Tonight about half the Cardinals team took part in a benefit to help Skip Schumaker’s best friend. The Stutzman’s have a beautiful baby girl named Reesa (pictured above) who has a horrible and very rare condition that will cause her to have a very short life. You can read about it and what you can do to help here.
The event was held at the Sunrise United Methodist Church in O’Fallon, MO and I have to thank them for taking very good care of the Cardinal fans. They offered us coffee, cooked us hotdogs, served up cold water and sno-cones and generally did what they could to make sure we were comfortable. It was kind of a convoluted affair with limited pre-sale tickets sold on Monday and then the main ticket selling event today. When I managed to get tickets Monday they were sold out of pre-sale tickets for the David Freese and Matt Holliday signing so I had to be there in person this morning. Normally I wouldn’t be worrying about something like this but this time there were 2 very good reasons for my interest and involvement: 1. it was for a very good cause and 2. I still hadn’t managed to get David Freese to sign the cracked bat that he gave me last year at Wrigley (story here). In order to do my best to insure tickets to meet David and get him to sign the bat, I had to basically pull an all-nighter. The church was giving out line tickets at 9am with some people starting their wait at 7:30pm the night before. I was really worried that I’d miss out on the opportunity to get the bat signed so I ended up joining the line at 3am after about an hour of sleep. Now I know that sitting in a line for 6 hours sounds horrible, and it wasn’t rainbows and unicorns, but there were some great Cardinal fans in line and we passed the time talking about what we love – Cardinals and baseball.
At 9am I was given a line ticket with #11 with the instructions to come back at 2pm to stand in line again to get the real tickets. My day was jammed with stuff so I had to leave the church and take care of some personal business so I could hurry back and wait in line again. Fortunately I had taken the day off of work to deal with the personal issues so I was free to spend that extra time waiting. All of that waiting paid off and I was able to get the tickets for both David and Matty Ho, along with another handful of players who had rearranged their schedules in order to help their teammate Skip and his friend’s baby. I should mention that it was a rare day off for the team and the fact that half of them chose to spend it supporting a teammate and raising money for a good cause should tell you something about their character. Along with donating their time, the players also donated items such as signed jerseys and bats. I was very fortunate to be the winning bidder on a bat signed by Dirty Dan Descalso. I believe his bats have magical powers so I’m extremely pleased with my treasure.
That’s the background; what follows is the recounting of my experiences with the players.
The signing was done in 3 shifts, with what could probably be called the most in-demand players – David Freese, Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, Skip Schumaker, Mike Matheny and Mitchell Boggs – going first from 5-6pm. Unfortunately that first shift was pure pandemonium and I had a hard time getting pictures of all the guys. Here’s my rundown of round 1:
Mitchell Boggs – couldn’t get a pic but he was nice. He had an interesting choice in shirts, showing off his chest hair with a few buttons undone and since I’m a big fan of that manly feature he got points. Didn’t interact with him much but I think at that point it was just so crazy I could barely even hear myself talk. The fact that the main thing I remember about Boggsy is his chest shows that things were out of control.
Matt Holliday – again no pic but he was just so Matty. He’s a great guy and was very nice. I had him sign a baseball and told him that he had given it to me at Wrigley last year (see the David bat story). He reacted enthusiastically and said how it was great that I had it and he was happy to sign it for me.
Waino looked every bit the Georgia boy with his camo cap on. I actually played a joke on him – I handed him a picture of him stretching in the outfield and asked him to sign it to Nyjer.
He cracked up and said, “where did you get this shot?!” He was actually going to sign it, which makes me wonder what kind of bizarre requests he gets that people are not kidding about. I told him I was just kidding and handed him the real shot, a nice one of him pitching. Adam was so very nice, funny and talkative. He’s everything I had expected him to be.
Skip Schumaker – I mentioned earlier on Twitter that Skip was as efficient in signing as he is in fielding, only he didn’t have a special glove for signing autographs. This event held so much meaning for him and you could see how it was affecting him.
At one point between the 2nd and 3rd shifts he gave a little speech and introduced his friends. Skip started by mentioning how he really knew he was a part of Cardinal Nation by the turn out from the players and fans. I picked up the recording from there.
David Freese – I still hold the opinion that David Freese is an outstanding guy. I sat my bat on the table in front of him and said, “you gave me this bat at Wrigley last year.” His face lit up and he said, “that was you sitting in the front row behind the dugout?” I have to guess that he hasn’t given away too many bats like that but it was still great to be remembered. I gave him a silver sharpie to use to sign it, which he kept and I don’t mind that at all. I have yet to have a bad encounter or form a bad impression of David. He’s just straight up a good guy. I wish I had more time to talk to him but he was pretty much mobbed the entire time he sat there. In fact not everyone who had a ticket to David and Matty got to see them even though both guys spent well over the hour that had been allotted for them. It just got to the point where they had to move along and get to the other people or everyone would’ve been there all night.
Mike Matheny – Honestly I was nearly rendered speechless when he walked in. He was one of the first to arrive in the room and came in looking very managerial in a sharp suit. I truly have so much respect for that man for things well beyond his amazing good looks. He just has a presence that commands attention and he’s so very good with people. He was a late addition to the program after having moved his schedule around so he could contribute. Fortunately that meant not as many people had tickets to talk to Mike so I was not entirely rushed. As he signed a cap for me I mentioned that I had met him this past Saturday in Cincy. He remembered signing the ball for me and my Berkman shirt. Again I was shocked at being remembered and found it very cool. Once he was done signing I told him I had just one favor to ask him. He actually gave me his entire attention as if what I had to say was the most important thing for him to hear right then. So I asked him to, when the time comes again. let the Cardinals draft his son Tate. I told him to allow Tate to go to another team would be like giving WMDs to Iraq, he was just too good to let go to the competition. I think as a proud father he really appreciated that and favored me with one of his devastating smiles. He thanked me for the kind words and said he would make sure Tate was taken care of. Hopefully that means as a Cardinal but I realize there is a lot involved with that. If I had more time with him I had more arguments I would’ve presented but we left it at that and I moved on.
That was the Cardinals group for the first round. They eventually managed to leave the room and the next group – Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter – took over.
Jon Jay – I actually took 2 passes at Jon. The first one he was sitting down at another table and I got him to sign a picture. Things had calmed down considerably so I was able to use another ticket I had to swing back by and get another autograph. At that time I asked Jon if I could see his shoes. The girl who was his “attendant” pointed out that posed photographs were not allowed and didn’t want him to do it. He ended up sticking his feet out from under the table to show me his very awesome shoes. The girl asked what the big deal was with it and I told her that “Jon’s shoes are Epic!” That got me a smile from Jon, which was framed by a freshly shaven head – the demise of the fro-hawk. Jon is a really good guy, nice to talk to.
Daniel Descalso – I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a big fan of Dirty Dan’s. I’m not sure why other than I love his defense and the way he came through for the team last year. The fact that he’s Italian and has that look doesn’t hurt. He was great to talk to, very friendly. I handed him a photo to sign and then told him that we call him Dirty Dan. He asked why and I said because he’s always on the ground getting his uni dirty with the D. He laughed and said he liked it so the Dirty Dan nickname has the Descalso seal of approval. Another great Cardinal guy.
Matt Carpenter – Matt is another favorite of mine. I love guys who can play many positions and Matt has been nearly all over the diamond. He also can hit and does so with no batting gloves, which I think adds to his BAMF appeal. I had 2 photos of Matt, 1 that I had gotten of him going through the receiving line in the dugout and a very cool picture that Jess (@2ndLifeCardinal on Twitter) took of him showing his beast side. I put them both on the table and asked him which he liked best. He picked Jess’s picture and so I asked him to sign that one. I told him about the great pics that Jess takes and how she had sent some to his wife on Twitter. He then asked if I wanted him to sign the other one too so of course I agreed. Again, very impressed with him and a bigger fan if that’s possible.
While this round was going on, I stopped by to see John Mabry. Love John Mabry since Matt Carpenter reminds me of Mabry. John signed a ball for me and I told him that I had switched from calling Matt “Baby Carp” and now called him “Baby Mabry.” John said he liked that and thought that Matt was an impressive player. Now that Daddy Mabry has approved of the Baby Mabry nickname for Matt it’s officially how I will refer to him.
The next, and final round, had a higher count of Cardinals – Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski, Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, Jr., Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte.
Lance Lynn – My impression of Lance wasn’t that favorable, in fact he never once looked at me. At first I pegged him as a disappointment but I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he was probably hot and tired and not in the mood. I didn’t really watch to see if his attitude and behavior was different with others. Even when I told him he had nice hair it didn’t even get a smile or acknowledgement. I guess I’ll reserve judgment until the next encounter, if there ever is one. He definitely was not friendly like the other guys. I will add the disclaimer that someone else on Twitter said that Lance was very friendly when he had met him so I’ll give Lance the benefit of the doubt and call it an off moment.
Zep – I typed his name out above so I didn’t want to try and get it right a second time. Zep was awesome! He’s so adorably dorky it was incredibly endearing. As he signed I told him about a certain girl on Twitter who has a slight crush on him. He seemed fascinated by this and got a kick out of what I was telling him. He was outgoing and friendly with that goofy, dorky edge that makes him absolutely adorkable. I am now a bigger fan after talking with him.
Allen Craig – Allen fell victim to the demands of his management – same as David’s – and was required to personalize all autographs with a recipient’s name. I didn’t mind this at all but it did seem to be a deterrent to others who then declined to have him sign. The girl with him wrote my name down for him so he wouldn’t have to guess or ask. He didn’t seem all that happy with the restrictions but he was very nice about it. I think under different circumstances he would’ve been having a better time and that would’ve transferred to the crowd. As it was, he’s still a very nice guy.
Joe Kelly, Jr. – Joe hasn’t been around long but I’ve already observed a few things about him. First I saw him spend a lot of time signing for kids at a game July 6th. He made a lot of new fans that day and that impressed me. He also has some bizarre tweets at times so I have an idea that he’s got a quirky sense of humor and I like quirky. One thing that came out of the July 6th game is that I took quite a few pictures of him. On Twitter his picture had gone to an egg – Twitter status where a person doesn’t have a picture so they are just given an egg – and he tweeted something about it. Since I had a few good pictures of him signing I sent what I thought was the best and told him he could use that. Much to my surprise he did, and last I checked was still using it. So I chose that picture to print out and have him sign. I sat it in front of him and asked him if it looked familiar. He said that it did indeed look familiar and I told him I was the one who took it. He said he was using it, as if I wouldn’t have noticed. I told him I thought it was great so hopefully he’ll keep it for a while. Joe = good guy.
Kyle McClellan – K-Mac has been out this season with injuries and with his recent move to the 60 day DL we won’t see him any time soon. I told him we missed having him on the team and, no surprise, he said he misses playing. I have to feel for the guy but I hope he’s doing better soon. Real nice guy, another local boy who hasn’t had quite the success as that other guy from St Louis who won a few awards.
Jason Motte – Jason is another of my favorites. It’s not just that he throws like a beast but I love that dichotomy he presents with the crazed, bearded closer on the field and the bespectacled, professor appearance he has off the field. This also includes a drastic change in intensity. He was wearing his glasses tonight and I really do like the way he looks in them. He was still as fun and nice as I had expected and as he was signing I thanked him for interacting with his fans on Twitter. He said he didn’t do it as much as he’d like but I told him it was very much appreciated and that he should get the other guys going as well. I told him about something I had tweeted him that he had responded to and he remembered it and brought up details. Again I was impressed that a guy remembered something. It’s little things like that, although small, that can mean so much to a fan like myself. Jason Motte is a great guy.
That was it as far as players involved. Skip spent more time talking with fans, signing and just interacting, and you could tell how much this meant to him. Somehow I ended up standing right next to him so I asked him to sign my Cardinals iPhone case, which I have now dubbed “iScrappy.” Now I’m worried that I’ll smudge it, though it has seemed to withstand the grossness of the sweat associated with the sheer mass of bodies in an enclosed space. I hope it withstands the test of time.
Special note about Skip, there was some custom Cardinal artwork they were auctioning off, pieces depicting various Cardinal players. The ones who had been involved in the event had all signed it but apparently there was a thought that more signatures might bring a higher price. Someone asked about getting Yadi or Berkman to sign it and everyone looked at Skip. It didn’t take long for Skip to come back and say that any current player that the winning bidder wanted to sign the art would sign it, Skip would make sure of it. I have heard talk that Skip is a leader in the clubhouse and I think that shows in his ability to promise that he would get any player to sign that art.
I cannot express what a great time I had today. It started out rocky with what I, and others I talked to, dubbed a cluster but it improved once I figured out how to work things. I had a “super ticket” so I used that to grab the guys who were less busy so I didn’t have as much time to be aggravated with people. Being able to meet the players was huge for me as anyone who knows me knows I love my Cardinals. The fact that they are a group of amazing individuals who, for the most part, seemed to return the love of the fans is incredible. I know people in St Louis are biased about our baseball team and our caliber of fans, but I truly can’t believe that there’s a better group of guys playing any sport in any city than the guys we have wearing the birds on the bat. Thanks to all the guys who took time on their day off to help a precious baby and make a few fans happy. I know it was a night I will not soon forget.