Cardinal baseball, from the girls
How To Fall In Love With a Baseball Player
Beyond the stats and the standings,there is nothing like falling in love with a ballplayer to intensify your experience of the game. And I feel quite confident claiming a mastery of this process. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about cleat chasing…. because that is something entirely different and most definitely frowned upon by the wonderful husbands/boyfriends who might be taking us to ballgames in the future.
Okay, okay…. It’s a once-every-season feeling if you’re really, reealllly lucky.
Two weeks ago I fell in love again, and here’s the story:
I am convinced the best baseball love stories start in a minor league ballpark, and this one is no different.
On July 11th we stopped in Memphis, TN to visit the home of our AAA Redbirds. With front row seats behind the net, we settled in to savor the spectacle of Carlos Martinez throwing his much touted heat.
What we got instead was an unexpected sideshow. An uncommonly gifted heckler (fairly original content) was just hitting his stride, brewing up discontent amongst the home crowd fans when Redbirds catcher Rob Johnson stepped over and bit back with such professional poise and wit coupled with just the right dose of good-natured humor that the heckling gremlin was not only silenced but forced to fist bump his once prime target as Johnson extended his arm across the first few rows to make contact with a friendly “gotcha!” and a knowing smirk before getting back to work, not missing a beat.
Then, after a hard fought win and even with the lateness of the hour (a game delayed by rain), Mr. Johnson alone hung out in the dugout, signing autograph after autograph for every child with a baseball, engaging them as he scribbled on their keepsakes and further endearing himself to his youngest fans. One young girl squealed “You are my FAVORITE ballplayer” to which Rob quickly responded with a smile “well, YOU are my favorite fan!”
My kiddos wanted a photo with their new hero. So, we asked and Rob readily accepted; but before striking the obligatory pose between the two of them, he held out his hand to each, took a moment to introduce himself and then asked their names and ages. Personal interaction. Building a relationship. Job well done, Mr. Johnson.
Add to his plus personality that we were on hand to witness his speedy pickoff of a runner stealing 2nd as well as his superb handling of the Redbird pitching that evening and I ask you, what’s NOT to love about Rob Johnson?
The very next day, July 12th, as we were continuing our cross-country road trip we were thrilled to hear Rob had received a call-up to join the St. Louis Cardinals. (After the Ty Wiggington release, when Yadier Molina’s injury appeared worrisome.) He’s already made appearances in three games with our big boys. So, if you’ve been watching the Cardinals lately, you might’ve already caught a glimpse of him.
Rob’s no rookie. At 30 years old he’s played for a few other teams (Mariners, Padres and Mets) over the past seven years. And as a third catcher, his time here on the Cardinals bench may be cut short once the team has no lingering concerns about Yadi’s need for further rest. Regardless, Rob Johnson has given us another reason to love the game: another connection, another personal story. If you are in the market for a new favorite ballplayer, we’ll be happy to share him. Or feel free to fall in love in the minor leagues yourself!
Want to learn more about Rob? Here are some recent links from Jenifer Langosch at mlb.com and Derrick Goold at stltoday.com about his value to the club and our pitchers. Don’t love him already? Read these: