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SPORTS: Opening day diary

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–“Get your face out of the beer — you’re missing a ballgame.”

That’s what I wanted to say repeatedly during Monday’s Opening Day game at Busch Stadium between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.

Opening Day is always a lot of fun, especially in St. Louis. The fans are devoted and knowledgeable, and all of downtown St. Louis has a festive aura to it.

But at this year’s game, the booze was swirling much more than I ever remember it. What is it about baseball that attracts drunks? And why is it that people want to spend $30 or more for a ticket, buy beer at six bucks a pop and pay absolutely no attention to the game? What’s the point? Can’t you get drunk closer to home and at a much lower cost? You’d certainly annoy fewer people in the process.

Of course, it’s these same people you overhear saying things like, “Why isn’t Mark McGwire playing today?” and “This may be the Cubs’ year.” Obviously, they have no idea what they’re talking about.

But regardless, Opening Day was memorable, especially since President George W. Bush was there to throw out the first pitch. That in itself made the trip worthwhile.

My friends Jeremy, Jeff and I made a day of it in St. Louis for baseball fans’ biggest day of the year. Here’s a brief timeline of what my Opening Day experience was like:

9:15 a.m.: Depart for St. Louis.

11 a.m. Arrive in St. Louis. Eat lunch at Mike Shannon’s restaurant.

12:07 p.m. Arrive at stadium. Thankfully, no line. Go through metal detector and have camera bag searched. No problems, although my friend Jeremy gets his Swiss army knife confiscated. Oh, the horrors men have wrought with Swiss army knives. Actually, I’m glad they took security seriously.

12:16 p.m. Watch the remainder of Cardinals batting practice from left field bleachers. No luck catching home run balls.

12:32 p.m. Brewers begin batting practice. Leave bleachers a few minutes later after deciding Milwaukee has nobody that can hit the ball that far.

12:49 p.m. Stake claim to “standing room only” section between home plate and third base.

2:35 p.m. Look outside again to see the line of people stretching for what seems like 100 yards or more. Guess these people didn’t believe the advice they heard to get to the ballpark early.

3:15 p.m. President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch — a strike to St. Louis catcher Mike Matheny. The tradition goes back for decades, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

4:22 p.m. In the third inning, drunken fans two rows in front of us decide to blow off the game and head to the bars instead. We ask them for their ticket stubs so we can have some seats. They oblige. One of the plastered women invites us to come to the bar where she is a bartender. We politely decline.

4:31 p.m. Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris doubles in two runs to tie the game 4-4.

5:04 p.m. Scott Podsednik hits a three-run bomb giving the Brewers a 7-4 lead they would never relinquish.

5:32 p.m. Decide to move down to box seat section and stand there. Can’t help but notice throngs of drunks milling around in the concourse paying no attention to the game. They’re loud and obnoxious, to nobody’s surprise.

6:12 p.m. Game over. Milwaukee wins 8-6. Time to head home to see the NCAA championship game. Hope we don’t get killed by drunk drivers en route. If the game was any indication, they were definitely out in force.
Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BP Sports, online at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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