Pondering Life in the Lou and CoMo

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North America » United States » Missouri » St Louis
April 2nd 2023
Published: April 4th 2023
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The second day of the road trip has ended in a phenomenal way: face first into some amazing pizza. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Missouri, Shakespeare's Pizza. I actually bought one to eat at the restaurant and one to take with me to enjoy later on, and I hope to do that tomorrow.

I was also able to get to my hotel and have a pleasantly slow evening after driving another 4 hours today. It has been a day of highs and lows in a literal sense. The main tourist thing to do today involved baseball. Frankly, this entire trip is planned around baseball games because my favorite major league team, the Toronto Blue Jays, are in St Louis for the first weekend of the season before moving to Kansas City for a four-game series to cap off the first full week of the season.

It's also my spring break, and this year I chose to follow the baseball team that I love. Unfortunately, the first game did not turn out the way I wanted. But that's the way sports go, right? Thankfully, fans of baseball can enjoy a game almost every day. Case in point: I went to St Louis today, but tomorrow they’re in Kansas City, so that's where I will be. I’ve already bought tickets for the first 3 games of that series.

Also, the thing about baseball games is that they are relatively inexpensive when compared to other sports. Maybe it's the whole ‘scarcity versus plenty’ argument. There's plenty of baseball games to attend, so unless you can only be in town for one specific day, the chances are good that you'll be able to make at least one of the games. Most games I attend are priced between $10 and $30, depending on the quality of the seats and the opponent. Thanks to dynamic pricing (which is all the rage in sports ticketing these days), the quality of the opponent or the rivalry intensity between the two teams will oftentimes set the prices higher or lower. Thankfully, there's not really a rivalry between the Blue Jays and either the St Louis Cardinals or the Kansas City Royals. So prices for these games are relatively low.

My game today was indeed in St Louis at Busch stadium, where I attended a game last year for the first time. Neither of the stadiums I'll be visiting on this trip will be my first time, but it will be my first time cheering on my team at those stadiums. Busch Stadium is actually the third Busch Stadium in St. Louis, as I found out today in Cardinal Plaza, just outside the stadium. They have a map that shows where the current stadium is in relation to the previous stadium, overlapping a little bit. You can even take pictures in certain spots where the old stadium used to be. As someone who never knew the previous stadium (or two), that really holds no interest to me. Maybe if I were a big Cardinals fan, then I could relive specific moments of major games in those areas.

Nevertheless, St. Louis–or the Lou, as it has come to be known by the locals–is clearly a baseball town. I found out recently that until the 1950s, St. Louis was actually the westernmost and the southernmost team in all of major league baseball. Not until the Brooklyn Dodgers moved out to Los Angeles in the late 1950s did a team become more Western, or Southern. The Cardinals have won 11 World Series championships, the most recent of those being in 2011. They are certainly looking to claw their way back into that, although it's true that they are perennial postseason attendees in major league baseball. The last time I was here, I was actually cheering for the Cardinals, because they played the Philadelphia Phillies, and I hate the Phillies because I grew up a Braves fan. You can't be a Braves fan and love the Phillies, or the Mets. Or the Yankees, but everybody hates the Yankees, unless they're a Yankees fan. Now that I'm a Blue Jays fan (and have been for almost a decade), the Yankees are even more hated to me. But back to the trip…

The game today was an early one, with a first pitch of 1:15 pm, local time. I like those starting times better because it means that I don't have to stay up till ungodly hours. Or deal with traffic combined with fatigue at the end of the day. Getting to the stadium is really easy because it's basically right off the exit ramp. Once you get off of I-70 in downtown St Louis, if you go straight off of the exit ramp you will run into the stadium. If you turn right, you will head toward the parking lot where I had prepaid for my parking. The parking situation at the stadium is relatively simple. There's one major parking lot to the west of the stadium, and it's the cheapest one. So most people park there. There's also a parking garage to the east of the stadium, and if you want to pay 50% to 100% more for parking, that's the best bet.

I normally have people wanting to chat with me when I'm wearing the opposing team colors at their stadium, but I didn't get much of that here today. My first encounter with people was a group of probably college guys who jokingly said, “Go back to Canada.” I could tell it was good-natured fun because the looks on their faces were mostly smiles and playful. Their tone was also playful, not very belligerent. Isn’t it interesting, though, that people usually assume you’re from Canada if you’re a Blue Jays fan? Or that you’re from whatever town if you support whatever team? Actually, every single person I had any conversation with once I got inside the stadium began the conversation with, “Are you from Canada?” I am not.

Outside the stadium, the college boys weren’t the only people who said anything to me. Less than a minute later, a lady actually stepped out of the line (out of the extensive line waiting to go into any of the gates, which were not open yet) and made a point to say, “Welcome to St Louis!” I thanked her for her hospitality. But not seeing a gate on that side of the stadium that didn't have a line with fewer than probably 500 people, I decided to walk around to test the other gates. My surprise mounted throughout the entire circum-stadium journey because every single gate had a huge crowd, almost a mob, waiting to get in. I couldn't figure out why they were all there, so early for a Sunday game. It wasn't like this was a divisional competition or one of the big rivals.

I made my way almost entirely around the stadium and decided that I may as well get in line at the final gate that I saw. I don't regret that decision one bit because it was probably the shortest line of all. The gates opened a minute later, and within 5 minutes I was through the metal detectors and had my ticket scanned on my phone. Once we got into the stadium, I realized why people were queuing up so much outside to get in early.

It was free stuff. From now on, I'm not even going to question why a big line outside of a stadium exists. I’ll just assume there's free stuff. The free stuff in this game was actually not that bad. Sometimes it's a bobblehead or a hat or some useless thing that only a ‘real’ fan would want, and even then, it's not something that you're going to cherish. But this time, it was a hoodie: a long sleeve, t-shirt hoodie, and I kept it because I can always use an extra one of those, especially on a road trip. If I run out of clothes or need an extra piece, it will come in handy. I wasn't gonna put it on during the game because I assumed it had something to do with St Louis. But I was already wearing a Toronto Blue Jays hoodie that I purchased last year in Toronto, I didn't want to cover that up. Turns out, I was right that it did have ‘St Louis Cardinals’ written on it; as I walked through the stadium to get to my seat, I noticed that many people had already taken it out of the plastic wrapper and were wearing it proudly around. It's not a bad-looking shirt, and on any other day, I would probably feel fine wearing it. When I went to the game last year, they were giving away short sleeve hoodies and I put it on during the game. And felt just like one of the natives. Not so today.

I had expected that my blue hoodie and blue knit cap (it was very windy for most of the day and I didn't feel like losing a baseball cap in the strong winds) would stand out in this crowd. And in a lot of ways, I did, of course, because of the darker blue of the knit cap (called a toque in Canada) and the torso of the hoodie, but the sleeves and hood of my hooding were light blue. And for some reason, St Louis has adopted light blue as one of their alternate colors despite being the Cardinals, i.e., red birds. I thought it was going to be an interesting game between the blue birds and the red birds, with more people in red than in blue. But there were more people in blue than I imagined. Because of the propensity for St Louis Cardinals fans to wear both red and blue without really thinking too much about that. I assume those blue jerseys were at one point ‘free stuff’ that they were given out at different events, and now people just wear them because they were free. I digress.

My seat was in the upper deck and I'm glad that it was because it was in the shade and I hate being in the sun, especially when I'm wearing a hoodie and a knit cap. I don't want to get a sunburn on my face, for one, but when you're sitting in the sun for four hours in hot clothing, it only makes things miserable. At least in the shade, I felt justified for wearing the extra layers. I felt pretty comfortable for most of the game, although I did see people around me wearing shorts or short sleeves and couldn't help wondering whether they bothered to check the forecast before they left the house.

I won't really say too much about the game itself because it was a stinker if you were in Toronto Blue Jays fan. The real highlight of the game for me was that at least the team didn't quit when they got down 9 runs to 3. In the first inning, the Cardinals scored four runs off of three home runs, two of which came from the first two batters. It was not a good way to begin a baseball game if you were a Toronto Blue Jays fan. But in the second inning, the Blue Jays came back and scored three runs. The Cardinals fans lamented that there might actually be a game. The man in front of me actually turned around and said, “It's gonna be a long game.” I responded, "I hope so because I've paid enough for parking.” Parking was $25, which was more than the price of the admission ticket. More about that later. But that was really the high point of the game, though, and it's really sad that the first three innings provided most of the fireworks. By the end of the third inning, the Cardinals had scored another three runs to make it a score of 7 to 3 in their favor. They tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning to go up 9 to 3, at which point I resigned myself to defeat. The Blue Jays did score one more run later in the game, and that was at least some consolation. They hadn't given up. The defense for the Blue Jays was mostly spot on. It was just the long ball that gave them problems, which the defense can’t really do anything about. Without all those home runs, the game would’ve been much closer and probably would have gone in the Blue Jays’ favor, coming down to the final innings as either a tie game or a one-run deficit at that point.

Alas, we don't deal in counterfactuals, only in tangible, real results. After the game, my main objective was to get out of the parking lot in a reasonable time and get to Columbia for the night, which would still be a two-hour drive. My hopes were dashed when it took 30 minutes for me just to get out of the parking space in the parking lot, and then another 20 minutes to get from that parking space to the exit. So it was probably an hour before I actually got onto the interstate. That is atrocious. How did that happen? I really don't know. Incompetence in design, or lack of parking attendants directing traffic? I looked for employees to help us figure out which way to go, but it was every car for themselves. Normally, there are paid people in reflective vests or official signs or police officers–someone, anyone–that will tell us which way to go to get to the exit, which way, once we're out of the parking lot, if it's a one-way street, etc. But there were none of these people. Perhaps they were there for the first half hour while I was still waiting to get out of my parking space. It simply infuriates me. It's such a colossal waste of time. And if there's one thing I've learned in my brief existence here on this planet, it’s that time is one resource that there’s just never enough of. I was happy to have my audiobook to listen to in the car and grateful for the plentiful air conditioning, as the interior of my car had become more inferno-like during the four and a half hours I had been away from it. I couldn’t help but reflect, given all this spare time to ponder my meaningless existence in this concrete waste land next to Busch Stadium, what when your team has won the game, you can stomach such incompetence of parking-lot design because you're walking away a winner and you’re hopeful. But when we've lost the game and you just have to sit there amidst all the people wearing gear for the winning team and you feel very self-conscious that you're in the opposing team’s gear and have a sticker on the back of your car for the opposing team, and you just want to get out of there and you just want to quit wasting gas and so much time. As you sit there in park and waiting for someone to be kind enough to let you out or find enough of a gap in the traffic to take the initiative to move out there and hope you don't cause a wreck or have anyone developing enough road rage to not care that they cause a wreck with you…

But after an hour of futility, I was finally on an interstate, and it was mostly a smooth trip to Columbia (CoMo, to those in the know). Two hours later, I was in Shakespeare's Pizza and enjoying one of the best pizzas on the planet. I'm not planning to spend too much time here in CoMo as I will be in Kansas City tomorrow night for the game. But CoMo is one of my favorite SEC towns, primarily because of the weather and the welcoming fans. And the pizza’s not so bad, either. Columbia has all my love here today. If you'd like to meet me in St Louis, best of luck trying to find me there ever again.


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