All you need to do is take a quick peek in my room to realize just how in love I am with the St. Louis Cardinals. In my closet I have a hanging 6-shelf organizer in which 5 of the 6 shelves are stuffed to the brim with Cardinal t-shirts and jerseys; the last shelf is devoted to Blues, Rams, and newer Mizzou t-shirts. You will find in there the numbered t-shirts (Molina, Holliday, Ryan, Edmonds, Ankiel, Carpenter, Ludwick, Wainwright, Gracia, Schumaker...even Musial & Ozzie Smith), the RinaWear Shirts (yes, there is a full shelf of them), jerseys, and many other randoms including championship and division-clinching t-shirts. Yes, I am a Cardinal Fan through and through. Take an in-depth look around my room and you will see 6 shelves full of memorabilia – bobbleheads, magazines, posters, baseball cards, All-Star Game and World Series Champion Budweiser and Bud Light commemorative aluminum bottles, autographed baseballs – I even have one signed by the great Hank Aaron that my grandfathers' cousin gave to me without even ever meeting me because he was so happy that I was such a big baseball fan. It is inevitable that at only 24 years old, and really only 5 years of collecting, that this collection will grow...and I am running out of room quickly.
|My Closet - I'm gonna need another shelf.|
Baseball has always been a part of my life. I was born just north of Kansas City, MO, lived in Rolla, MO for a couple years, but mainly grew up in Edwardsville, Illinois. I may not have photographic evidence of me as a kid wearing Cardinal gear like many other lifelong fans, but the Cardinals have always been in my life. When I was in the 5th grade, an assembly was announced in which Mike Shannon (or Al Hrabosky...I can't remember at this point) and Fredbird were going to be coming to school. I was excited because just that summer, I had gone down on the field at Busch Stadium – in 1996 when they still had the turf field – after the game on Christian Family Day to represent my church and I got a bag full of goodies from the Cardinals. I was stoked and was on a Cardinal-high! So, when this assembly was announced and we were told to “wear as much red as possible”, I came home and told my mom this is what I had to do and I found every piece of red clothing possible to wear for that assembly. I had a red turtleneck shirt, red wool shorts, red stockings, and white keds (wow, the more I read that, the more I am glad there isn't a picture). On top of my long red hair, I was definitely wearing as much red as possible. If I had more time, I am sure we would have found red shoes. :) At the assembly, they talked about doing the right thing and not doing drugs, I'm sure, but at the end they wanted the biggest Cardinal fans to raise their hands – those wearing the most red. I stretched out my little hand as high and far as I could so they would see me. And believe it or not, I was picked! I got a couple more Cardinal goodies and was even “beaked” by Fredbird...something everyone hopes happens to them if they are Cardinals Fans! Obviously, from this point on, I was hooked. Of course in the late nineties, I lost track because I was just a kid. But, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing the home run title in 1998, I was in 7th grade and working on a plant cell project for science class. I wanted to make my project different, so my mom and I came up with idea of the “____ Home Run Cell” that looked like a baseball diamond. We couldn't finish it until the season was over and put the final number of homers McGwire got that year...70. Thankfully the due date wasn't until after the regular season was over that year, so I was able to finish the project with the right number. My teacher loved it and I got an A on the project, of course. I think we still have it somewhere in the basement at my parents’ house. Other things happened from then on; I remember being in 9th grade when the Cardinals lost in the playoffs to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Albert Pujols being named Rookie of the Year (2001) and going to games with my family every summer.
|Wearing my Cardinal gear in Dodger Stadium...in March.|
No game, just went to see a friend in LA. I had to be
a little obnoxious. ;) March 2009.
Our family has always gone to games when we could afford it and it wasn't until I left home to go to college across the river in St. Louis that I even started attending as many games as I do now. I started college in the Fall of 2004, and it wasn't soon enough. As everyone knows, the Cardinals were in the World Series in 2004 and I quickly met a friend in one of my classes that went with me down to the stadium during the NLDS and we scalped tickets. I think this was when the real, hard-core, spending-way-too-much-money obsession started. The first time I really spent my own money to go to a baseball game. She and I went to a game in the NLCS as well and at game 4 of the World Series (the last game when the Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox) some friends I met in the dorms at UMSL headed down to the pep rally in Kiener Plaza. I collected so much gear – posters, rally towels, beads, anything I could get my hands on – it was kind of embarrassing that I brought it all back and made my roommate take a picture of me with my arms full. (No, you don't get to see that!)
|Opening Day 2006. I love that you can see the un-finished|
sections in the stadium (upper right of photo).
I didn't spend much time at the stadium the next summer (mainly because I was working so much) but Courtney and I did go to game 2 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres...the last game we attended before Busch II was torn down. When the Cardinals got into the playoffs that year, I thought it was possible we could win the World Series. I remember sitting in my friend’s apartment for game 5 of the NLCS against the Houston Astros when the “shot heard round the world” was hit. As soon as Albert Pujols blasted that 3-run homer to clinch the game, I was dying. I lived in an apartment complex on campus, and I ran outside because I could hear people cheering from their balconies because of the blast. It was the most surreal moment (up to that point) that I had ever experienced. But when the Astros clinched the series the next night, I was devastated. However, that will go down as one of my (and everyone else’s) favorite moments in Cardinal History.
|My very blurry last picture of Busch Stadium II. The|
night I went down by myself.
Once the postseason was over, I went into crazy mode. After class one day in October 2005, the official beginning of Busch Stadium II being torn down started. I drug a friend along to come down and watch as the wrecking ball began taking down our beloved stadium. We hung out for a while and then went back to the dorms. A couple months later, the last section of the stadium was set to be torn down later one night. I was determined to be there. So, I hopped on the metrolink and went down by myself. I took pictures of that last piece of the stadium and waited for a couple hours in the freezing cold before being interviewed by KTRS (this is how I ended up getting an internship and eventually a job there) about why I was so crazy for being down there. Actually, come to find out I went to high school with the guy who was interviewing me, so he let me sit in his warm car while we waited. It got really late, and I still had homework to do, so I gave up. Turns out the section wasn’t torn down for another couple hours. But, a couple weeks later, my roommate and I went downtown for dinner and we walked by the stadium. There were some workers down there and they handed us each a piece of the rubble. She didn’t want hers, so I gave it to Courtney as a Christmas present that year. I can always say I will have a piece of Busch Stadium II with me.
|My first trip to Wrigley Field (thats my friend, Tegan).|
Needless to say, I was infatuated and just had to be at Opening Day 2006 for the new era of Cardinal Baseball. I knew we were going to win the World Series that year, no matter what anyone says. Three things happened that year that are, in my mind, contributors to this; I was at my first Spring Training that year, I was at Opening Day 2006, and I attended my first Cards/Cubs game in Chicago (we won). Silly? Sure. Superstitious? Maybe. But, we won the World Series that year, and it’s all that matters in my mind. 2006 started a string of 5 consecutive Opening Day’s that I have attended and 5 consecutive years of trips to Chicago for the Cards/Cubs series. I was 20 years old when the Cardinals won the first World Series in my lifetime. I will never forget that moment. I remember jumping straight up onto a couch in my friend’s living room from a sitting position when Yadier Molina hit the homerun in New York (not to mention, one of her roommates had locked himself in his room for the game because he was a Mets fan…HA…and my screaming didn’t help). I remember tailgating downtown before and during the World Series clinching game in the parking lot that used to be Busch Stadium II. Not too bad of a year, in my mind. I barely even remember the losing streaks and backing into the playoffs (thanks to the Braves). Ok, so it is a lot more vivid in my mind than I lead on…but all the crap didn’t matter…we won the World Series and I was there in the midst of the chaos, and it was AMAZING!
|World Series Champs!!|
In 2007, I got my picture with the World Series trophy…twice. I interviewed Mark Lamping, former President of the St. Louis Cardinals, for a class assignment and he gave me an official World Series jacket! I got to hold Bill DeWitt III’s World Series ring in my hand because they were fitting the rings the day I was there (those things are massive!). I worked at the stadium as an usher. And thanks to being a senior in college and extremely busy, I was able to forget that we didn’t pull off back-to-back World Series appearances. In August 2008, I started working at KTRS for McGraw Milhaven. A few weeks into starting my job there, the company had a softball game at Busch Stadium. I got to play on the field…I was the catcher for a couple innings and I got to stand where Yadier Molina stands. Sorry, no pictures. I was far too excited. Then, only a couple months after I had been there, Albert Pujols was scheduled to come in to the station (a week before he was named MVP) and talk about his charity. Yep, I was giddy. I kept quiet though and tried not to act too “fan-like”. But, McGraw helped me get a picture with him…THE Albert Pujols. My life was made; I met the great Albert Pujols and I played ball on the field at Busch Stadium…I could die peacefully.
|Albert Pujols & I. Best. Day. EVER. |
|Courtney & I after sneaking down|
to behind the dugout.
A lot has happened in my life, and I feel very privileged to have experienced all of things I have. I know not all of Cardinal Nation is located in the St. Louis area, so a lot of people have to live vicariously through mine and others experiences, and I am happy to let them do so! More recently, I attended my first Winter Warm Up in 2009 (I was still working at KTRS at the time, so I worked at their booth) and I actually had a media pass and went to the press conference room while Adam Wainwright was speaking to the media. Yeah…literally 10 feet away from me! That same year, because of the All Star Game in St. Louis, Courtney and I (who were at the logo-reveal game in 2008) made sure that we were at one of the events. I took the day off work and we went to the Fan Fest downtown and then to the Home Run Derby. We got there early to make sure we saw batting practice. It was Yadier Molina’s birthday, and as a first-time All Star, we had to let him know he was appreciated. Courtney made him a sign and we hollered at him until he paid attention. He saw the sign and waved to us and thanked us for the birthday wishes. When we (well, mostly Courtney…as she is in love with Yadi) finally calmed down and went to our seats, we were able to witness the most amazing standing ovation for Albert Pujols during the Home Run Derby. I can honestly say that being there with the whole nation’s attention on St. Louis for a few days was pretty amazing. When you get to the World Series, it is always about 2 teams, 2 cities, and numerous stars, but the ASG was all about St. Louis and Albert Pujols (and Yadi & Franklin) and it was amazing. Courtney and I were also at game 3 of the NLDS that year…yeah, when the Cardinals got swept right out of the postseason. When it was inevitable that it was going to be over, Courtney and I snuck down to sit 4 rows behind the dugout.
|Under one of the ASG arches outside the stadium.|
|At the ASG Fan Fest. |
In 2010, we went to Winter Warm Up for the first time together. We met Ryan Ludwick (still, sadface), Brendan Ryan, Jose Oquendo, Joe Mather, and Tyler Greene. We got to see Big Mac’s first appearance back in front of fans. Chris Carpenter brushed up against me when he worked his way through the crowd and I got to see up close and personal his tattoo and he actually said “hey” back to me when I said “What’s up Carp?” to him. Courtney couldn’t go to opening day this year, but we did have a lot of fun at the games we went to…and you all saw our first post of fan photo day when we got to meet a ton of the players. Courtney and I are sisters and friends. We spend every living-breathing moment in love with the Cardinals and we are so lucky to have each other to share this crazy passion with. When we aren’t around each other, we always share the moments anyway. I can almost time it to the second when I expect to get a call or text from Courtney after a big Cardinal moment. All those times in the World Series and playoffs, I was in college and Courtney in high school, but I always knew to have my phone nearby because she would be calling. Even though most of those phone calls consisted of screams, we knew what we meant. I am glad to have her to share these experiences with. It makes my experiences much more exciting.
|Cards/Cubs, May 2009. When we swept the Cubs and|
Albert Pujols broke the "I" in "Big Mac Land".
I have loved this experience being a Cardinal fan. I am so lucky to be able to cheer for such a great team filled with such an amazing history. I thank my lucky stars everyday that Albert Pujols is a Cardinal and that I get to watch him play baseball and continue to make his case for the Hall of Fame and being one of the best players to ever live. I love that this is an obsession and that everyone who knows me, knows what I will be doing every summer until I die. I love that every year I can find more reasons why I love this team. I find new reasons everyday why being a Cardinal fan is fantastic, but sometimes hard at the same time (team living up to expectations, etc). I am glad to have discovered twitter and all of the fabulous Cardinals fans that I follow and chat with every single day. I love the friends I have found in it…the same type of baseball-obsessed people just like me! :) I love that I can share my experiences with others and that now I have even a bigger outlet to do so with the Cardinal Diamond Diaries. I hope to bring a calm perspective in the seasons to come. I hope to be able to share experiences with you all that live far away and that you are able to live vicariously through me enjoying them. I know so many Cardinal fans who have shared their experiences with me, and I am glad that I can do the same.
Sports are my life - I am a sport management graduate student, but [Cardinals] baseball is my obsession. I am glad you all understand.