It isn’t a cliche: America and apple pie.
It isn’t just some sport that starts in the Spring and ends in the Fall.
It is moments and memories. It is math and physics. It is sportsmanship and teaching.
It is the crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, the sea of red at Busch Stadium.
It is a fireplace mantle covered in St. Louis Cardinal memorabilia for the length of the team’s run through the 2011 Playoffs.
It is father and son, father and daughter bonding. Every game. Every batter. Every out.
It is counting the days until Pitchers and Catchers Report from the moment of the last out of the World Series. (In 65 days in case you were wondering…..they report on Valentine’s Day, 2012)
It is heroes and idols and some-day-I’m-gonna-be’s….
It is outfielders and shortstops and 6-4-3.
It is an experience.
In my house, Cooperstown influenced the name of my small dude, Cooper, and Shortstop is the puppy Santa delivered two years ago.
And it is that same small dude who needed comforting this week when his favorite player, arguably the best baseball player we will see in our lifetime, Albert Pujols, left the City of St. Louis for the City of Angels. More than once, my blond guy turned teary blue eyes in his daddy’s direction and said, “I just want him to come back.” And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that same daddy needed comforting of his own.
Here’s the thing: I don’t fall into the category of people gnashing teeth and wailing to the heavens, “Albert has forsaken us for the Almighty dollar!” For too long I have known too much about the amazing charitable work he and his wife Deidre have done both here in St. Louis through the Pujols Family Foundation and down in the Dominican Republic.
Was money involved in the process? Of course. Did the Angels offer more? It certainly appears as though they did. You know what else they did? They offered the YEARS Albert had requested from the very beginning. And? They said, “We want you…. really, really, really badly.”
Yes. You and I? My small dude? My HUSBAND? The Man? We all really, REALLY wanted Albert to stay. But, I get the feeling he wasn’t feeling loved by the Cardinals organization. He’s quoted in the Post-Dispatch saying as much.
The truth is… we won’t ever know everything that went down. And everyone (myself included) will continue to suppose. Many will continue to blame Pujols…..it is easier to call him a traitor…believing it was the extra money that pulled him West and into an Angels uniform than to believe the Cardinals could have done more to keep him here with us.
But I won’t let the negativity tarnish Coop’s love of number five. Beacuse while the Cardinals lost a first baseman, all that little blondie sees is his hero isn’t wearing the right uniform anymore and won’t won’t wear it when he heads into the Hall of Fame. However, he is still a player worth studying and a man worth emulating. And as a mom, I’m ok with that.
You see that small guy right there? Standing in the shadow of the player he hopes to be? This picture was taken this past summer on his 5th birthday. We were down on the field before the game: Cardinals vs. Giants.
This whole experience is just one more way baseball will teach my guy to be great.
Because things don’t always go your way: you get out more than you hit and sometimes your favorite player leaves for another team.
But sometimes it is amazing. Because home runs happen. Because you get to go the game with your Daddy.
Because miracles happen (see Game 6 of the World Series).
Because it isn’t just a game.