Sure, the official start to the 2014 Major League Baseball season was last Monday. Or last Sunday night, or March 22 in Australia — take your pick. Yes, it’s true the St. Louis Cardinals have played six games so far. None of that matters.
Today is when the season officially begins, for this afternoon is the home opener at Busch Stadium. Real baseball, at last.
There’s nothing any of the other 29 teams do for their opening days that comes close to how the Cardinals kick off the home season. Now, I haven’t been to one everywhere (although that sounds like an amazing addition to my goal of getting to a game at all the big league ballparks, doesn’t it?) but I’ve caught bits and pieces of highlights and games, plus have been to several Cubs opening days in the past. And I’ve attended two Cardinals opening days.
St. Louis just does it best.
The Clydesdales, the Hall of Famers, the parade of players around the track and just the overall atmosphere — goosebump-inducing, each and every year. Whether you’ve been to Busch Stadium to experience it in person or just watched on television, you know what I mean.
A Cardinals home opener is actually a more fitting occasion for the “people will come” speech from Field of Dreams than the opening of the season overall (even though I closed last week’s post with the video of it), especially these lines:
They’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.
Memories — those are what the Cardinals home opener is really about. Honoring the past, with the Hall of Famers resplendent in red blazers. Honoring the present, with today’s players getting individual adulation. Creating future memories for the kids in attendance, and all of us as adults too.
My two Cardinals openers were in 2005 and 2012 — both, obviously, the year after trips to the World Series, and both were memorable. Sure, there was seeing the National League pennant raised in 2005 (just like those attending today will see) and the World Series championship flag two years ago. But what really stands out are seeing the players, past and current-at-the-time.
In 2005, our seats were a few rows up in left field so I had an up-close view. There are two players who made the most lasting impression as they went by in their convertibles: So Taguchi, who was waving and bowing at the crowd continuously, and Larry Walker, in his one and only Cardinals home opener. He too was waving often, sometimes a goofy parade wave and other times a regular one, but there’s one thing that I’ll never forget: the grin. Ear-to-ear and nonstop, as the cheers roared from each section as he passed by.
And Larry is who immediately came to mind when I read Bernie Miklasz’s column this morning, which so captured the essence of how truly special Cardinals opening day is, and these thoughts from Lance Lynn.
“The first year when you’re there for the home opener you’re kind of taken aback by all of the stuff,” pitcher Lance Lynn said. “And then every year you get to see it all over again, and it gets that much more special every time. It’s their first time on the St. Louis opening-day roster and you watch them as they take it all in and see how awesome it is. That’s kind of the best part, to see how much the young guys and the new guys enjoy it.”
That’s what is always so cool, seeing those first-timer reactions — just like it will be today to see players like Peter Bourjos and Mark Ellis or Pat Neshek and Jhonny Peralta, who’ve been through other opening days throughout the big leagues. Now they’ll get to see what Cardinal Nation is truly about, what it means to be a Cardinal.
I can’t wait to watch.
How many more hours are left?
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like AMF on Facebook if you don’t already.