Well, actually it was just a night, which was my only mistake.
Next time, we’ll stay for two nights (and games).
And there will be a next time.
One of the great gifts of fatherhood is the opportunity to share your interests with your children. I say opportunity because there are no guarantees they’ll feel the same way about these things as you do. To some parents, it’s almost incidental.
I never wanted to be that Dad.
Lucky for me, my oldest son, who’s eight, also happens to share my passion for anything Cardinals. He will actually sit and watch an entire game, regular season game mind you, from start to finish. Even I have trouble doing that!
So for the past few years, we’ve made a trip across the state to see the Cards play the Royals in Kansas City. We’ve had two terrific experiences there, but it just so happened this year, those games were being played on a Wednesday and Thursday evening during the school year.
We needed to come up with another plan.
As opposed to making the trek to Chicago (which we will do at some point) or Cincinnati, we thought, given all of the great young players the team has developed over the past few years, that it might be fun to see what the Cards future looks like. Where do these young players come from?
And here’s the cool part. He wanted to learn about how this happens.
Not many kids show this level of interest in the organizational structure of a MLB team, so I didn’t want to waste this opportunity.
The Memphis Redbirds are the top minor league affiliate of the Cardinals, and many of the team’s current players have either played for the Cardinals before (Pete Kozma, Shane Robinson, Randall Grichuk) or will at some point (Stephen Piscotty).
Memphis also just happens to be approximately the same distance away from St. Louis as Kansas City (give or take a few miles) so the decision was made a few weeks back.
I went online to buy a pair of tickets for Saturday evening’s game between the Redbirds and the Colorado Rockies AAA team, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox ! (how’s that for a team name!)
Third row behind home plate, $17 apiece. That’s a deal.
This would be a short, but eventful mini-roadtrip. We left Saturday around 11am, and decided to stop for lunch in Cape Girardeau. As we were enjoying our Steak N Sake shakes (I’m not nearly as adamant about the whole food pyramid thing as my wife is) I noticed an email from the team:
Dear Ticket Holder,
This is a friendly reminder that tonight’s game will start at 5:05 PM as part of a doubleheader, the two teams will play a pair of seven-inning contests.
Gates will open at 4 pm.
Your Ticket is good for both games.
Wait, A 7 inning doubleheader?
Apparently this was a result of Thursday night’s game having been postponed.
Fine by us! We were only going to be there one night anyway so the more baseball we can pack into it the better.
We’d have to get a move on though, as the game(s) were now scheduled to start an hour earlier than we thought.
We arrived in Memphis shortly before 4pm, checked in at the hotel, dropped off our luggage in the room, and headed to the ballpark!
The Redbirds play at AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis, which has all of the amenities of a big league park, combined with the slightly smaller scale charm of most minor league stadiums.
If you’ve never been to a minor league game, there’s not much separating you from the players. You can practically start a conversation with them on the on-deck circle and autographs for the kids are plentiful. The players are encouraged to interact with the fans as much as possible.
Try that at a big league park.
The Cardinals have actually taken over operations of the team this season and you can see the team’s influence on its top affiliate. Things moved along swiftly and there was plenty of fun to be had in between innings for everyone. They’re careful however not to overdo it. It’s still a Memphis team.
The Redbirds won both games 1-0 and 2-0 and they capped the evening off with a 4th of July worthy fireworks display afterwards.
Father and son left happy and a little tired from the trip. Back to the hotel, up early the next morning and on the road home by 8:30. Like I said, quick, but very eventful.
All in all, I highly recommend the trip for any serious Cardinals fan.
But stay for two nights!