SIKESTON -- Even before 11-year-old Wes Sutton of Sikeston cheered as St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Jim Edmonds hit the game-winning home run last Thursday at Busch Stadium, he was already having the time of his life.
Prior to the Cardinals game against the New York Mets, the fifth grader at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, along with nine other youngsters from the St. Louis area, had met, been photographed with and received autographs from Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen and Fred Bird. He'd also received a bag full of Cardinal memorabilia and to top it all off, he was featured on the big screen at the game and called out to the field to witness the first pitch.
Wes was living every young baseball fan's fantasy -- and it was all because he sold 74 magazines through a school fund-raiser, QSP Magazine Program. He was the top seller of his class and one of the top sellers in the St. Louis area. (Sikeston was considered part of the St. Louis area.)
"Actually there was another girl in my class who sold more than me, but before we sold magazines we got to choose if we wanted Cardinals tickets or another prize," Wes explained. "She chose the prize, and I chose the tickets."
Wes had already earned the free Cardinals tickets by selling a certain number of magazines, but since his fellow classmate didn't choose tickets, he was the top seller, which enabled him to experience a little more at the game.
Part of that experience included some downtime on the Cardinals' turf.
"The Cardinals didn't have batting practice because of rain that day so we went into a room for about an hour and a half," Wes recalled.
It was during that time he met Isringhausen and Fred Bird. Although first baseman Tino Martinez is Sutton's favorite player, Isringhausen and Fred Bird were just fine for him, he said.
In addition to meeting people, Wes received Cardinals memorabilia that included a T-shirt, a mouse pad, baseball cap, a poster of the team and a baseball.
The top 20 kids who sold QSP magazines in the St. Louis area participated in the above activities, but the top 10 kids also got their names announced on the public address system and were able to go out on the field at the beginning of the game. Wes was No. 7.
"I didn't know anybody there. I was nervous before we had to go out on the field," Sutton admitted. "A few of the kids there had already been before so they knew what to do."
Wes' parents, Jeff and Tracey Sutton, and his younger brother, Jack, also attended the game. Mrs. Sutton said it was an exciting time for all of them.
And sometimes winning second place can be just as good as winning first place.
"Wes is a huge baseball fan," Mrs. Sutton said. "He knows all the players and all their stats. It was a lot of fun."