I’ve only seen the Cubs in person twice and both of those were at Wrigley Field. My wife’s birthday was coming up and she mentioned that she wanted to go to St. Louis as we had never been there together. I quickly realized the Cubs were going to be in St. Louis the same weekend and wondered if I could convince her to go to a game. She graciously agreed so I started researching tickets and parking options.
I originally searched on StubHub for tickets but I then found the same tickets about $13 cheaper on TickPick so went that route. As for parking, my first option via SpotHero disappeared as I waited too long. However, I was able to get parking at Stadium East for $30 via iParkIt which is right next to the stadium. I already had purchased a hotel room but it was in Maryland Heights because everything else closer to the stadium was way too expensive or got really crappy reviews.
After grabbing a quick breakfast at Dunkin Donuts in Champaign, we hit the highway. Our first problem out of the gate was Apple Maps was having some sort of outage and could not give us directions. It figures the one day I really need it and it fails. Luckily I was able to use Waze (my preferred mapping/directions app) via audio and it was able to guide us. (I can’t wait till the fall when Apple loosens restrictions on their CarPlay mapping apps with iOS 12!)
We stopped in Effingham, IL to stretch our legs and get some water. Water would be the commodity of the weekend as it was going to be excessively hot and humid. The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area so I knew it would be bad.
We made it to St. Louis a little after noon and visited a book store (Half Price Books) that my wife wanted to see. After that it was on to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. On the way from the parking lot to the restaurant, we had our first encounter with a Cardinals fan. He disliked our Cubs apparel, but we shrugged it off and proceeded inside. Our waitress was great and told us she would take care of us even though we were Cubs fans. (I would hope so if she wanted a good tip!) A customer sitting at the table next to us said: “You guys are brave for wearing those Cubs shirts here!”
After an enjoyable lunch, we headed to our hotel to check-in. The person checking in people made some wise-crack about us being Cubs fans, but then she said she didn’t even follow sports so it wasn’t a big deal. We unloaded our stuff and then headed towards Busch Stadium. Traffic became more insane the closer we got. I disliked how lanes disappeared with no warning or became turn-only lanes. I got stuck in a turn lane on the way to the parking garage and had to go around the block right by Busch Stadium which was slow going. We finally made it into the garage on the second time. The attendant looked at my iParkIt printout and said to show it to the cashier on the way out. By the time the game was over, there was no cashier!
We followed a bunch of people to the stadium, but was unsure which gate to go in. I looked it up on my phone and found that gate 3 would be the closest entrance to our seats. All we saw was gate 4 and realized gate 3 was on the other side of the stadium. We walked around and found gate 3 and stood in line with other people. It was incredibly hot and sweat was coming from every orifice. The gates were scheduled to be opened 2 hours ahead of game time. At 5:15pm, the gates opened and fans started filing in. After going through the metal detectors and getting our tickets scanned, we were finally in the stadium!
Our seats were located in row 1 of section 356 of the terrace level. Before we went up to our seats we stepped into the first level to get a few pictures. Having the St. Louis Arch in the background of about every picture was pretty sweet. We were dying of thirst at this point so we stopped at a vendor to get two bottled waters. $11 please. Ouch! I darn near chugged the thing counting the dollars going down my throat.
We made it up to the third level and took more pictures. As we proceeded to our seats, we were approached by a family of Cubs fans asking if I would take their picture for them. After I took their picture, they graciously took a picture of my wife and I with the Arch in the background. Pretty awesome! It felt good to have some friendly fans in a visiting ballpark.
We descended the steps to our row and found our seats. The view was pretty sweet with just a small railing in between us and sudden death should one fall over it. More pictures were taken including several panoramic shots. I looked down on the field and remembered why I was here in the first place. There were my Cubs right in front of me taking batting practice! There they were, not on TV, not on the radio, not on a baseball card but in real human form! The little kid inside of me was excited as could be. We sat there watching them for awhile as several balls were blasted into the stands. (hopefully a good sign for later in the game!)
Despite it being super hot, we still needed to eat something. We walked around the vendors in our area and found the Gashouse Grill which had good old jumbo hotdogs. I can’t go to a baseball game without a hotdog, so we both got a dog w/fries and a bottle of water. $36! We found a table with an umbrella to eat at, but it wasn’t pointed in the right direction to shade us from the sun. The fries were pretty boring and flavorless, but the hotdog was one of the best I’ve ever had. This was a plain hotdog (no condiments) and was grilled with a little burnt skin on the outside just the way I like it. It was delicious! The lady who sold us the hotdogs whispered to me “Go Cubs!”
After a bathroom break, it was back to our seats. During the National Anthem, we stood up and removed our hats. At the end, we clapped and that’s when I noticed my wife’s hat fall out of her hands. Thankfully it landed on our side of the railing but a Cards fan behind us yelled out “someone almost got a Cubs souvenir!” Whew, crisis averted!
It was finally time to play ball. I was expecting a pitching duel since it was Lester vs Wacha, but that didn’t happen. I was excited when Rizzo got a single in the first inning. He then took off trying to steal second base before the pitcher even threw a pitch. I just knew this would be an easy out but he somehow made it to second and then on to third as Wacha threw the ball away. Sadly he was unable to score in that inning.
The fun started in the third inning when Ian Happ hit a solo HR. The Cubs fans in attendance made their presence felt when that ball left the yard. After an Albert Almora single, Kris Bryant hit a home run to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead! Kris freaking Bryant hit a home run and I got to see it in person! Slump be damned, KB is back! 🙂
The Cubs kept it going in the 4th inning by scoring 2 more runs making it a 5-0 game. St. Louis finally got on the board with a solo home run from Marcell Ozuna in the bottom of the 4th. The game really got out of hand in the top of the fifth inning. Rizzo hit a ball that bounced over the outfield wall but bounced back into play. He didn’t know it at the time and was running hard to second base. The outfielder threw the ball to second base but it was ruled a ground-rule double. Contreras was unintentionally walked and then Schwarber hit a 3-run home run to blow the game wide open. They took Wacha out when it was 8-1 but it didn’t matter. The new pitcher Mike Mayers gave up another three runs to make it 11-1 at the end of the fifth inning!
Matt Carpenter hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the sixth to make it an 11-2 game. The Cubs scored in the 7th to make it 12-2. The Cardinals added a few more runs but the final score was 13-5 Cubs! The Cubs fans to our left got out their big W flag and waved it at Busch Stadium. That was awesome! The Cubs are 3-0 when I’ve seen them in person. Not too shabby.
Once thing I noticed is that many Cardinals fans left the game early. Sure the game was most likely out of reach but why pay so much to go to a game and then leave half way through? The folks sitting next to me left in the 7th inning and the family behind us shortly after that. I guess since I rarely get to go to a game, it is an event in itself. Win or lose you have to stick it out.
As for Busch Stadium, it’s a really nice stadium. It was easy to navigate, had lots of vendors and the bathrooms were clean. Everyone I came in contact with was friendly even though I was a Cubs fan. The view of the city including the Arch from the stadium is very awesome. Kudos to you St. Louis!
Special thanks goes out to my wife who let me hijack one evening of her birthday weekend to go to the Cubs game. 🙂