The 2012 Opening Day Running Blog
Well here we are again…sitting in a garage in the heart of Belleville, IL with a smoking grill, a counter full of sides, and cold beer everywhere. Technically, it could be damn near any day of the week once the winter weather breaks. But in late March or early April, I’m definitely talking about the St. Louis Cardinals Home Opener. And this is my third installment of the Opening Day Running Blog.
The rain delay gave us all ample opportunity to eat, play some cards, and have a beer or six. We’re at my buddy Ken’s again, and we’re joined by Joe, Shane, Zac, and Scot the Cubs Fan. He’s all decked out in Cubbie Blue. We look at him with scorn. We started off with breakfast at the Hy Ho Restaurant in Belleville, and they weren’t impressed with him either. And that’s really saying something; the Hy Ho is a greasy spoon of the highest—and lowest—order.
The game was pushed back to a 3:45-ish start, with the pregame pomp and circumstance kicking off around 3. But we have word from sources at the ballpark that the Budweiser Clydesdales will not be making their traditional laps around the Busch Stadium turf. Could this be an omen of bad things to come? Wait, there’s Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan. And Dunc has a beard. All is right with the world again.
3:45 – We’re getting ready for the Star Spangled Banner but the bald eagle brought in to make an avian patriotic display has yet to land. Normally, the majestic bird leaves its cage somewhere in the outfield, makes a few passes around the stadium, and goes right to its handler in the middle of the diamond. This thing has been circling for at least five minutes, and does not even look like it’s interested in landing. We’re beginning to wonder if it might pick up National Anthem singer Shannon Magrane in its talons and carry her away.
4:01 – Darwin Barney: one of the goofiest names in Major League Baseball.
4:04 – The Cubs have taken the lead 1-0 on two seeing-eye singles through the hole at short. Heh heh…through the hole…
4:07 – Ian Stewart parks one into the seats in right field. Cubs up 4-0. Scott the Cubs Fan looks pleased.
4:08 – Scott the Cubs Fan gets a text and guesses it must be a “F-you” from someone. He checks and says, “oh, it’s from my mother.” We’re all guessing it’s still a “F-you.”
4:10 – The top of the 1st finally ends…Cubs 4, Cards coming up.
4:12 – Taking the mound for the Cubs, Jeff Samardz…samma…Jeff. Jeff is pitching.
4:18 – The first two Cardinal hitters go quietly, but Holliday and Carpenter get on in front of David Freese. Excitement is at an all-time high around the patio table.
4:19 – A likely strike is called a ball on Freese. Scott the Cubs Fan is disgusted. I believe it’s the new strike zone Freese will see, like the Atlanta Braves pitchers of the mid-90s enjoyed. I could be wrong.
4:21 – Al Hrabosky offers some broadcast gold: “David Freese has holes.”
4:22 – Freese strikes out swinging. Cubs 4, Cards 0 after one.
At this break in the action, we decide to make things a little interesting. It’s the “Cup Game;” not to be confused with “2 Girls, 1 Cup” (DO NOT GOOGLE IT…TRUST ME). Basically, everyone puts a buck in a cup and it gets passed around; each time a new batter comes up, a new person gets the cup. While you’re holding the cup, if your hitter strikes out or hits into a double play, you must pay a dollar into the cup. If your hitter gets an extra base hit of any kind, you win what’s in the cup and everyone re-antes. If your hitter does anything else, you pass the cup on as is.
4:30 – The Cubs go quietly in the top of the second. No one wins any money, but no one loses any either.
4:35 – After a Yadier Molina strikeout, the pot grows by one. I have Matt Carpenter, who gets a base hit, but that does nothing for my monetary status. Dammit.
4:38 – Scott the Cubs Fan has drawn both pitchers early in our little game. Karma is indeed a bitch.
4:44 – Rick Hummel sighting in the Press Box, chatting with Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa.
4:48 – La Hair hits a Grand Slam, putting the Cubs up 8-0. More importantly, that was Scott the Cubs Fan’s batter. This pretty much seals the deal: he will die today, because we will be forced to kill him.
4:50 – Wainwright gives up a hit to Marlon Byrd. His curveball is hanging, and everything is hittable. This is not a good return for Waino, but he should have plenty of opportunities to bounce back. Then I remembered he’s on my fantasy team and I’m even sadder.
4:52 – Samard…z…i…j…a strikes out, and I owe a dollar. FML. After TWO AND A HALF INNINGS, the Cubs lead 8-0.
4:56 – Victor Marte is warming up in the bullpen, and by warming up I mean eating an entire turkey.
5:05 – After three innings, the Cubs still lead 8-0.
5:06 – You know what never gets old? Pronouncing David DeJesus’s name as “De-Jesus,” like THAT Jesus. We’re idiots.
5:10 – The bases are loaded AGAIN for the Cubs, and there’s nobody out. This is beyond ugly.
5:11 – Fortunately Alphonso Soriano grounds into a double play, but a run still scores. Ken pays a dollar. Cubs lead 9-0.
5:14 – in probably the play of the game for the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter makes a stumbling, bumbling play and flips to Marte covering 1st for the final out of the inning. It looked so bad, it looked great. Another friend, Jeff, has popped in momentarily. He likes the Cards’ gold jerseys. Yep…he’s the one.
(Break in the action: Scott the Cubs Fan has to leave to pick up his son, and we all have to move our cars to let him out. I think he’s used that excuse to get out of a beat-down multiple times. His time will come.)
5:28 – We’re all just buzzed and distracted enough that we forgot what the order was in our little dollar game. Scott the Cubs Fan leaving the rotation didn’t help either. Time to re-draw and re-ante.
5:29 – Jon Jay drives home the first run of the game for the Cardinals with a single. Shane Robinson scores. I do not earn any money on that one.
5:30 – Carlos Beltran knocks a single up the middle and Jay takes third. Joe says, “The comeback is on!” We all shoot him a disapproving look and keep drinking.
5:33 – David Freese with an RBI single, Cards now down 9-2. Jeff claims it’s the jerseys. Ugh.
5:35 – Yadier Molina with an RBI single, Cards now trail 9-3. We may be getting close to starting to think we might believe.
5:37 – Matt Carpenter with a triple! The Cardinals are now down 9-5. Ken takes the pot; time to re-ante. And, we have a game on our hands.
5:40 – “Disco” Descalso strikes out to squelch the rally. Cubs’ lead is cut to 9-5 after five innings.
5:43 – Joe Mather makes his triumphant return to Busch Stadium as a Cub for the first time, and no one cares.
5:47 – Ladies and Gentlemen, Darwin Barney is batting. I love you, you love me, we are blah blah blah…
5:49 – The wife’s home! Everybody hide! Damn rain delays…
5:53 – Jon Jay legs out a lucky double, and I collect the pot! But the other guys are out of dollars so we’re done for now. Oh well. I think I made $2 today.
5:56 – David De-Jesus robs Matt Holliday’s bid for an RBI with a diving catch in right. Still 9-5 Cubs after six innings.
6:10 – “Ken, quit fingering the meat!” It’s getting late, folks.
6:11 – Alphonso Soriano makes a diving catch. It’s a big deal when he does something right.
6:14 – Kyle McClellan in for his second inning of work. Why do I get the feeling this isn’t a great idea? And, of course, as I’m typing this, he hits Marlon Byrd.
6:15 – Blake DeWitt bounces into a double play. You may get away with this yet, Kyle.
6:16 – Groundout, and the Cards are out of the inning. But they’re running out of chances; it’s still 9-5 and we’re headed to the bottom of the 8th inning.
6:21 – Disco with a one-out double. Time for a rally, hopefully before the rain kills this game.
6:24 – Tyler Greene with a predictable strikeout. Why are the Cardinals still giving him a chance again? Oh yeah…he can run. That would really come in handy if he ever got on base. Kerry Wood coming into the game, so the Cards still have a shot.
6:28 – Rafael Furcal bounces out to first. Cards still down 9-5.
6:32 – “Did Jeff leave?” Yeah, Shane…about 20 minutes ago.
6:34 – Fernando Salas mows down the Cubs in the top of the 9th. The Cardinals are down to their last chance, and I’ve got a lot of beer left. Maybe I’m slipping in my old age.
6:35 – Wait! I’m not old! Give me another beer!
6:42 – And after an uneventful bottom of the 9th, Carlos Beltran strikes out to end the game. The Cardinals fall to the Cubs 9-5.
Well…that kind of sucked. But, as always it was a good time with good food and good friends. We watched a little playoff hockey as the evening wound down, chatting and joking and telling stories. Really, that’s what Opening Day is all about: getting together with friends and fellow fans to watch some baseball and have fun. Whether you go to the game, enjoy it with a group, or enjoy it from the comfort of your own couch, you know everything seems a little better once baseball is back. Now I have to get ready to go to my first game of the year, Saturday—when the Cardinals are presented with their 2011 World Championship rings. Should be a great day at Busch Stadium.
One final note…At about 8:30, I received a text from Scott the Cubs Fan: “I think I just saw that eagle fly past my house.” Perfect.