The UCB Weekend Experience

Each year that I have the opportunity to attend the UCB Weekend festivities, one thing becomes clearer: It is immensely enjoyable to be around people as obsessive about Cardinals baseball as I am. Taking in a game with people who understand the inside jokes, who know the players’ stories and tendencies, who celebrate and / or sigh with each pitch … it all makes me feel slightly less abnormal in my relentless fandom and interest in documenting my take on Baseball Heaven. Primarily, though, it’s just a whole lot of fun that is worthy of being shared with as many people as possible.

Hello, Beautiful

Arriving in St. Louis is always a joy. Catching the first glimpse of the Arch, coming off the interstate right by Busch Stadium, seeing billboards plastered with players’ faces wherever you go, you can’t help but feel a buzz. This year was even more exciting, as it was a chance to visit Ballpark Village for the first time.

After stopping for the obligatory toasted ravioli and Ted Drewes, I was BPV bound. My initial reaction?

Whoa.

Ballpark Village

It’s a lot to take in. The “newness” is evident still. But, fans seem to have settled in quite nicely to the amenities. If you’re not at the game, it’s the next best thing to be across the street, still surrounded by fans, watching on any one of dozens of big screen TVs, if not at the heart of it all, watching on the giant projection screen, viewable from just about any spot in the place.

While I had only a small window of time in which to explore, it didn’t take long to get a taste of the BPV flavor. It’s a truly unique and fan-focused way to experience St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

The following day, the bloggers were given vouchers for free admission to the Hall of Fame museum – just one of many gracious gifts from the Cardinals that day – which I fully intend to use the next time I’m in town (and when I have more time to fully appreciate all that’s there!).

As the Cardinals rallied late to take charge of game three against the Phillies, it was time to wander down Clark Ave. to Joe Buck’s for the annual UCB Dinner.

Dinner And A Show (… or not)

With a handful of the “regulars” sadly absent from Saturday night’s festivities, we had a chance to branch out and socialize with a new crop of Cardinal bloggers. It’s always great putting faces and names with twitter handles and websites, but meeting “internet friends” in real life can be awkward, let’s be real. It took a few moments to place everyone, but then it was business as usual. I had the pleasure of extended conversations with many of the Conclave writers, my podcast partners-in-crime, and a number of other UCBers I’d only conversed with via social media.

Don’t ask what we talked about. It wouldn’t make sense, I promise. But, it didn’t have to. We had a good time, ate delicious food, and prepared our list of “hard-hitting” questions for the next day’s Q & A with Cardinal royalty. There might have been some singing, but that’s neither here nor there. Oh, and we all walked away with our very own Silver Sluggers, thanks to gift bags from Rob Rains.

I’d be remiss to not extend a sincere “Thank you” to all who played a part in organizing the evening. Daniel, Chris Coleman, and Dathan Brooks – Your efforts were not in vain. Many thanks! (Chris and Dathan, you were both missed!).

Living The High Life

WinnerNo matter how many times I attend Blogger Day, I’m always blown away by the exceptional hospitality the Cardinals show our motley crew. The roll out the red carpet and make us feel much more like part of the fmaily, rather than just a bunch of bloggers. From Ron Watermon’s intro and the welcome from Lindsey Weber and her crew, to John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt III putting up with our questions, and finally the feast served in adjoining suites during the game, the bar was set pretty high for any successive gameday experience.

As Mozeliak and DeWitt fielded questions (more on that tomorrow), I was reminded how candid they can be, despite just how much pressure they have to deal with as they operate one of the most successful organizations in sports.

As I ate my share of Poached Pear Salad, Pulled Pork, Ultimate Stadium Tater Tots, and Fried Cheesecake, I was amazed at how “ballpark” food has morphed into gourmet dinning.

And as I watched the Carlos Martinez make just his second start of the season, Jon Jay and Mark Ellis take part in an offensive outburst asTrevor Rosenthal finished off a victory over the Phillies, I couldn’t help but be thankful for the opportunity to experience this team in person on behalf of the Cardinals’ staff.

It is truly a pleasure to share my crazy, at times overwhelming love of Cardinals baseball with an organization that values “new media,” as well as other writers and friends who represent the best of “blogger land.”

As always, I’m grateful to have shared in it all.

 

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