How do I know it’s gameday? It starts with a loud “CRACK!” The players are here. In their red shorts and practice tops. It’s batting practice time. The empty seats watch, waiting for a show that gets closer and closer with every home run hit onto the outfield hill. The outfield hill that will soon be filled with kids catching those home runs! And families eating a picnic full of ballpark food. Hot dogs. Bratwurst. Drinks and nachos. And then they see me, Louie. They see me and they yell my name. LOUIE! LOUIE! We high five. The little Cardinals’ fans laugh and smile. We take photos. And then...”CRACK!” But this time, the stands are full. The grass is buzzing. The ball is caught by a little girl with a little glove and a big smile. Her family smiles back, and we all celebrate the Cardinals taking the lead!
The inning ends, and I run toward the field with four fans and Team Louie behind me. We catapult ball after ball for a mid-inning competition. The Cardinals right fielder watches and laughs as the kids try to catch the baseballs. If they catch all of them, they win a Domino’s pizza! They catch all of them. And win that pizza. The inning ends, and the sun begins to set. It’s a beautiful Missouri sunset. A Baseball Sky! The purple and orange rays reach out over the chatter of the crowd with voices from all over the Ozarks, and from everywhere else, spending a night with the Cardinals. “POP!” The ball hits the catcher’s mitt. The radar gun shows 99. It’s strike three. The little boy next to me jumps UP! And UP!
“Yay Louie! Go
Cardinals!” he yells.
The inning ends, and we’re tied. The game is over halfway through. I walk up to the main concourse toward the smell of waffle cones and funnel cakes, passing smiling face after smiling face looking up at me, and pointing, and yelling, “LOUIE!” “LOUIE!”
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The inning ends, and the lights are on. The sun is set but the field is bright. I sit behind the dugout next to a family from Joplin that yell “LOUIE!” “LOUIE!” I’m playing a trick on one of them when “CRACK!” the family from Joplin next to the family from Springfield next to the little girl from Arkansas stand and clap and cheer! The smiling faces on the outfield grass churn their little feet and run to catch the home run!
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The Cardinals win! The team celebrates in their home white uniforms. The game ends, and it’s a Friday night. It’s time for fireworks. The smiling faces and families look toward the brilliant colorful sky lighting up downfield Springfield. It’s a grand finale to a grand night at the ballpark. The fireworks end, and my friends get up. Families hold hands and walk to their cars, and drive home with cars full of smiles.
I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!