In which I finally decide to take action…

Sunday morning: I wake up and grab my phone. Moments later I’m overcome with emotion, feeling sad, scared, and angry with the world. Sad for the loss of lives in a community I know and love. Scared for the future of everyone I care about. Angry that the grief I feel is all too familiar, and yet closer than ever to home.

Monday night: I get in bed and set down my phone. Moments later I’m overcome with emotion, feeling sad, scared, and angry with myself. Sad that I already let myself spend an entire day feeling almost normal again. Scared that I won’t ever have the courage to speak out for what I believe. Angry that I’ve let it get this far.

Today I realize that I’m done standing idly by. I’m done assuming someone else will take care of it. And I’m done simply watching everyone debate what they think is best for my country on the timelines of social media.

“Let’s remember that ‘love’ is a verb. And to love means to do something,” Stephen Colbert urged his recent viewers. I’ve decided that we might be able to accomplish something if we all stopped arguing and started loving and doing.

These are some resources I’ve collected. Whatever your beliefs, if you also want to take action, I hope they prove helpful.

Find your Representative (and email them): http://1.usa.gov/1e8pAws
Find your Senator (and email them): http://1.usa.gov/1K9O1ZJ
See how your Senator voted for background checks: http://every.tw/1Z8fekd
Petition to ban assault weapons: http://1.usa.gov/1UxEjk4
Support It Gets Better: http://bit.ly/1aYT0cY
Donate to the Orlando victims’ families: http://usat.ly/1UvYX45
Obtain an absentee ballot: http://bit.ly/1ro1upi
Register to vote: http://1.usa.gov/1hQVkcZ

Here’s to wishing that one day no one has to wake up or go to sleep sad, scared, and angry.

• love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love •

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Oscar Taveras: Forever Our Young Phenom

1992-2014

1992-2014

As has been noted several times this week, the Cardinals are no strangers to deaths in the family. And unfortunately, turning to the written word as a method of coping with the loss of someone I never even knew in person is an all-too-familiar concept.

On Sunday night, I watched my Twitter feed as baffled responses poured onto my screen and unwilling tears poured down my cheeks. But I didn’t feel them – I was in a state of shock. Since that moment, it has become increasingly clear to me that this is one of those rare events when typing a few words on a keyboard and attempting to work out my feelings will never help my comprehension of what has happened. That being said, I’m going to give it a try.

Throughout my lifetime, Cardinal Nation has mourned the loss of Jack Buck and Stan Musial, great figures of our past. We have grieved alongside the families of Darryl Kile and Josh Hancock, who at the time were important threads in the fabric of the present. And now, we find ourselves once again speechless as we lament the passing of 22-year-old Oscar Taveras, who was in every way our future.

Thoughts of what could have been – what was supposed to be – have plagued our brains since the accident. Oscar was supposed to have had a long, illustrious career in St. Louis. He was supposed to become the face of a franchise. He was supposed to have a statue erected outside Busch Stadium. And if you were to travel there today, you would in fact see his face, not due to the career he had, but rather the one that was denied him.

Oscar only ever got to share 248 regular season plate appearances and the better part of 2014 with baseball fans. He wasn’t perfect in his rookie year, but he gave St. Louis something that was perhaps more important than ballpark-clearing home runs and copious RBI. Probably more so than any other player at the time, he represented hope. In a roller coaster season that culminated in a fourth-straight NLCS appearance, the promise of Oscar was electric and it was felt in the bones of every human being wearing the Birds on the Bat. His smile was captivating, his energy contagious, and his love of the game clear in his every moment on the field.

To hear that such a spark has been extinguished from this earth calls forth immediate rebuff. It couldn’t be possible.

But as we all know, life sometimes just isn’t fair. Prior to the strike of tragedy, Oscar cemented his place in the hearts of Cardinals fans and that is how he will always be remembered; his youth preserved for all time. Forever our young phenom.

This is where my words fail me because the end of this story was cut so heartbreakingly short. So I would like to instead turn your attention to a poem written by my brother, Brody:

No clouds around, the sun paints shades of brown in the grass of that diamond downtown

In that old, simply surviving city settles by the Rivers.

The Lou’s brightest days through, a loud proud baseball crowd looks away from the old to focus on the new.

He was only twenty-two.

You can’t quantify the type of hype which Oscar Taveras carried through the ranks of the Cardinals’ factory.

A budding star, he was ripe for the taking; that is, the taking of the hearts of captivated Cardinals fans across the nation.

Number three in prospect lists and number eighteen on the field, this Minor League Guy cemented his status as the real deal

In a game of firsts but a game of twos; it was the second pitch of his second at-bat in a game that ended Cards up two-zip.

It was his first Big League hit and his first big home run and the first time he did big things in St. Louis.

The kid was a natural, destined for stardom,

And now we’re left dumbstruck, as this bright future was ripped away just days after a successful season stopped short of the distance.

And these what ifs generate resistance because Oscar had work to do at Mozeliak’s insistence.

In that sweet swing and sweeter smile was a kid who simply loved to play and work towards that goal of one day being the best in baseball.

The boom off the bat in that debut game shattered the skies and released the rain

As Cardinal Nation gave an ovation in adoration

And to bookend this narration Oscar put another ball into aviation

To a deafening roar in a powerful postseason comeback.

Not through a full season, he was a seasoned name in our households, the next big Cardinal great.

 And now it’s too late. In his short career here he gave a handful of curtain calls,

And now the call is on the curtains to close prematurely on a life well-lived but a life robbed like a leaping warning track grab.

And we’re left to try to take a stab at these incomprehensible feelings tearing us apart.

The clouds rolling in, it’s getting dark. But no rain falls this time. The clouds’ eyes are dry.

Number eighteen will not circle the diamond under the Arch again, but forever circling our minds is what could have been.

Oscar’s up there with The Man now. His happy flight has safely landed as he joins the eternal Cardinals team on the true field of dreams.

Rest in peace, OT.

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My Dinner for Stan

I’m going to be honest. I’ve spent the past 3 days thinking of almost nothing but the fact that I wanted to get my hands on my laptop’s keyboard and write an immortal piece about an immortal human. The thing is, I couldn’t bring myself to begin because I knew that not only would typing the words confirm that “The Man” is gone, but that I could never do him justice.

As C70 put in their recent post, appropriately titled “Baseball’s Perfect Knight:”

There’s poetry to be written. There are moving words to be spoken. What do I write?

So instead of attempting to create something worthy of blogging lore, I feel like all I can do is just take you through my experience the night that Stan Musial left us. After all, in some strange way, I feel like this is how he would want to be remembered: simply and with love.

This past Saturday was the 10 month anniversary of my boyfriend and I’s relationship. And while we don’t usually celebrate every single month, the number 10 called for dinner and a movie. We settled into the quaint Italian restaurant to which we’d been once before, and not 5 minutes passed when my boyfriend checked his phone. His face went blank and he asked me, “If I show you this, do you promise not to get upset.”

“I can’t promise I won’t get upset, but I want to see,” I protested, thinking that he was about to show me some unfavorable trade news. We are both huge baseball fans, you see. As I reached for the phone, I was right about two things: the information I was about to consume was baseball related and I indeed would not like it.

But of course, my hand immediately was drawn to my mouth and I specifically remember my attempt to process, half of my brain wondering what the other half was going to do. How was I going to take this news? And did I really have a say in that?

The decision was made unconsciously as the tears began to come. I was speechless. And Stan “The Man” Musial was dead. On any normal occasion, I don’t think I could say that a 92-year-old man dying would come as a shock. But this was no ordinary man. This was the heart, soul, and body of the Cardinals’ franchise. This was indeed, as has been said so many times before, “baseball’s perfect knight.”

I think it did come as a shock to all of us because for so many Cardinals fans, he had always been there. Our whole lives he had been an ambassador for the team and for the game, and we never felt more alive than when he was around. “The Man” was invincible in our eyes, so it was incredibly difficult to comprehend that he had fallen.

I spent the remainder of dinner choking back more tears to the dismay of several other restaurant patrons, and my boyfriend and I raised a glass to commemorate.

As I wished more than anything that I was in St. Louis with my fellow mourners, I couldn’t help but think about when our beloved Jack Buck died a little over 10 years prior. I was just 13 at the time, but one of my strongest memories that year consisted of going to Busch Stadium and watching the fans gather and pay tribute to the Cardinals’ voice.

I wondered how many would gather for Stan. How Stan’s immortal statue would be covered in Cardinal red. I settled for sharing the various posts that were dominating my Twitter feed and thinking of him throughout the entire meal.

The last time I saw Stan in person was before Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. The entire stadium had been abuzz with jitters. Such an exciting postseason and there was a chance it would all end in a loss that night. We were panicked, to say the least. But when the doors opened and Stan Musial began riding around the perimeter on that golf cart as had become customary, all Cardinals fans took a collective deep breath. It was as if time stopped and all that existed was this great man and the theme from The Natural. In that moment, Cardinal Nation knew it was going to be ok. Honestly, that was to me one of the most special moments in a night always remembered instead for David Freese’s heroics.

I’ll never get to meet Stan, but that doesn’t mean that his passing doesn’t feel like a member of my own family has left us. Because he was a member of my family – the Cardinals family. Stan was, and still is, the St. Louis Cardinals. And going even further, Stan IS the game of baseball. I don’t think you have to be a Cardinals fan to understand that.

That night, my boyfriend and I gasped at statistics, we read players’ condolences, and he squeezed my hand more times than I’d like to say. In the end I realized that this was my dinner for Stan. My tribute and the way I would grieve outside of my native city.

When we got home from the movie, I turned on the TV to see MLB Network’s memorial. My boyfriend looked to me and said with a half-smile, “Many, many years from now, you’ll grow old and die. And Stan will be waiting at the gates in his Cardinal uniform. And you can play catch together…But you’re going to have to get better at it first.”

While my coordination may cause some embarrassment, it would be the highest honor.

I know I’m not alone in the night I had last Saturday and this is the impact of Stan Musial. Thousands of people, like me, had a difficult time going on with their normal lives after hearing the news. And those who were able, stopped everything to “Meet at Musial” that night.

So with heavy hearts, we all wish him the best wherever he may be. If the world is at all a fair place, he’ll be rounding the bases in the ghost of Sportsman’s Park while his wife, Lillian, stands by.

1920-2013

1920-2013

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The Thing About Cardinals Fans…

I am from St. Louis, therefore I am a Cardinals fan. It’s that simple.

You see, there is this amazing fraternity – scratch that – family created by loving a sports team with your whole heart. And as far as I’m concerned, Cardinal Nation does this best.

Yes, I’m aware that there are plenty of amazing teams with amazing fans, and that not everyone will agree with me, but they don’t have to. Those of you who are with me know why.

I have long since tried to define what makes St. Louisans the BFIB (Best Fans in Baseball, of course). In the past, I’ve chalked it up to the facts that we are seriously apt to grow attached to the players on our team, that we are always classy, and that we watch with our emotions and our heads. But why are all of these true? Some things have been brought to my attention with the Redbirds’ recent NLCS berth that seem to help this all make a lot more sense.

There are few cities in the United States that receive the recognition they deserve. Every time you turn on the TV, you generally watch people living in New York or California because apparently those are the only interesting places to live (this coming from someone who has recently moved to the Bay Area). Sure, we learn the state capitols growing up, but other than that how is it that the “fly-over” states put themselves on the map? Sports.

And when your team is as historic and successful a franchise as the St. Louis Cardinals, this is huge. Each and every player to ever put on the Birds on the Bat with the exception of a choice few (*cough* Rasmus *cough*) are pretty much considered gods for the rest of their lives. Their pictures are hung in every household, girls cry when they walk by, and yes, they each get their own restaurant. But most of all, thousands and thousands of people hang on their every action, on and off the field, breathlessly waiting to see what gratification they will bring to the city next.

I understand that this is perhaps just another day in the life of a pro athlete. But if you poll a group of St. Louisans and ask them what their city is known for, most will probably list the Cardinals before the St. Louis Arch or the Budweiser Brewery. An entire chunk of the Midwest largely considers this team – this group of 40 or so guys – to be the main reason that they’re proud of where they are from, even in the bad years.

To us, the Cardinals are home. And not watching them every day makes us feel a little lost.

I’m not going to apologize for my team having “too much” success. No matter the outcome of this series with the Giants. This is a special group of guys with a special chemistry and they’re teaching thousands of kids the power of perseverance.

My favorite part about being in the playoffs are the stories – not only the stories I hear from the players, but the stories I hear from the fans. This is our time to shine and represent as well, and I’ve read about some pretty amazing and dedicated individuals.

So this is my love letter to you, Cardinals fans. And I want to thank you for caring as much about this team as I do (which is saying something). We may be getting some crap from the remainder of MLB’s fans, but we know what makes #12in12 mean something big.

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In Defense of the Game

Published on my baseball blog, December 30, 2011:

I think a recent movie said it the best. Of course, most people will eat up any words that come out of Brad Pitt‘s mouth, but just think about it: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Anyone who knows the game will understand…and anyone who condemns it as boring probably never gave it a try (and will obviously not be reading this blog).

Despite that aforementioned and unspoken understanding that we fans share, I still have spent numerous commercial breaks between innings trying to put it all into words. What is it that puts our sport above all others in our minds? And why on earth has football become the new American tradition?…or shall I stoop to say it, “America’s new favorite pastime?”

Now, I want to take this moment to say to football fans, I apologize. I know that people can be in love with two or more sports at once. But I personally have had a relationship with the pigskin much like that which I criticized sentences ago: I never took the time to learn the intricacies of the game. And yes, I realize this renders me a hypocrite. But I just can’t help but feel that paying heavy attention to any other sport means I’m cheating on baseball.

That being said, I would like to move forward and give a testimony in hopes that should it be needed in the future, it will be filed under the “Save Baseball” label.

When the pitcher takes the mound and runs the ball between his fingers, whether he is nervous or calm, everyone in the stadium knows that just about anything can happen. The most certain of games can be upset with just the swing of a bat, sometimes even when the potential losers are down to their last strike – their last second of game play – as we all learned this past October.

The truth is, there’s no running out the clock in baseball. Sure there is also no tackling or intense man-to-man contact, unless spectators are lucky enough to get treated to a base running standoff. No, the injuries in this sport are caused simply by the exact wrong twist of a shoulder or leg. But I find all this to make the men who play even more honorable as athletes.

Rather than man versus man, baseball can be a case of man versus the human form, or even man versus fate. Perhaps I’m wrong, but in football you can pit two players, two hundred pounds and three hundred pounds, against each other and the three hundred pounder will win pretty much every time. If you do this in baseball, there’s an element of chance involved.

Not to mention the fact that the game hinges on the carefully calculated moves of one person within each instant, whether it be the manager, pitcher, batter, or fielder. And that each team plays a whopping 162 games a year.

Every single day of the summer, sports fans can turn on their television and they are guaranteed nine or more innings of entertainment. But in recent years, I have come to understand that viewership has been on the decline, which just doesn’t make sense to me.

I beg you baseball fans to remind your friends of the romance in baseball. Let’s make Brad Pitt proud and restore the old glory that, for me, has never left.

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