Recap : Cardinals 8, Nationals 5
I'm taking a break from Greyhound today and opting for the much more convenient and comfortable Amtrak.
Leaving from beautiful and historic Chicago Union Station, the trip was a relatively quick 4 hours and really roomy, comfortable and scenic.
I arrived in St. Louis sometime late-morning to blazing sunshine and mid-90s temps.
After checking in to my hotel, the first thing I did was to walk over to see the famous Gateway Arch and take a ride up to the top.
The experience isn't for the claustrophobic or for folks with vertigo. They essentially jam 6 people into a space the of a shipping crate.
The ride to the top is slow and jerky and takes about 10 minutes. Once at the top, the views are really nice with the city of St. Louis on one side and the Mississippi River and Illinois on the other. It's key to stand directly in the center otherwise your body is at an angle and the vertigo along with the poor ventilation make for a queasy combination.
After the arch, there really isn't a hell of a lot to do in St. Louis on a weekday afternoon, especially on such a hot day.
I ended up strolling along Washington Avenue which is relatively shaded and has a nice assortment of bars, coffee houses and restaurants.
After lunch the skies darkened and I sought refuge from a nasty thunderstorm for an hour or so in a really nice cigar bar.
The sun eventually came back out and about 90 minutes before game time, I headed over to Busch Stadium, but first spent some time across the street in (the very cool) Ballpark Village.
Ballpark Village is a 10 acre, 7 city block development across from the park (on the spot of the previous Busch Stadium) with retail shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, countless giant screens, the Cards Hall of Fame and 400 residential units. It was designed to be an extension of Busch Stadium essentially creating a 'neighborhood' similar to the Wrigleyville district in Chicago. A few of the venues even have rooftop seating which allow patrons to watch the Cards games without having to buy a ticket (again - just like at Wrigley). The place is bustling before games and is a great place to kill time and hang out. The village is open year round - not just for Cards home games.
Cards fans are the most enthusiastic that I've encountered so far. They have a great franchise with a great history which helps fuel that enthusiasm. The perimeter of the park is filled with statues of the Cards greats of years past - (Musial, Dean, Hornsby, Gibson, Smith, etc.) There is a sensory overload of the color red between the seats and the fans attire. The fans themselves were really friendly.
The Cardinals mascot, Fredbird is one of the more boring in baseball, but the Cardinals fans seem to like him for some reason. There is even a 'Build a Bear' station inside Busch Stadium where you can design your own Fredbird.
For the 7th inning stretch, they showed a video a team of Clydesdale horses pulling a vintage Budweiser wagon complete with a Dalmatian sitting in the carriage to the tune of "Here Comes The King". This really got the crowd riled up and they all got out of their seats to clap and sing.
The contest was back and forth with the Nats jumping out to an early 1-0 lead on a Ryan Zimmerman RBI double and the Cards answering with 3 ruins in the bottom of the 4th. The Nats trimmed the lead to 3-2 with a run in the 6th, then jumped ahead 5-3 on a Zimmerman 3 run shot in the 7th. But the Cards bounced back scoring 5 runs on 6 hits in the bottom of the inning highlighted by Jason Heyward's 2 run double. Cards closer Trevor Rosenthal loaded the bases in the 9th, but got out of trouble without allowing a run to notch his 42nd save of the season.
An exciting game. A lot of happy Cardinal fans. Although I was exhausted, it was a beautiful night and I decided to hang out for an hour or so at ballpark village before heading back to my hotel.
Tomorrow it's off to Kansas City, the final stop on this trip.
Fans - A – Highly enthused and interactive. Having a winning team makes a real difference on the level of fan behavior and interest
Features – B – Hall of Fame, Displays, Ballpark Village, The Gateway Arch clearly visible over the outfield wall. The only ballpark in the bigs with a national monument clearly in view.
Location - A - Easy walk from my downtown hotel. An entire ‘neighborhood’ was built around the park where people can hang out and eat/drink before, during and after the game. Really cool!
Food - B – Better food options in Ballpark Village , but some decent choices inside Busch as well. Beer choices are obviously dominated by Budwesiser
Game - B - Two of the best teams in the NL squared off in an exciting back and forth contest with the Cards pulling out the victory.
Overall Experience – B+ – A beautiful night for a game. Two really good teams. Fun fans. Lots of energy. Ballpark Village. All get high marks. Got to go to the top of the Arch and had a nice time hanging out on Washington Avenue. The intense heat and subsequent thunderstorm wasn’t enough for me to lower my grade.