On August 31st, 1978, I was 3 years old, and was about to fall in love for the first time. I would fall in love one more time, some 23 years later, but my wife understands that she shares me from Mid-February to early November each year. My wife treasures her alone time from the last out of the World Series to that wonderful day in Mid Feb when “Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training.” I enjoy those months as well, but I live for the words “Play Ball” whose echo migrates North to all of us who cannot fly South to Florida and Arizona in the dead of winter.
My Dad and I approached the front gates of Busch Stadium on that day in August with only one “being” impeding our progress, a 15 foot statue of “The Man.” Before we could enter through the pearly gates, my Dad explained to me who “The Man” was and how we are to not only respect #6, but also respect the game that gives real value to the Diamond.
Prior to advancing forward into the Hot Box of St Louis, I was expected to memorize the inscription below Stan Musial’s Statue. “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior, Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.” I got it down in about as much time as it took Cincinnati Pitcher Tom Seaver to complete his pre-game warm-up that day, and this is where my love story begins.
Then, 31 years later, I did the same thing with my son. These two memories book end my Romantic Novel, and there are many in between, for example:
Waiting in line with my Dad throughout the night in 1987 to buy Standing Room Only Tickets at 9am on the day of Game 6 of the NLCS, and I was ecstatic to be watching the game from over 600 feet away through a fence hole.
Hitting a Game-Winning Bottom of the 7th, RBI Single of my own to win a High School Playoff Game in 1992.
Serving as Assistant Coach to my brother’s High School Varsity team in 1998 and winning a District Championship where after the last out was recorded, I jumped on top of a pile of 16-year old and 17-year old kids, found my brother at the bottom of the pile and hugged him so tight he stopped screaming for lack of air.
Yelling loud enough to wake up the neighborhood on October 17th, 2005 when Albert Pujols, our Modern Day Musial, delayed our winter by one day when sending a Brad Lidge Concrete Mixer Slider into the Houston night during the NLCS, then one year later, running down Broadway with my wife on my shoulders as the World Series Trophy had returned to my city for the first time in 24 years.
Finally to June 19th, 2010 when my 4-year old son, MY SON, played in his first T-Ball game then approached me after that game and whispered to me, “Daddy, that was the most fun I’ve ever had.” Me too Cooper, Me too.
That night, I tucked my son in his bed under his baseball diamond comforter, where he lies his head on a round, white pillow which, of course, has red stitches, above him is a halo of wooden (not aluminum) letter’s hanging on his wall that spell C-O-O-P-E-R’-S T-O-W-N.
And, for all of those reasons/memories with that last one being the most important to me is why I love Baseball.