April is here and as many of you know with April comes the return of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Everybody and their brother will be talking about what Albert Pujols did the night before or how the Cardinals just got swept by the pathetic Cubs.
But this year, you Cardinal fans will also be talking about the new stadium. So, this humble columnist decided to sacrifice and make the trek up to St. Louis last week to see the very first game played in the new Busch Stadium in order to give you, my loyal readers, the real lowdown of the new stadium.
Now, as I have written before in my column, I am neither a Cardinal fan nor a Cardinal hater. I consider myself a Cardinal observer so I felt I was going in with an open mind. Yes, I loved the old Busch Stadium but I also enjoyed the idea of a new state-of-the-art stadium.
When you walk through the main gates there is a sign that reads, "Welcome to Baseball Heaven." I thought to myself that the Cardinal organization is pretty sure of themselves to dub it "Baseball Heaven," but I would be the final judge.
Now, I could write quite a bit about how beautiful the ballpark is and how neat the view is when you look out over left-center and see the arch and St. Louis skyline. Invariably though, you will hear that time and time again from the biased hometown announcers when you watch the games on television.
What I am going to do is tell you the stuff they won't. And that is the new Busch Stadium, well, it's not "Baseball Heaven."
You see, everything was fine until I got thirsty. So I immediately started looking for a beer vendor. A fraction of a second later I found one and then saw what I consider to be a felony. A man selling a small, plastic bottle of beer for SEVEN DOLLARS. That's right, SEVEN DOLLARS. Now I like beer, but I've never had a beer worth SEVEN DOLLARS. I don't know about you, but beer in my "Baseball Heaven" is free, or at least affordable.
And this is no special beer. It isn't a magic beer that when you drink it the lady sitting next to you will become Jessica Alba (although for those with a small fortune, this is possible). No, this was just a plain bottle of your basic Budweiser beer which you can buy a six-pack of for less than six dollars at any of Sikeston's fine convenience stores.
Now, I wasn't expecting them to just hand me a beer and say thank you, but I wasn't expecting to pay SEVEN DOLLARS. Nor was I expecting a simple hot dog and soda to cost me my watch and shoes. If you are a family of four or more, you had better take out a small loan if you plan to eat or drink at the park. But don't worry if you forget, because there is an ATM around every corner.
Now, I can live without drinking a beer at a baseball game especially if I have good seats, which I thought we had at the new stadium. My friend and I were sitting on the lower level along the first base line. These would have been great seats at the old stadium.
Unfortunately, at the new stadium they aren't so good. You see, instead of the seats facing home plate, our seats faced the left field bullpen, so we had to turn our heads to the right to watch the batter. It is nearly a week later and I still have a crick in my neck. But hey, who really needs to see what is going on at home plate?
At least that must have been what the designers were thinking because the way the seats are down the lines seeing the action is not a high priority. Every time somebody gets up and walks up or down the aisle or every time the beer vendors walk by (Did I mention they walk by every 2.2 seconds?) you can't see home plate. Through the first three innings of the game I saw about 15 pitches. Now, in my "Baseball Heaven" I would at least get to see the game.
I think the designers knew they screwed up so they put a large scoreboard in center field with video screens. That is great, because it is the only scoreboard in the entire stadium. If you want to know the count on the batter you can't look anywhere but center field unlike the old Busch where you could see three scoreboards no matter where you were looking. I don't know about you, but in my "Baseball Heaven," I know the score.
All in all, I found the stadium to be nice, but certainly not "Baseball Heaven." Of course, if I had the chance to go again I am sure I would jump at it. I'll just have to remember to ask for a raise so I can buy a beer or two.