Cardinals vs Cardinals

Outside Hammons Field after having spent the night on the sidewalk of the ballpark in sleeping bags in hopes of purchasing tickets to the two exhibition games with the St. Louis Cardinals.

St. Louis Cardinal fans have always been considered by many to be the best fans in baseball. And the Springfield Cardinal fans handled themselves in such a way this past weekend that they have also earned that lofty title.

When the 3,000 tickets for the two exhibition games went on sale Saturday morning, enough fans were in line (or waiting by their phones and computers) to sell out the two exhibition games shortly after noon. Some of those fans had been there at the ballpark for days before the coveted tickets went on sale, camped out in tents or simply sleeping in sleeping bags on the sidewalk, One of those fans, Eddie Bruhn, from Springfield, who began camping out on Thursday afternoon, was rewarded with being the first person to walk away with tickets after one of the class acts appeared that joined the Springfield Cardinal fans with those of the parent club.

After waiting for almost three days and camping out in temperatures well below the freezing mark, Bruhn approached one of the ticket windows, first in line (just as he promised he would be) to buy his tickets. He handed the ticket sales person his credit card and, as luck would have it--the credit card validation thingy hit a snag.

Bruhn's heart sank at being so close to being the first person to purchase the very first ticket to the very first game played by the very first Springfield Cardinal Team to play in Hammons Field. Instead, Dave Rinehimer, standing at another ticket window was handed his tickets first. But, being the true Cardinal fan that he is, Rinehimer told the ticket salesperson to let Bruhn get his tickets first. And so, he waited until the snafu was cleared and Bruhn did indeed become the first person to receive a ticket.

In an even greater show of how a Cardinal fan handles disappointment, Matt Pate, who had been in line since midnight Friday, was truly bummed when, as he found himself 40 people away from the prized tickets, a fan turned to great the line of more than a 1000 hopefuls behind him with outstretched arms and announced that ticket sales were over--it was official--it was a sell-out. What made it even more bitter was the fact that Pate had counted between 25 and 40 people cutting in line ahead of him. The city of Springfield had asked the campers to dismantle their tents before getting into the lines to purchase tickets. Pate says that some of the campers were slow in breaking camp and getting their stuff into their vehicles and spaces were held for them out of respect for them having spent the night (or two or three) in the cold. However, when the ticket booths opened, the 40-or-so fans who had arrived later, jumped into line before those stashing their gear could return. But, Pate did not burn the first car he saw or take a swing at the person in front of him or toss a chair through a plate glass window. In true Cardinal fan fashion he simply hung his head in disappointment, and returned to his car without a ticket and was heard to say as he went--"It happens. It stinks but, it happens."

In other signs of great sportsmanship, Matt Gifford, Springfield Cardinals General Manager came out to meet with fans and the media to try to ease their disappointment at not getting tickets to see their newly-beloved Springfield Cardinals play their already-beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Gifford reminded the fans that although the tickets to the first two exhibition games with St. Louis were sold out there were still tickets available for the opening game on April 12, against the Tulsa Drillers and individual tickets to all other games were on sale. So, no one needed to go home without a ticket. Gifford also told fans that were still intent on getting a ticket to the exhibition games that there were a limited number of season tickets available a season ticket included tickets to the exhibition games. Gifford said that there were already exhibition tickets being offered for sale on e-Bay and, because the city of Springfield has no ordinance prohibiting sales by scalpers, they could, perhaps, buy tickets soon from a potential street vendor.

Another great moment in Springfield Cardinal history happened when Marty the "Sign Guy" brought pizza to those camping out--not once but twice.

The Springfield police even chipped in to do their part to make it a successful event. On Friday, while about half-a-dozen tents were set up, someone called the police station to report that they had seen alcohol being consumed by the campers outside the ballpark and that the waiting fans had been observed "whizzing" in the street. The city of Springfield had asked fans that they not bring alcohol or use open flame fires so the officers who showed up were obligated to investigate the complaint. It was quickly apparent to the officers that there was no drinking or whizzing going on. After looking into one cooler and taking note that the Springfield Cardinals had provided two porta-potties for needy fans, the officers exchanged pleasantries with the fans and went on there way to places where real crimes and misdemeanors were being committed.

All-in-all, the opening day of ticket sales for the Springfield Cardinals went well. Perhaps Mark Chayer and Rob Rummel, who had slept on the sidewalk in sleeping bags (without tents) on Thursday and Friday nights, said it best and echoed the feelings of all the fans who waited in line, whether they got tickets or not--"Whatever, we love the Cardinals."

The St. Louis Cardinals will play exhibition games against the Baltimore Orioles on March 31 and on April 1 in Oklahoma City before playing in Springfield on April 2 and April 3. Both games will be telecast on local television station KY-3 TV and JOCK Radio, 98.7 FM.

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