In my life, from childhood to adulthood, there have been four constants: my faith, my mother, my father and baseball. And while my softball career ended a lot earlier than I had imagined with fireworks and a little bit of a dramatic flair, my love for baseball never left. A lot of people often mock at the fact baseball and my faith are so important to me but on July 14th, I felt an absolute peace at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals have hosted the annual event Christian Day since 1991, one year after a longtime fan named Judy Boen had a dream for underprivileged children to be able to attend a baseball game and hear the word of God. Due to this dream coming true, Boen would become friends with well-known Cardinals (including Albert Pujols) and staff within the organization. As of 2019, Christian Day at the Ballpark has become one of the most consistent annual events for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Almost thirty years later, I had the chance to spend the day at Busch Stadium during Christian Day. I can proudly say; it was worth every second that I sat under the hot July sun in the Commissioners Box with my mother and father. The sounds of Christian music flowed through the stadium, echoing against the emptiness of Home Field Box and Loge Levels. As we waited for the event begin, Andrew Knizner caused a bit of a ruckus while trying to spend a few minutes with his girlfriend Ally — and what I mean by this, a tribe of young Cardinals fans raced toward Knizner with gloves, balls, hats, and sharpies. Of course, his girlfriend was exceptional, stepping away and taking photos of him with the young fans. Rather than listening to the event staff, Knizner continued to sign autographs, slowly making his way back to the dugout. Eventually after a good ten minutes, he jogged back to the clubhouse and the young fans retreated to their parents.
Hosted by Thrivent Events, Christian Day began with a prayer. If you’ve never experienced being in a baseball stadium when 90% of the crowd has left for the day, it is absolutely magical. As the prayer ended, the echoing of amen made me feel like this team is exactly where I belong — and yes, this is coming from a woman who, in April, decked herself out in Mets gear and swore she would never love another team like she loved her Mets. (We’ll get to that adventure another time, I promise.)
The first of the Cardinals to speak was none other than manager Mike Shildt, a man who has been through the ringer of negativity on social media as of late. He spoke of how his faith keeps him balanced, how without his faith, he wouldn’t be where he is. He did jokingly admit that every now and then, he will pray for a home run or a double play while sitting in the dugout during crucial moments in the game. He also joked about how you often see him taking off his hat. He was very personable and likable — which I must admit, before Sunday, I didn’t know much about Shildt, except for what the media wants you to know. He was very personable, charming, and even my mother stated later during our trip home that she enjoyed seeing this side of the manager.
The next to speak was the man of the day, Adam Wainwright, who had shut down the Arizona Diamondbacks until the bullpen took over that Sunday afternoon. He was greeted with cheers and endless amounts of love from the fans that had stayed over to hear his testimony and spend the Sunday afternoon with him. Wainwright spoke about his faith, his family, and his teammates. He mentioned that the team was currently reading Romans — which touched me personally. Wainwright also spoke about Paul (The Apostle, not DeJong or Goldschmidt, to clear things up, but he does love both of his teammates named Paul) and his impact in the Bible. For a lot of fans, Wainwright is a legend but on Sunday afternoon, he made everyone sitting in the Commissioners Box and behind the dugout feel like family.
He invited three more Cardinals up to the podium to speak and give their testimonies: Tommy Edman, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and Matt Wieters. A young upcoming star, a pitcher who we all need to keep a watchful eye on, and a catcher who has stepped up with Molina out due to injury.
Tommy Edman might be one of the new guys on the major league roster but let me tell you, he will be a fan favorite as his career flourishes. He spoke about being a servant and being selfless. “For me, it’s being as selfless of a teammate as I can be. If I make an error or strike-out, instead of going back to the dugout and moping, I get up on the fence and be the best cheerleader that I can.”
After Edman, Daniel Ponce de Leon spoke. I had a video of him speaking but sadly, due to the heat, my phone began to act crazy and the video is without sound. He spoke about his wife, his family, and how his favorite word is none other than, “love.” Ponce de Leon beamed with excitement over how much he loves, love. And let me tell you, Wainwright took full advantage of the moment but saying, “I love you, Ponce,” and for the first time (according to Wainwright) Ponce said it back. Wainwright cheered, “I’ve been trying to get him to say it back to me all season!”
Once Wainwright had fully embarrassed Ponce de Leon, Matt Wieters took the microphone. He began speaking about being fearless — especially in a time when he is the back up catcher for one of the greatest catchers of all time, Yadier Molina. Wieters said the verse that he always refers to, which is also my favorite verse in the Bible, Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” He ended with praising his teammates and thanking everyone for sticking it out in the heat.
Finally, the man who hit a home run off his former team, Paul Goldschmidt walked out of the dugout with street clothes on and smile plastered against his face. As soon as Goldy opened his mouth, the words, “Jesus loves Baseball,” came out. Growing up with a Jewish father and Catholic mother, Goldschmidt was raised within the church but openly, he admitted that church wasn’t a priority for him or even meaningful. Standing under the beaming sun, he lit up when mentioning his wife Amy and how they met in college, believing that God had a plan for the two of them to end up together. It wasn’t until his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks when he truly began to find his faith. He praised his parents, his teammates, and the fans before finishing up and handing the microphone back over to our host.
To end my first piece about the Cardinals, I have to admit that for a while I had fallen off the Cardinals train — the team that I had once loved as a young girl included Wainwright, Edmonds, and Molina. My love for another team (mentioned above) who I had the chance to see this year at Busch overshadowed the Cardinals (among other things in my life), but let me tell, the Cardinals team that we have this season is nothing short of incredible. The Cardinals are real, they are human, and made everyone in the seats that day feel like they were family. Here’s to a hot second half of the season!