Celebration

Saturday, October 28th—The Day After
Tomorrow's parade will culminate in a rally at the stadium. Entry is free, but there are only 46,000 seats. So fans can try to get tickets to the rally on the Cardinals website starting at 4:00pm. Since I'll be at Great America all day, I give Christine the info and procedure. Mark and Paul drop me off at church, and I take 25 youth to Great America. I of course wear Cardinals gear, and as I ride rides all day, I feel like I'm a part of the post-championship "I'm going to Disney World!" experience. It's a blast.


The group reconvenes at 5:30 by the park's entrance. On the way home, the youth in my van bug me to stop off at McDonald's. I have been the kind of youth minister that gives in to this type of request, but not today...it's far enough from Gurnee to Oak Park, and after that I'm drivin' to St. Louis tonight! Plus, Christine's influence on me regarding nutrition gives me all the more reason not to take kids to McDonald's. So I stand firm and say "no" more times in that van ride than probably in the past six months combined, finally convincing them with a brief "you got to go to Six Flags for free, don't complain" speech.

We get to church, I park the van, everyone gets picked up, and I make the mile walk home. On the way, I stop by Chipotle to grab a burrito. (Yes, I realize it's owned by McDonald's, but at least I'm not taking kids there.) I get home and talk with Christine briefly. She tried and tried to get rally tickets, but the site was jammed up until it said they were out. I call Nana and she didn't get any either. I do stop an think for a minute about whether I really want to make this 9 or 10 hour round trip in one day without even having access to the rally. But I realize not only have I been waiting for this my whole life, but I have downtown hotel accomodations waiting for me and the day is free. So I'm going to go and soak it up.

I print up some directions, pack my Cards and overnight gear, and GO! I leave at 8:38 and eat my burrito en route. There are some traffic and construction issues in Chicagoland, but once I get past them I cruise. On the way, I call Tellme several times to hear the guy emphatically say, "On Friday, the Cardinals beat the Tigers, four to two...WINNING THE WORLD SERIES!" I can't get enough of that.

I make absolutely no stops over the 292 miles, and arrive at the Renaissance Grand at 12:53. Plus, tonight is the time change, so it's really only 11:53! Nikki meets me downstairs at the fancy valet area. I have to rib her, "So this is how you roll now, huh?" We hadn't talked for months, so we catch up and I also explain to her how long I've waited for this Cardinals World Series Championship. We finally get to sleep around 3am—new time.


Sunday, October 29th—Parade and Rally        [Snapfish link to my full set of pictures]
In the morning, we oversleep church. (Who could have imagined that would happen?) I get up and contact "my people" to see if anyone can hook me up with rally tickets. My friend Jordan is from the St. Louis area and now lives in Texas. I call him to get his parents' phone number, then I call them. I talk to his mom Gail, but they couldn't get tickets any either. Oh well, I'll go to the parade and see what happens after that. Nikki and I put our stuff in our cars and walk to the parade route, a block before the route turns and heads into the stadium. There is still quite awhile before the parade is scheduled to start, so we mill around with the faithful. After all the unseasonably cold and wet days of baseball, today is a beautiful day for a parade.

Eventually the parade starts and heads our way. One thing I have learned through this October experience is to use the "Sport" mode on my camera for anything in motion at all. Since my hand is not very steady, pictures turn out much better this way.

Tony driving the Clydesdales The trophy Ronnie Belliard representin'


Yadi, Yadi, Yadi

Dream Weaver Wainy waiving The inseparable Tyler Johnson and Chris Duncan

Carp Phat Albert PW

Fredbird Jimmy Ecks...

M V P!

The tail end Rooftoppers Me & Nik

The parade ends and Nikki takes off. I head back to the hotel and watch the rally on TV in the lobby. Obviously it was worth the trip down just for the parade, but this too is worth the trip because the rally is broadcast only on local St. Louis stations. They even pre-empt NFL games to show it—this is Baseball Town, USA! Local politicians work to put themselves into the celebration, with the governor of Missouri declaring October 29th, 2006 "St. Louis Cardinals Day" in Missouri.


It's wonderful to bask among fellow fans, watching the team bask. All along, I've been thinking about my childhood, and how I never got to experience this until now. And at this rally, Albert Pujols takes the words right out of my mouth: "It's a little boy's dream."

When the rally is over, I high five some people in the lobby and tell them Iím driving back to Chicago. I also tell this to the valet outside, and everybody thinks itís pretty cool. But I'm not done celebrating yet. I drop my video camera, radio, and camera case off at the car, then head toward the stadium. All along the way I hi-five fans returning from the stadium. It is awesome.


I continue taking bunches of pictures, stop off at a vendor stand, and buy a World Series Champion shirt so I can wear it tomorrow. I get someone to take my picture in front of the stadium. Then I go to a gate and—sure enough—the door is open and they are letting everyone go in!



So I go into the stadium and soak it up some more. Wow, this all happened in its inaugural season. This park does not know what it is like to have the Cardinals eliminated...



Brief video taken inside the stadium

Eventually they shut off the lights and kick us all out. What a ride it has been.


I get back to my car and head out of the city. On the way, I think that it would be a good time to stop off at a department store or something to pick up Cardinals gear at more reasonable prices. I sure won't be able to get any up in Chicago. So I call Jordan's mom Gail again, and she gives me directions to a Wal-Mart in Edwardsville, near their place. I head over the river and a few minutes later, Gail calls back and invites me over to dinner. They're having pizza—sounds great! So I stop off at the Wal-Mart and get some championship gear, including a red stocking cap that I can wear all winter for running. Then I have a nice dinner with Gail and Gary. We talk and talk about the magical October run. It turns out that they were at Game 5! (I know they have connections, and that's why I thought they might be able to get me into the rally!) It's great to unpack all this with serious Cardinal fans. I realize that I am hardly ever with Cards fans!

I mention that at this moment, the St. Louis Cardinals have the reigning National League MVP in Pujols, the reigning Cy Young winner in Carpenter, the reigning NLCS MVP in Suppan, and the reigning World Series MVP in Eckstein. People didn't give this team much credit, but this sounds like dominance to me!

I thank Gail and Gary for dinner and hit the road. Along the way, I make some phone calls, do some reflecting, and even cry a little. This is the one thing I didn't get to experience as a kid. Maybe my childhood is officially over now.
I get home pretty late, of course, after 700 miles of driving this weekend. I get my gear out of the car and look at the "2006 World Series Champions" logo on my new red stocking cap. It's going to be a warm winter.

Next to



Little Boy's Dream

Childhood

Past Decade

Pennant Race

NLDS

NLCS

World Series

Celebration

Basking

Reflection