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'A drinking town with a baseball problem' Add to ...

I wish I could take credit for the epic post title above. I can't. But that's alright, because it was brought to my attention by St. Louis native Betsy, a baseball stranger who was in touch via e-mail. You can even wear it; mine is in the mail. Needless to say, they're passionate about baseball, about their Cardinals, and about their beer, in St. Louis.

Matinee

As per the trend on the baseball road trip of a lifetime, I lucked out: it was getaway day in the Gateway City. Which meant only one thing: weekday afternoon baseball; "Play Ball!" called by the umpire just before 12:40 PM. And there's nothing like it. Weekday afternoon baseball, I mean. No, there's nothing quite like being in attendance at a ballgame on a bright, sunny, and warm Thursday afternoon in May. At beautiful Busch Stadium no less, downtown St. Louis and its Gateway Arch visible from the ballpark. I beg you to differ. You see, there's no weekday afternoon hockey, or weekday afternoon basketball. Football, sure, but only once a year, a holiday tradition. Only baseball is kind enough to every now and then, even if you're stuck at the office watching ESPN GameDay, essentially give you an afternoon off, or at least slaughter your productivity.

To add to my joyful afternoon in St. Louis, I was wearing flip-flops. Who cares, right? Wrong. It was the first time I was able to break them out on #TBRTOAL and, trust me, I was stoked.

Back to the matter at hand: the weekday baseball matinee. It's especially for the young. For the five-year-old attending his or her first game with grandpa and grandma; a special event, no doubt. But it's also for the young at heart. For the man or woman who plays hooky from work; who dons his or her Albert Pujols T-shirt and heads to Al Hrabosky's Ballpark Saloon for a beer at high noon.

It's baseball the way it was played years ago. Pure; the sun more than capably playing bank of lights. And it truly is getaway day. Not only for the players on the field, who have flights to catch once nine innings, or more, are in the books. It's getaway day for the person who's left the office behind for a day, or for an afternoon. Who, upon seeing a group of school kids at the game, is taken back to his or her own youth. To his or her own first game with friends, riding the subway alone downtown for the first time. Or his or her own first game with Dad. Baseball memories: they tug at the heart strings. And it's the matinee affair that sends them flooding back.

No, there really isn't anything quite like weekday afternoon baseball. When I do eventually - or should I say hopefully? - find a new job, I'm going to have to work attendance to all Toronto Blue Jays getaway ballgames at the SkyDome into my contract. I'll work overtime and weekends to make up the time.

Better yet, and in a perfect world, one day I'll be paid to watch weekday afternoon baseball.

Location, Location, Location

New Busch Stadium is one of baseball's newer parks, having replaced old Busch Stadium only four years ago, in 2006. You can tell; she's marvelous. You'll find her downtown, across from where old Busch used to stand, on the east side, with her own MetroLink station, and close to hotels, major highways, and only a 15-minute walk from St. Louis's historic Gateway Arch. From my hotel, the Holiday Inn Select near the Convention centre, on the north side of downtown, it was a 20-minute walk through the heart of the city to her doors. Location wise, you won't hear a complaint out of me. (St. Louis isn't a sprawling city; I even walked from Union Station, where Megabus unloads its cattle, to the Holiday Inn. It took about 45 minutes, my pack on my shoulders, but, as I've pointed out, I need the exercise.)

New And Improved

By now, you know what you're getting: a brick facade, great sight lines, and a panoramic view of the city. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, I want that. So, obviously, Busch Stadium doesn't disappoint. But it's Cardinals fans that make the place what it is.

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