Clear eyes, shirts off, can’t lose

When Kolten Wong stepped to the plate Sunday night, some Cardinal fans had lost hope in the game and in the chances of winning a World Series. Not me.

With Game Two on the line, I repeated what I did when David Freese hit a game-winning bomb in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series and what I did when the Cardinals rallied for four runs in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. I took my shirt off. Yes, I removed my tomato-red Cardinals gear from the top half of my body, exposing my chiseled (read: pale/unflattering) chest.

The baseball gods did not disappoint. In the ensuing pitch, Wong launched a solo shot to right field, winning the game.

Some call it magic. Others call it coincidence. I call it faith.

You see, I don’t really believe fans can alter the games with “lucky” socks or switching seats. That makes no logical sense. But what does make a difference is when a person or group of people unite in belief. Just like in the movie “Elf,” if we all believe, it will happen.

Faith, by definition, is an act of irrationality. Many of my rational friends who are Cardinals fans do not have faith in this team winning the World Series and often do not have faith even in their own lives. “It’s better to just be prepared for the Cardinals losing it all,” they say. “That way, it will be easier to move on.” Sound familiar?

Better question: Move on to what? Your average, pessimistic life? No, I refuse to live that way. In a world of faith, life is suddenly exciting and wonderful. And even if the Cardinals win the World Series, I still have faith that something good will come to those who believe.

So, yes, this October my shirt will be off for my team. I will be “Shirtless in St. Louis.” You may think I’m stupid or crazy but I’m just here to have fun and spread love for the cause.

Clear eyes, shirts off, can’t lose.

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For the love of baseball

You have to love this kid's enthusiasm for the photobomb.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I went to a Cardinals game with this really sweet girl. The date was going well, she looked great and I had even taught her how to keep score.

Throughout the game, I was consumed with the thought of kissing her, but I knew that I didn’t quite have the guts to just go for it. I realized, though, that the Kiss Cam happened every game and there was just a chance, albeit slight, that a cameraman could help me out.

When the fifth inning rolled around, I clenched up as the Kiss Cam panned the stadium, and, despite finding some younger-looking couples, the camera never found us (an ill-advised choice of later consuming an entire bag of peanuts probably nixed the chance of getting a kiss after the game as well).

Even though I failed to secure a smooch, I have always associated love with the game of baseball. I used to love the game for its stats, instant replays and massive home runs drilled out by burly men. My dad would point to me as a kid at parties and have me recite the average, home run and RBI totals of every player on the team. In an era before a smartphone could quickly Google search statistics, the skill was fairly useful.

Cardinals’ victories meant everything for me growing up and a quick glance at the box score most mornings in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch affected my mood throughout the day. Looking back, I remember feeling acutely depressed for weeks as an 11-year-old kid after the Cardinals lost the 2004 World Series.

I’m not sure when things began to change and I started to find less value in the stats, highlight reels and wins. As I’ve grown older, I’ve cared much more about the stories behind the players and fans instead of religiously memorizing every box score. I’m more interested in slapping a Wiffle ball around with friends or hearing my grandpa tell me about watching Stan Musial hit than obsessing over the minutiae of numbers.

Often, when I go to Cardinals games now, I have no idea who St. Louis is playing because I’m happier about being with my friends and family at the game. For me, baseball is now about the relationships and love that the game forms more than anything else.

On a professional level, though, the game is a business, and it was sad to read about Allen Craig and Joe Kelly getting traded away a few days ago. I thought about their friends and apartments and neighborhoods that they were leaving. I thought about Joe Kelly dancing, his stand-off and that one time he interviewed Nelly as an old man. I recalled Allen Craig’s tortoise named “Torty” and I smiled.

I guess Kelly and Craig were traded to improve the Cardinals’ chances of winning a World Series. Right now, I could care less if the Cardinals won another won of those because I’m going to miss those two guys.

And, yes, my opinion about the trade is worthless because a.) I’m not a general manager and b.) I would be a “terrible” at running a team. If I did manage a ball club, I would focus on my squad’s chemistry and positive interaction with the community before I’d tally up wins and losses. You might not ever see a playoff victory, but our first basemen would always win the 5th-inning hot dog eating contest.

Anyway, good luck with the rest of the season, Cardinals. Sorry if I’m not completely paying attention to what’s happening on the field. I’m just trying to get the Kiss Cam’s attention.

 

Ballpark Village: A Successful Failure

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Soaked and cold, I waited outside the new Ballpark Village in a massive line last night.

“No more people!” A person yelled. “They’ve reached capacity.”

Well, that sucked, I thought as I walked back to the Metro and waited 20 minutes for my train. The rain continued to pour and, lacking windshield wipers, my glasses were useless.

But I couldn’t be happier.

After years of waiting, false hopes, abandoned lakes and a rentable softball field, Ballpark Village finally filled that parking lot outside of Busch Stadium.

Pessimism and proposed plan ideas shriveled in the rain as the Village jumped to Third Eye Blind. The affair was anything but semi-charmed.

Thousands of people lived up opening night. The support for downtown, particularly from young people, was intoxicating.

What some people had called a total failure had finally surfaced as a success. Sure, Ballpark Village was too late. And, yes, St. Louis looked bad during the All-Star game as Busch Stadium II’s death was still clearly visible.

Last night, though, it seemed Old Busch was buried and a red fern, a glowing, $650-million building, had grown over its grave.

Even as this new energy invigorated downtown, the city stayed true to its roots. In what might have been the most St. Louis thing ever, I boarded and departed Metrolink at the Clayton station with the same people last night.

I guess some things never change.