And, I really appreciate being the first to learn that former St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi will be throwing out the first pitch on Friday night after appearing at Does Eat Place to sign autographs and take photos with fans.
And. it is great that there have now been 39 balls hit that have landed on top of the indoor training facility and Media Relations Assistant Brittany has not had to duck out of the way of any foul balls in the month of July. But, what is really great is that I have discovered the best kept secret at Hammons Field--the Kid Cage.
Can you imagine anything greater than a cage to put the kids in at the ballgame? I know, some people call it a "bouncing castle" or a "jumping up-and-down-thing-a-ma-jiggy" but, take my word for it--a cage is a cage is a cage. And, it was a blessing in disguise as I showed up at the game Wednesday night with my niece's 10-year old daughter in tow.
Sitting in the press box was good for about an inning and a half but she became a little restless and rather vocal as she hung out the window of the usually demur press box and shouted expletives at the umpires and players on both sides of the plate. That was when I spotted it--that big brown castle looking thing with miniature fans inside hopping up and down like crazed rabbits on sugar pills. The first time I had seen this contraption I had thought to myself what a ridiculous thing this was to have at a baseball game. There was a baseball game going one out there. The very thing that God himself invented on the eighth day. Is there a need for any more excitement than nine innings of America's First-Love? I was stating this to myself from the angle of a non-parent fan and not as one who brings 10-year-olds to the game and expects them to sit in a seat and appear as intrigued by bat-wielding adults in poly-cotton uniforms throwing, swinging and mostly missing a small white sphere traveling at near-invisible speeds.
I will be the first to admit it-- I was wrong. The "Cage" is as important to the experience of baseball as hot dogs and beer vendors. If it had not been for the "Cage" I would never have seen Carmen Cali pitch three great innings out of the bullpen or Travis Hanson hit that double up the middle in the third inning or have witnessed catcher Gabe Johnson hit his third home run in four days. Thank God and John Q. Hammons and whoever else was responsible for having the foresight to bring this lovely piece of equipment to the ballpark. And, you too can enjoy this respite from a barrage of non-stop, non-baseball related questions. I simply slipped the lovely, young castle princess (the one with the nail-apron/money pouch tied around her waist) a five-spot and presto-- no more 10-year-old bouncing off the seats and repeatedly asking "is it over yet?" She was now safely and securely velcroed up in a canvas cage, disguised as a palace, complete with turrets, spires and net-covered windows. I could watch the game and my young charge could jump, shout, laugh and squeal to her heart's content. The best $5 I ever spent at a ballgame. Try it--you'll like it.
And speaking of getting the most for $5--Tom Pagnozzi (remember Tom Pagnozzi?) will be appearing in Springfield on Friday, and you heard it here first. Dennis Fowler, general manager of Does Eat Place (Springfield's newest and finest and closest to the ballpark steak house) will be hosting Pagnozzi from 4:30 until 6:00 p.m. on Friday, July 28, to give fans an opportunity to meet the former St. Louis Cardnals catcher and get him to autograph a piece of memorabilia or whatever and give Pagnozzi an opportunity to eat at his favorite restaurant. Fans can also get a picture taken with "Pags." Fowler says that a professional photographer will be on hand to take photos of fans with Pagnozzi for (what else?) only $5.
"Pags" will also be appearing at the ballpark that night to throw out the first pitch and get his first glimpse of the newest ballpark in the St. Louis Cardinal farm system.
Springfield will be playing Tulsa, whom they swept in the last series at Drillers' Stadium, and hopefully will be looking for their fourth win in a row.
So, bring the kids and turn them over to the castle-princess who will keep them safe and secure in that wonderful canvas covered cage, while you enjoy a great game of baseball courtesy of those fine ever-thinking folks at Hammons Field. Does it get any better than this?
John Brayfield can be reached via emali at firstname.lastname@example.org.