Thursday, October 20, 2005

The End of an Era

As the final strike was called and the flash of thousands of cameras lit up the stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals run at a World Series Championship came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday night, October 19th, 2005. That single instance also symbolized the end of the life of Busch Stadium as well as the closing of a long and eventful chapter of my life.

Bundled in my warmest coat with hat and gloves in tow, I remember grabbing hold of my dad's hand and maneuvering the crowds at Busch Stadium as a little girl. Every now and then we braved the cold weather and the rowdy crowds at a St. Louis Cardinals football game. So it was at a very early age that my relationship with Busch Stadium began.

But it is not my relationship with the building that resides closest to my heart. It is the relationships developed within that building and the evolution of relationships over this period of time that touch me deeply and resonate in my mind as this era ends.

Seven years ago, I began attending St. Louis Cardinal baseball games regularly with my closest friends. Over the first couple of years, on our seating tour of Busch, we sat high and low, in the outfield and the infield. Eventually, we found friends in the right field bleachers. And within a couple of years, two of us became season ticket holders.

We spent the next five years cultivating relationships with other Cardinal fans. They started with a beer at the game or a tailgate party or a few drinks on a Friday night. We traveled together, shared our families and friends with one another, celebrated birthdays and births and the other joys of life. And in turn, we shouldered sorrows for one another, bore the burdens of our baseball-loving friends and shared the pains of life. Traditions formed in our corner of Busch stadium. No standing in the 9th inning, for example, until there are 2 outs and 2 strikes. Standing before then was bound to encourage a batter to walk or knock a base hit up the middle. And only entering the women's restroom through the OUT door. Silly perhaps, but tradition nonetheless... After long road trips or even a winter without ball games, the thought of gathering once again in section 509 was exciting. I couldn't wait to see who was back, to meet the new people and to begin another year.

Over the course of those relationships and the last five years at Busch, life goes on outside as well. But because we are there so often, our worlds tend to collide. In this time, I've started a new job twice, moved once, bought two cars and started a small painting business. I've ended two relationships, lost a child, and gained a brother-in-law and a nephew. I've said goodbye to an aunt who I knew for a relatively short while and an uncle, my Godfather, whom I loved dearly. Two of my best friends married each other and I became a Godmother two more times. That's just a snippet of my journey to this point. And at one moment or another, each of these experiences spilled over into my life as a Cardinal season ticket holder at Busch Stadium.

The collision of worlds brings you closer to the ones you spend so much time with in the seats. The collision of the worlds makes you feel closer to the players on your team, whether it's because they are dealing with the same issues as you or just because you are acutely aware that somewhere, they've got life outside of Busch as well.

I remember when Darryl Kile died. I was touring Graceland in Memphis with three friends when I got the call. Emotions overwhelmed me. The rest of the weekend was spent worrying how his family and his team was handling the loss and wondering what we could do to make it better. Soon after I sat in Busch stadium twice on sunny afternoons bidding farewell to fallen Cardinals, Darryl Kile and Jack Buck. The intensity of the emotion came not just because of the sudden loss or the fact that I was a fan. It came because I had allowed my life into Busch and the world of Busch into my life.

So while the relationships, for the most part, will not end when the last bit of Busch comes crashing to the ground and the memories will not be hauled away... As this season comes to a close and this era comes to an end, so I turn the page on this chapter of my life.

What a rush of emotions! And the fear that follows... What's next? Another year. The possibilities are endless. I hope the next chapter causes this book to bulge at the seams.

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