Play Ball...



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Upon hearing on the radio this morning that Cardinals single-game tickets are going on sale this Saturday morning, I smiled. And it's not because I'm a Redbirds fan. (Don't hate.) Wait, keep reading: I'm excited because this means that spring (and summer!) is right around the corner.

Okay, okay, I'll come clean: I always feel nostalgic for my childhood when I think of baseball, especially because this is a post-World Series Championship year for the Cardinals, and this makes me think of what could have been. As most of you know, I grew up in Cleveland. What many of you don't know is that I'm a huge Indians fan, and have been since I was about six years old. My parents took me to my first game when I was a wee kindergartener, and up until I graduated high school (and even after), I attended a ton of games each year.

The memories I have never fail to make me smile. In the 1980s, of course, the Tribe sucked; I saw many a near no-hitter (that would be opponents no-hitting us), shutouts and embarrassing losses, in cavernous Municipal Stadium. My favorite player was Joe Carter, and I saw Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens dominate us and experienced the Bullpen from Hell. And Cory Snyder, whose constant strikeouts were a special kind of hell. I remember the upper deck always being nearly empty — clever folk would spell out "HI" by putting seats up and down across the expanse of one section -- and sneaking to prime-time seats as ushers looked the other way. I saw them (appropriately) lose the final game at the stadium. My family had season tickets with a huge honking post right in our line of view; craning our necks to see home plate was just part of the fun.

When the Indians moved to Jacobs Field in 1994, things improved immensely. I attended the opening game there — and several other opening days in subsequent years, even on school days, since I happened to get "sick." *COUGH* (The best was the one year that opening day was snowed out, and I had to go to school then; I had to tell my Spanish teacher that my doctor's appointment was cancelled because of the weather.) We had season tickets then in right field, and always laughed at Manny Ramirez's daydreaming and lollygagging. I went to multiple playoff games, including two World Series games, and reveled in the talent from the leadoff position through number nine.

The memories are too numerous to mention, although when then-Cardinal Mark McGwire hit a monstrous homer off the Budweiser sign on the scoreboard at Jacobs Field during batting practice for the 1997 Home Run Derby (the first man to do so), my dad and I were sitting just below it; I even remember ducking, as I thought it might careen down and conk me on the head.

The point of this lengthy entry is to laugh about an email I received yesterday, detailing the Indians' promotions for this year's games. Now, the Cardinals' promotional schedule contains the usual suspects: mini-bats, pins, jerseys, a magnet schedule, baseball cards and base-running. Typical for a playoff team that doesn't need to entice fans to attend games, since quality baseball is a given.

But the Tribe? Well, it's getting rather creative this year to convince people to trek to Jacobs Field. Some of my favorite ones:

"Wild Thing" Rick Vaughn glasses, modeled after Charlie Sheen's character in Major League

"Free Money Night"/ "Free Money Envelopes." Yes, they're paying people to come to the park.

Hafner Hulk Green Bat. Travis Hafner mad. Travis Hafner ANGRY.

Reversable floppy hat. I got nothing.

Metal lunch box. Apparently concerns about "liability" or "kids throwing things at players that could maim them" don't matter anymore. (And BTW, the one linked is the one I had as a kid.)

A C.C. Sabathia Disco Bobblehead, on "Turn Back the Clock" night. I imagine it won't look anything like this.

And my favorite: not one, but TWO Weather Education Days, with free Weather Curriculum Books. If that won't make your average kid want to come to the park, I don't know what will.

The point of this is: Be thankful for what you have, Cardinals fans. Don't take this for granted. Some of us just want our dads to see a World Series win in their lifetime.

-Annie Zaleski

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