Jonathan would have been fourteen today.
The start of baseball season and the discussion of Albert Pujols’ future with the Cardinals, got me thinking about my son’s first trip to a professional baseball game. I had four tickets four rows behind home plate for a Sunday night nationally televised contest between our beloved St. Louis Cardinals and the powerhouse Atlanta Braves. My father, brother, niece and I were seated in the “big dog” seats at the old Busch Stadium and Jonathan was watching the game from my lap. In the green seats, you get pampered with goodies. Instead of going to the concession stands, the ushers come to you. You fill out a menu request and they serve you food and drinks until you’re ready to explode like a home run fireworks display.
When I was given these tickets, they came with very specific instructions from the generous donors: “don’t be like those people that are on their phone the whole game, because you’ll be on television every single pitch.” I happily accepted the terms with special permission to make one or two phone calls during the game.
I called Jonathan’s grandfather and told him to find the game on ESPN. I had Jonathan take his shirt off. I said, “Jonathan, look out there at the pitcher and flex your muscles for papa.” Little Hercules complied and did his part with astonishing aplomb. And I heard his papa’s loud voice on the other end of the phone: “Oh, looky there! There’s my grandson! Slim, come in here and look at your grandson on t.v.!”
Jonathan’s first professional baseball game was one to remember. Rafael Furcal completed an unassisted triple play against the Cardinals, an unusual feat in the history of baseball. And one future Hall of Famer, a young Albert Pujols, hit an 8th innning home run off of another future Hall of Famer, the veteran John Smoltz. That key hit extended Albert’s hitting streak and produced the go-ahead run. The Cardinals won the game 3-2.