain with those kids, sliding on the concrete and having fun reminded me why baseball will always be my favorite sport. It is a game played by kids. Some grow up and play it for a living, but when it all boils down, baseball is a kids game.
    Next we had nachos while watching middle-aged guys try to see who could throw the fastest. Most throwers were in the 60s, but several guys reached the 70s. Two gentlemen did hit 80 mph. The first guy to hit 80 did so on back-to-back pitches. The other guy, threw 80, 81, and 80. When Caiden got a chance to throw, he reached the low 30s.
    At 8:34 p.m., the grounds crew finally came out to take the tarp off the field. With play resuming at 9:05 p.m., we waited out the rain for 3-and-a-half hours. Not once did Caiden ever say lets go home, he had the time of his life. When he goes to school today, he will have stories to tell all his friends.
    The game finished rather quickly. Cardinals closer Jason Motte came in to pitch the final two innings after the delay and the Redbirds beat the Giants 3-1. It was the Cardinals’ first post season six-out save since Steve Kline accomplished the feat back in 2001.
    Caiden’s response, “Dad, that was an awesome day!”
    What a 35th birthday. What a day full of memories with my son. Baseball, it’s America’s passtime. It’s a game for the family, especially my family. I just hope Caiden remembers his first post season game 20 years from now like I still remember mine.

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