Cardinal baseball, from the girls
If you clicked this tab, you either made a mistake and are now frantically searching for an escape (click on the HOME tab, upper left) or you have some time to kill and are a little curious who I am and why I am writing about baseball and the Cardinals.
My original “About Me” post which you can still read at the end of this page, was written a while back and explains how I came to fall in love with baseball, but it was in need of revision since I no longer feel like the “baby fan” I was just a few years back.
After roughly five years of in-depth, almost daily study of all things Cardinals, I have settled into a comfortable condition many of you are already familiar with: well-informed baseball fan. I treasure the fact that through my discovery of baseball, I have brought along a few new fans (my kids and my Mom, especially) and helped to reignite the passion of some whose love of the game may have become buried under years of neglect.
There is no denying the magic of baseball, the appeal of the simplicity of the game as well as the complexities of the games within the game. Baseball can be loved by anyone and everyone for as many different reasons as there are fans. And as I have learned this season (2011), baseball meets you where you are. You can be a hungry fan, digging for details, dissecting lineups and every managerial move. Or, when life steps in and demands priority, you can meet-up and get reacquainted over boxscores and highlight videos. Baseball is a steady constant (at least from April through October) in a world that sometimes spins a little too fast. And baseball can surprise you too! The 2011 Cardinals reminded us that it isn’t over ’til it’s over, and what a ride it was! World Series Champions, when nobody thought they could do it!
The 2011 season was different for me in many regards: With a continued drive to understand more of the how’s and why’s of the Cardinal organization, I kept a close eye on the minor leagues and player development, from the Rookie Leagues on up to AAA Memphis. After several of my favorite Cardinals moved on to other teams through trades and free agency, I adopted step teams. My baseball world keeps expanding. More to learn, more to love!
So, enough waxing poetic about life and baseball! In a nutshell…
I am wife to a fabulous, supportive guy and mom to two of the best kiddos in the world. We live near Oklahoma City where we catch the AAA Memphis Redbirds whenever they visit our downtown Bricktown Ballpark. I’ve been lucky to be able to combine my love of baseball with my other hobby, photography; and my favorite photo gigs have been shooting baseball games with credentials and the freedom to roam the park and shoot from the photo wells at AAA games. This January (2012) Diamond Diaries was invited by the Cardinals to help cover Winter Warm-Up, a dream-come-true.
My favorite Cardinals (this year) are Matt Holliday (who bares a striking resemblance to my husband), David Freese (fell in love with him back in 2009) and Daniel Descalso (another Memphis player I’ve watched grow up to be a Cardinal). Submarine pitchers mesmerize me, and I usually plan my Spring Training trip in December (because that is what I ask Santa for every year.)
You can find me on Twitter under username @Erika4stlcards. Stop by, say “Hi,” and talk some baseball.
Links to some of my photos of the Cardinals and Memphis Redbirds, are here:
Now, if you would still like to read my original “About Me” section….
How I Became a Cardinal Fan (written Spring 2010)
I love Cardinals baseball and often joke that I am addicted or obsessed with it. Honestly, there is more than a little truth in that humor. Over the past few years I have gone from baseball-illiterate to a dedicated student of the game. My journey to becoming a true Cardinals fan has been fast and furious, and I have loved every moment.
In the past year, I have met some wonderful baseball fans. Inevitably our conversations lead to the question: “How did you become a Cardinals fan?” The answers they’ve shared usually involve childhood memories of baseball experiences or a geographical connection to St. Louis. My story takes a different path.
So, if you want the short answer to “How Erika became a baseball fan,” it would be “a really good foot rub.” If you want more details, the rest of this is for you.
Before 2009, my knowledge of Cardinal team history was nonexistent. Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Red Schoendienst and Whitey Herzog? For all I knew, they could have been our city councilmen. As a child, I had no stuffed Fredbird and had never seen Busch Stadium. In fact, I grew up in Oklahoma and can claim absolutely no St. Louis roots in my family tree. Sure, I did know the basics of baseball…my Dad played softball on the church league and I watched him play many games. However, beyond that, baseball never got a second glance.
It’s actually a good thing that I wasn’t introduced to baseball earlier in life. I was able to complete a college degree, enjoy my job, get married and start a family without my now daily need for a ‘baseball fix’ Those were good years. And I look back on my baseball-free life with fond memories.
My husband’s friends all tell him he should write a book: “How to Get Your Wife to Like Baseball: So She will Order Sports Packages on TV, Talk Ball and Go To Baseball Games Instead of Chick Flicks.” He takes credit for introducing me to baseball, and looking back, it seemed pretty harmless at the time.
To start this off right, we have to go back just 4 1/2 years:
In 2005, my husband was what you’d call a ‘postseason baseball fan’. He’d catch up with baseball in October, when the grueling day-to-day summer schedules were over and television audiences settled in to watch (what was supposed to be) the best baseball teams playing the best baseball games of the season. One October evening, Hubby suggested we watch baseball on tv. I’m sure I hated that idea and complained that baseball was boring. However, being the good negotiator that he is, Hubby offered what he knew I would never refuse: a foot rub. And so I gave up the fight and let him watch the game, while I read a book on the couch, with my happy feet.
It wasn’t love at first sight, me and baseball. In fact, I know I did not see any of that night’s game. But the next evening Hubby offered up another foot rub bribe, and I did not turn it down. This time I may have even heard a few calls and seen a few swings of the bat, if I had looked up from my book. So, with his secret weapon that cured my tired feet, Hubby was able to convince me to sit through two weeks of baseball leading up to the World Series. It was during those mid-October games that I was first exposed to the sights and sounds of Cardinals baseball as the Cards beat the Padres in the NLDS and then lost to the Astros in the NLCS.
Hubby was amused that the foot rubs were working as my interest in the games started to show, but even he would agree I was hardly a ‘fan’. In fact, embarrassing as it is to admit this now, I chose to cheer for the White Sox to beat the Astros in the World Series entirely because I liked their uniforms better.
Hubby got his first real warning sign at 2 AM on the night of Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. For that game, Hubby was MIA – on a business trip in Kansas. Little did he know, I was watching the White Sox play the Astros — all by myself, with no foot rub for incentive! It turned out to be the longest World Series game in history (5 hours and 41 minutes). I had fought off sleep, too stubborn to give up without witnessing the conclusion. The game finally ended, after what felt like an eternal 14 innings, with the boys in the better uniforms beating the Astros. It was then, with an uncharacteristic late-night phone call from me to relive (of all things) a baseball game, that Hubby realized his world had changed: his wife had discovered baseball!
Although 2005 brought my first baseball adventure, the 2006 postseason ignited my true love – Cardinals baseball. As a fledgling baseball fan, I had randomly selected to cheer for the Cardinals, probably because the Mets were favored to win and I am a sucker for an underdog. I still remember that ‘lost’ feeling – not recognizing any players and not knowing much about the rules or strategy of the game.
In an effort to ‘connect’ with the team without jumping in over my head, I started out choosing one player on whom to focus. I learned a bit about him and cheered his every at bat. While Cardinal Nation and baseball’s postseason audience were watching the Cardinals battle the Mets, I was watching Yadier Molina, the young kid with a baby face whose intense love of playing baseball was undeniably contagious. I know what you’re thinking… but no, it was not because I thought Yadi was a “baseball hottie”. I was attracted to his ‘spark’ – that genuine excitement for the game – and I was mesmerized watching that future Gold Glove in action behind the plate.
The baseball bug had bitten, but Game 7 sealed the deal. For Cardinals fans, Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS is the backdrop for the spectacular tale of rookie Adam Wainwright’s historic game-ending strikeout of Carlos Beltran in a bases loaded, nail-biter, bottom of the 9th inning to clinch the National League pennant. But I remember Game 7 for the other story. My chosen player on my underdog team had a very big moment. In the top of the 9th, the game was tied; and young Yadi, surprising himself and just about everyone else, hit a 2-run homerun to give the Cardinals the lead. That was the moment that a Cardinals victory became ‘my’ victory. I was watching from a hotel television while the man who takes credit for my baseball obsession was fast asleep. I had never cheered so fully and honestly for a professional athlete as I did for Yadier Molina that night. I had become a fan.
And as if celebrating the pennant wasn’t enough to hook me for life, baseball blessings rained down as Yadi – along with Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, David Eckstein and the rest of the 2006 Cardinals roster – played outstanding baseball to defeat the Detroit Tigers in 5 games and capture the World Series Championship. It was baseball nirvana, and having witnessed it, I was forever changed.
From that point on, the rest of my story is easier to predict. The new baseball fan’s team wins the World Series, inspiring further devotion. The next season brings the addiction of winning games plus the tragedy of loss in close games, as well as the familiarization with the players — all these combine to deepen the connection. Add in genuine curiosity, intense loyalty and the drive to learn more about what I love, and you have an understanding of how my fascination with the St. Louis Cardinals evolved so rapidly.
Since then I’ve expanded my cast of Cardinals favorites, fell in love with many, and mourned when some left us. I now follow games from the beginning of Spring training through the entire season, causing my husband to complain that I might be watching too much baseball! My interest in ‘all things Cardinals’ has extended to the AAA Memphis Redbirds, and I’ve enjoyed following some of those minor leaguers (affectionately called our Baby Birds) on their journey to the Big Leagues.
Each season I find more reasons to enjoy the game. Last year, Brendan Ryan’s lovable quirkiness and amazing defensive acrobatics added a special energy to the team, reminiscent of Yadi’s ‘spark’ that first drew me in. This year I’m delighting in the excitement of cheering on a rookie, our 3rd baseman, David Freese. Twitter has definitely been a fun way to enjoy games with other fans, and I just know this year’s team will give us a lot of greatness to tweet about! Four years ago I thought baseball was boring. Now I am a devoted fan of Cardinals baseball… all because I couldn’t refuse a good foot rub!