the night we met Tony

August 1, 2012

For Mother’s Day, Matt surprised me with Club Level tickets to the Rockies/Cardinals game.  Just us.  No kids.  Club Level.  This felt fancy for me.  Usually we have the kids in tow (which I love!) and we’re in the cheap seats (aka Rockpile, which is upper deck center field).  And, I have to get up and walk to right field to get my order of Monster Nachos.

Not this time…2nd level, no kids, a waiter to take our order, and just above the Cardinals dugout.  Couldn’t get any better.

We hired a baby-sitter (which is only the 2nd time EVER) and took off for the game a little early.  We parked, walked a few blocks, and made our way through the stadium, passed several rounds of security to get into the Club Level section, and found our seats.  Of course, this is after I got my sunscreen confiscated because they don’t allow aerosol cans in the stadium, but they were kind enough to give me a “claim ticket” to get it afterwards.

Our seats were on the aisle directly up from the Cardinal’s on-deck circle.  Again, thought I’d died and gone to Heaven.  We were thrilled to see that Cardinals fans were sitting in the seats next to us.  We immediately started chatting with them and found they had flown in from St. Charles for the Cards/Rox series and had never been to Denver before.  The girl behind us was from Springfield, IL, and worked at the ABC TV station there as a producer.  She now lives in Denver and is getting her master’s at UCD.  All of this to say, we were sitting by people who we had a lot in common with.  🙂

A few innings into the game, Todd Helton’s foul ball bounced a foot from Matt.  Unfortunately, it landed in someone else’s cup holder.

Shortly after that, the sweet couple from St. Charles went to the air-conditioned area in the Club Level to get something to eat.  They were gone for awhile, but upon their return they told us that Tony LaRussa was in the stadium!  They saw him on a TV screen with a bald man in one of the press boxes.  We had a great view of the press boxes (I had been keeping an eye on Al and Mike Shannon all night), so we were searching for Tony with no avail.  I kept glancing that way, hoping for a peek at Tony.  No such luck.

After cheering our Cards to an 11-6 victory, we said “goodbye” to our new baseball friends and headed toward the exit.  I was showering Matt with praise for the awesome tickets, how perfect everything was…fun people, a high scoring game, a Cards win, and on and on and on.  As we were walking through the air-conditioned hallway talking about our perfect evening, we look up and see a familiar face walking toward us.  It took us no time to realize who it was.  I tapped Matt’s arm with my scorecard and said in the side of my mouth, “Matt, there’s Tony LaRussa!”  He made DIRECT eye contact with us (I think he recognized Matt from TV, but Matt thinks he was just admiring our Cardinals attire).  We said, “Hey, how’s it going” and he said the same.  I was in shock.  I looked at Matt and said, “Let’s go get his autograph!”  He agreed, so I started digging in my purse for a pen as I moved closer to the former Cardinals manager.  Lucky for me, we had gone to the Broncos Training Camp practice the day prior and I still had the Sharpe marker in my purse from that event.

I came up behind him, put my hand on his back and said, “Excuse me, Tony (later Matt got on me for not calling him “Mr. LaRussa.”  I can’t believe it either!  I guess I wanted him to know he’s like family to us. haha), we are huge Cardinal fans and were wondering if we could get your autograph.”  He said, “of course!” and proceeded to sign the scorecard that I had just filled out.  Matt asked if he could take my picture with him and the “bald man” who was with him (and our friends had seen on TV) told Matt he’d take the picture so he could be in it too!  And, unlike the image he portrayed in post-game interviews, Tony is very kind!!

When we walked away, I felt like a little girl again.  I grew up going early and staying late at the Cardinal games to get the players’ autographs.  The thrill and excitement were vibrant in me again.  I was squealing and in disbelief.  I quickly called my brother and dad.  Looking back, I’m not sure I made a lot of sense on the phone.  I was beside myself and not thinking clearly.

I met Tony LaRussa. Unexpectedly.  Just walking through the halls with the common folk.  It made the “perfect” night even better.

The whole family is going to the game tonight.  It couldn’t possibly be more eventful than last night, but it will be so fun to continue to pass down the Cardinals baseball tradition to our kids!!

Go Cards!!