Bonus Baseball! Cards Win Two in Springfield

Springfield Cards' Hammons Field.

Springfield Cards’ Hammons Field.

June 19, 2015

Heading back south toward the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill, we heard from Carla Bunny with an update on our scheduled AA game in Springfield.  If the rain subsides, the Cardinals are set to play two games tonight at Hammons Field.  That’s bonus baseball to end the GoGoCards Roadtrip!

There’s plenty of ways to spend time on a 10-hour road trip.

Rooms at the University Hotel surround an indoor courtyard.

Rooms at the University Hotel surround an indoor courtyard.

Splitting the drive into three shifts from Minnesota, we listened to Jim Marrs discuss global elites’ plans to limit world population on a Coast to Coast broadcast.  We also took turns spinning the tunes from Ned’s digital collection and enjoyed a buffet lunch at the Ameristar Casino in KC.  Before long we were on the E. Chestnut Parkway passing the ballpark and checking into the University Plaza Hotel.  No doubt, this is the place to stay if you’re going to a Cardinals game in Springfield with its classic ’70s style, indoor and outdoor pools, and proximity to Hammons Field.

Ned & Dusty hanging with the Scouts at Hammons Field.

Ned & Dusty hanging out with the major league scouts at Hammons Field.

With a rainout last night, the Cards and Northwest Travelers were scheduled to play two 7-inning games, bonus baseball!  We arrived 3rd inning of the first game with the Royals Chris Medlen on the mound in a rehab start, still making a comeback from Tommy John surgery last year.  We bought $14 tickets in the lower box seats and went straight down to the rows behind home plate where Cardinal and Royals scouts were tracking the game.

A visit to the farm club is a perfect option to include on a big league road trip; we’ve seen the Memphis Redbirds on a few trips but this was our first time seeing the Cardinals AA affiliate from the Texas League.  This is pro baseball at it’s minor league best!

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The big league scoreboard at Hammons Field tracks the St. Louis game pitch by pitch.

Box seats ring the field from foul pole to foul pole, picnic seating on the grass is available beyond both left and right field walls, and suites bring in the revenue for the parent Cardinal organization which has own the club since 2005.  Best yet is the major league scoreboard in left that tracks the St. Louis Cards game pitch by pitch like MLB’s GameDay or a nifty phone app.  As the Springfield team mounted a comeback in the first game, we watched the Cards put on a hit parade at Philadelphia.  Looking at the board in the 5th, the Cards had the bases loaded looking to add to a 5-0 lead over the Phillies.

Cards Hall of Fame Skippers race between inning at Hammons Field.

Whitey takes the lead as Cards Hall of Fame Skippers race between inning at Hammons Field.

In Springfield the Cardinals had their bats on as well, tying the game in the seventh and winning on a walk-off hit in the 9th inning.  Two walk-offs in two days on the Roadtrip.  Holy Cow!

The night cap was explosive too! As the Cards went down 4-0 early in the game it looked like the highlight was going to be the Skipper Races between innings where Hall of Fame racers LaRussa, Schoendienst, and Herzog circle the perimeter of the field.  Instead, the Cardinals hit three 3-run homers in the fourth to score 9 runs and put the game out of reach.

Go Go Cards!

Cards Fly Out After Twins Walk Off at Target Field

June 18, 2015

Cards fans begin to gather outside the Lowes Minneapolis Hotel.

Cards fans begin to gather outside the Lowes Minneapolis Hotel not far from Target Field.

This two-game set in Minnesota went by in a blur.  Just before 9 a.m. Cards players began checking out of the Lowes Hotel dressed in suits for their travel to Philly after the final Twins game.  Dusty called up to the room, “I just saw Jimmy the Cat, you gotta come down to the lobby.”  The hotel had all hands on deck to make sure no one bothered them, which apparently means guys like me.  As hotel guests ourselves, BillO and I sat nearby and watched them filter thru.

Jaime Garcia warms up for Game 2 in Minnesota.

Jaime Garcia warms up for Game 2 in Minnesota.

A group of Cards fans gathered outside behind rope a line hoping to get autographs, but players weren’t signing.  Matt Carpenter stood in the Starbucks line to buy coffee drinks for Mark Reynolds.  Tony Cruz and Jon Jay waited by the front windows for Yadi to show up wearing Beats.  Al Hrabowsky was just being Al, talking to everyone and no one at the same time!

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O’Donovan’s Irish Pub near Target Field.

With game time near we hit nearby O’Donovan’s for a wee bit of Irish pub food that turned out to be incredible!  An authentic Cork Corned Beef Sandwich was the perfect pregame meal before our quick stroll to the ballpark.  Gate 34 dropped us just above the bullpens in right field where Jaime Garcia was warming up for the 12:10 pm start.  We had cheap seats for this one but we never actually made it up any ramp or escalator.  An open section in the right field box seats was the perfect spot to enjoy a day baseball in Minnesota.

Outfield wall in right field nearly soars into the upper deck!

The right field wall nearly soars into the upper deck at Target Field.  Beyond centerfield, Minni and Pauli greet after each home team dinger.

Garcia and Twins starter Mike Pelfrey pitched a scoreless duel into the 7th inning when Jason Heyward hit a homerun over the right field wall to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.  In their half, Garcia gave up a walk, a hit, and a sacrifice bunt before Mike Matheny made the call to load the bases and pitch to Kennys Vargas.  The move worked and Vargas grounded out to Kolten Wong for a 5-3 double play.  Matheny’s the man!

Throughout the game, Twins fans were perfect baseball hosts.  They knew the game and enjoyed talking about it, especially when it came to Joe Mauer who went 2 for 15 against Cards’ pitching during the four-game set that began in St. Louis.  From an outsider looking in at Target Field, it seems the jig is up for the hometown St. Paul native.  His eight year $184 million contract, a .250 average, and his lack of home run power hasn’t set well with Twins fans lately.  On Wednesday night, Minnesota fans began to boo Mauer in the 7th after he struck out with the bases loaded to end a rally in a one-run game.  It was his 5th strike out in the last three games and fans have had enough.

One guy behind us complained, “It’s not that he’s batting .250, it’s that he’s our clean up hitter and he’s batting .250.  And his contract is preventing us from building a winning team!”  Sounds like a mess the Cardinals might have had if we had gone and re-signed Albert!

Minnesota's new NFL football stadium taking shape.  It's a Viking ship!

Minnesota’s new NFL football stadium taking shape. It’s a Viking ship!

With the game tied 1-1 Matt Carpenter led off the 9th with a crushing blow out to the right field wall that bounced back into the playing field.  With a shot nearly 25 feet above the Twins right fielder, the Target Field monster turned a sure go-ahead run into a double. We must’ve left our offense back at Busch Stadium as Peralta, Reynolds, and Molina failed to bring Carp home.  Sure enough, Vargas came thru with a solo blast off Carlos Villanueva for a walk-off win.  I texted PK and Jess back on the West Coast, “That is raw.”

We regrouped at the hotel and took a long walk east downtown to see the Vikings new Stadium under construction, a mammoth retractable roof structure built to resemble a Viking ship.  What a concept!

So, even though the Twins walk-off win put a sting on the northern stretch of our roadtrip, there’s still more baseball to come as we head south to Springfield, Mo. to take a look at the AA Cardinals.

Go Go Cards

11 Stones Ranch Kicks Off 2015 Roadtrip

June 13, 2015

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Relaxing  in an Ozark stream before the 2015 Roadtrip, North Fork of the White River.

The 2015 GoGoCards Roadtrip began in Southwest Missouri this year with a rendezvous at Davelee’s 11 Stone Ranch south of Mountain Grove.  We spent an extended weekend relaxing, barbecuing, horseback and mower riding before the big drive up I-35 to Target Field and a two-game series with the Twinkies.

Facing south toward 11 Stones Ranch, near Ava, Mo.

Facing south at 11 Stones Ranch, near Ava, Mo. where the 2015 Roadtrip began.

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MowMan Dusty on the Kubota Zero Turn.

Dusty was King of the BBQ this weekend, grilling pork steaks, chicken wings, and an Eye of Roast, then burning off calories on the Kubota zero turn mower while Ned ran the bush hog, and Lucky worked the horses.  Hey, 11 Stones is no gentleman’s farm, it’s a working ranch!

At game time on Friday we discovered the Ranch didn’t have FoxMidwest’s broadcast but after a quick call to DirecTV, Ned was all set with a 3 month free trial and a summer of pennant race baseball.  In St. Louis, the Cards beat the rain and the Royals on Friday night, 4-0 to take the first game of the I-70 Series.

Tropical Storm Bill was causing havoc in the South and we felt it’s brunt during the weekend. With showers threatening the Ozarks both Saturday and Sunday we ventured to the Bryant Creek at Highway 95 for a quick dip in the waters before the rains came on Sunday.  Waiting thru delays, the final game of the Cards-Royals  game was called, rescheduled for an open date in August.

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Travis & Lucky D. at 11 Stones Ranch on the 2015 Roadtrip.

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On the Roadtrip with Bill & Brenda Stocklas

On Tuesday, we set the alarm clocks and were on the Roadtrip by 6:15 for the big drive to Minnetonka Country, making a stop to see our long lost Uncle Bill and Aunt Brenda in Plattsburg, Mo.  What a bonus and a nice visit to catch up and share life stories together!

In a lot of ways, Bill Stocklas is man cut from the same cloth as Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog.  He’s affable, honest and straight forward like Herzog but he also has an incredible sense of humor that made our two hour visit seem like mere minutes on an egg timer.  What a fun time!

Go Go Cards!

Falling Short at Target Field in Minnesota

July 17, 2015

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Matt Carpenter on deck as the Cardinals visit Target Field for the first time in a regular season game.

The Cardinals flew into Minneapolis riding a two-game series win over the Twins at Busch Stadium this week.  We made our way up I-35 for the short series in Minnesota lucky enough to be staying at the same hotel as the team.

Our first visit to Target Field was a good one and even though we missed the afternoon ballpark tour I still had enough time to check out the plaza near Gate 34, named in honor of Twins hero Kirby Puckett just beyond the outfield bleachers.

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The Golden Glove at the plaza outside Gate 34 at Target Field.

There’s a statue of slugger great Harmon Killibrew, an oversized glove that attracts scores of fans looking for a photo opp, and a signature statue of Puckett, his right arm raised celebrating the Twinkie walk-off World Series winner in 1991.  Like so many other baseball clubs today, the Twins have erected life-size and bigger-than-life statues of their hometown heros at gathering places in the ballpark.

Fittingly, the Cardinals organization should do the same by updating their current concept of Champions Plaza at Busch.  Those miniature tributes to our Hall Of Fame champions need to be replaced by statues more deserving of their status as the Kings of Cardinal Baseball.  Brock, Gibson, and Ozzy deserve so much more!

In this quick, two-game set the Twins were recognizing their 1987 World Series victory, celebrating with a St. Louis appearance of the world famous Clydesdales who took a victory lap around Target Field before the national anthem in Game 1.  Minnesota fans reminded us during the games too.

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The Budweiser Clydesdale parade the perimeter at Target Field.

As we enjoyed the Clydesdales and marveled at the improvements of the new ballpark over the Homerdome it replaced, one fan rubbed into Dusty, “that’s when we beat you in the World Series.”

BillO responded, “So where did they install that big fan here at Target Field?  You know, the one your team used to cheat,  hitting all those home runs to win the series?”

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Outfield scoreboards above the bullpens at Target Field

Overall, Twins fans were good spirited if not fairly quiet during the game and the atmosphere at Target Field was upbeat but without the manufactured hype at many baseball parks today.  For this first game, we had Home Plate Box Seats in Section 113.

Even though the Cards stumbled in the first game losing a one-run lead in the 4th on a bad pickoff play, it was a good pitching match up with Carlos Marinez on the mound for the Cards. Unfortunately, a 9th inning rally fizzled with two on and no outs after Mark Reynolds and Randal Grichuck both struck out. Reynolds I get, but Grichuk too?  On the next play, Yadier Molina lined out sharply to the second baseman to end the game, 3-1.

No worries.  There’s another game tomorrow!

Go Go Cards!

All The Way to the NL Championship Series!

October 8, 2014

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Matt Adams completes a 7th inning Cards’ comeback with a 3-run home run off Clayton Kershaw!

The long come back of the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals continued last night with a 3-2 win over Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking home field advantage in the next round, the NL Championship Series.

The defending National League Champions outlasted the Milwaukee Brewers in September then outplayed the Pittsburgh Pirates down the stretch to win the division.  They unleashed some key home runs off of past, future, and current Cy Young Award winner Kershaw to seal the deal.

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Kolten Wong goes long in Game 3.

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2014 St. Louis Cardinals celebrate the NLDS clincher!

The Cards ambushed Kershaw in Game 1 with a 10-9 comeback win at Dodger Stadium.  They lost on a late-game home run despite a great performance by Lance Lynn in Game 2.   Kolten Wong went long in Game 3 to break a 1-1 tie in the 7th inning, giving Joe Lackey the win before the Dodgers decided to bring Kershaw out on short rest to pitch Game 4.   In the clincher, Matt Adams hit a 3-run shot to put the Cardinals ahead for good.

The Cardinals beat the Dodgers to move on in the postseason, the fourth straight NLCS in the past four years for the Redbirds!

Go Go Cards!

Go Go Cards Grab First Place!

September 3, 2014

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Matt Holliday, clutch left fielder crushes the Cards into first place!

After 137 games this year the Cardinals finally outlasted the Milwaukee Brewers to take sole possession of first place in the N.L. Central.  Yadi’s back, Wacha’s back, and the Cards are back on top!!

It’s been a long and frustrating season watching this team trying to live up to it’s preseason potential as the follow up to their National League Championship season in 2013. It has been a long season of second place baseball, until now!

It was a wild and crazy weekend with the Cubs, losing the first two games before coming back to win the last two in dramatic fashion to grab a share of first place in the Central. The Cardinals then swept the Pirates at Busch to grab the lead by three games over Milwaukee and five over Pittsburgh.

Matt Holliday was the guy who got things going for the Cards.  He hit three home runs in two days, drove in 11 RBIs in three games just in time for a 9-game Brewers losing streak.

September baseball is so much better than anything this side of October!

Go Go Cards!