FIRST-PERSON: A 7th inning exit & a great lesson about fatherhood

Baptist Press
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Posted: Oct 28, 2011 6:22 PM
FIRST-PERSON: A 7th inning exit & a great lesson about fatherhood
ST. LOUIS (BP) -- My son Daniel and I were just at one of the most thrilling World Series games in history. After playing incredibly sloppy baseball for most of it, the Cardinals tied it in the ninth, tied it again in the 10th and won it on a David Freese walk-off homer in the 11th.

And I'm sitting here in my hotel room trying to come to grips with the fact that I left after the seventh.

Had I been by myself or with another adult, there's no way I would have taken off. Yes, I was incredibly frustrated with the way the Cardinals were playing. Matt Holliday cost the Cards a run when he missed a fly ball in left field and another run when he inexplicably got picked off third base. Freese himself dropped a routine pop fly that gave the Rangers another run.

So after Texas pulled ahead by three runs in the seventh inning, it certainly seemed like the game was over. The Cardinals showed no indications that they wanted to win the game, and it was reasonable to conclude that they were done. Lots of other fans headed for the exits after the seventh inning as well.

Add to that the fact that Daniel was shivering and tired. It was a cold night, and although we dressed warmly, he doesn't have as much natural padding as his dad does. So he had been feeling the cold for a couple of innings, and the temperature was dropping. He was also ready for bed. I felt bad for him, and I would have felt worse had we stayed through nine innings and the Cardinals lost the way I expected them to. I wanted the night to be an enjoyable one -- and not a miserable one -- for my son.

I knew I was running this risk when I decided to take Daniel with me to the game. But I also knew that it was a risk worth taking. I was 8 years old in 1982 when the Cardinals won the World Series, and ever since then the names of Andujar, Ozzie, Herr, McGee, Hernandez, Hendrick, Forsch, Horton, Porter and others have formed a pantheon of heroes for me. Since Daniel is 8, I've thought in recent days how special it would be if St. Louis could manage to win the Series this year. It would be even more special if we got to go to one of the games together.

So when I got two tickets from a friend for game six, I jumped at the chance, and I knew I wanted to take Daniel with me. I thought he'd be fine. He's gone to games with me before and stayed for the duration of them, and he's been wanting to stay up late and watch the World Series games this year. I really thought he'd be OK.

But then after we arrived in St. Louis Wednesday, the game got postponed because of foul weather. We went swimming at the hotel, and spent the first part of today doing other things around St. Louis. I think he was just worn out. So instead of forcing him to suck it up and tough it out, I relented and told him we'd go back to the hotel.

While we were waiting for the train, I heard the fireworks at the stadium and knew something had happened. I checked the score on my phone and saw that Allen Craig had homered to cut the Texas lead to 7-5.

We made it to our destination station, and then hopped aboard a bus to get us back to the hotel. As we sat waiting on the bus, I checked the score again. Albert Pujols doubled in the ninth. Lance Berkman walked. With two outs and two strikes, Freese tripled in both runs to tie the game.

Great, I think. It figures the Cards would end up making a game of this.

Josh Hamilton confirmed the wisdom of my decision a few minutes later when he homered in the top of the 10th to give the Rangers another two-run lead. But then I regretted the decision again in the bottom of the inning when Berkman stroked a two-out single to drive in the tying run.

When Freese won the game in the 11th, I didn't know what to think. I was ecstatic about the win, raising my hands in triumph and shaking my head in astonishment at the comeback the Cardinals had just pulled off.

At the same time, I was kicking myself. I could have been there to see it, and I wasn't.

I'm still sitting here wondering if I made the right decision. Maybe I should have forced Daniel to sit there in the cold, just in case something historical happened. And I'm sure one of these days, when Daniel is old enough to truly appreciate the magnitude of the game six excitement, he'll undoubtedly be apoplectic. "We were there for that game and missed the ending?" he'll probably ask me. "Why didn't you make me stay? I was just a kid who didn't know any better." It's probably what I would have said to my dad in a similar situation. I guess I'll have to take my medicine if and when that day comes.

But as I think of my son, exhausted, now lying asleep in his hotel bed, I'll choose instead to think of the night we got to spend with each other. We had the opportunity to go to World Series game six together. We got to visit with some of the umpires outside their locker room before the game. Daniel actually got to go into their locker room for a few minutes, and long-time umpire Bruce Froemming loaded him down with candy and treats.

We cheered Lance Berkman's first inning homer and groaned together at the bumbling errors the Cardinals kept making. Freese (when he botched the pop fly) gave me a vivid illustration of why I tell Daniel to use two hands when catching the ball. We waved rally towels and talked about baseball and dogs (Daniel's two favorite topics).

As I sat in my hotel room watching Freese smack his game-winning homer, I looked at Daniel sleeping soundly, and felt an immense amount of gratitude. Even though we missed the ending, we'll forever be able to say that we were there for that game. We'll undoubtedly share many conversations in the years ahead about what might have been. And someday, maybe this episode will be just one proof to Daniel that he has a dad who loves him more than baseball.

Tim Ellsworth is co-author of "Pujols: More Than the Game," director of news and media relations at Union University and editor of BPSports.net. This column first appeared at TimEllsworth.com.

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