By Eddie Liu, from Cardsblog.com
In January, I was in my freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis. After coming back from winter break, I was browsing through Facebook when I came across an ad for Cardsblog, a student-run website that covered the St. Louis Cardinals. At that time, the website had been idle for two years and a couple of my classmates wanted to revive it.
The ad for Cardsblog immediately caught my attention for a multitude of reasons. First, I had the opportunity to write about sports-- something I've always enjoyed. Second, I would have a reason to follow baseball again while living in one of baseball's most iconic cities. I had already been a huge hockey, basketball, and football fan, so I figured I would give baseball one last try. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I knew I had the opportunity to be a part of something special with my friends Noah Adelstein, Issa Cook, Sam Pointer, and Perry Gordon.
However, I had to do something very important first: I had to learn to become a Cardinals fan.
At that point in the year, I didn't know much about the St. Louis Cardinals. All of my baseball knowledge came from what I remembered in 2011 and from what I read about in BleacherReport. I knew the important stuff like how Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in baseball and how Adam Wainwright is the king of St. Louis. However, beyond that, I was completely oblivious. Not going to lie, I even got Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday confused a couple times at the beginning of the season, which is about as embarrassing as mixing up Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
In the months leading up to the season, I read Cardinals articles almost daily. I primarily read Jenifer Langosch's blogs for MLB.com and Derrick Goold's columns for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Langosch and Goold are the two most respected Cardinals beat writers and basically live with the team throughout the course of the 162-game season, so I definitely picked the right people to learn Cardinals baseball from. To those two, thank you for the fantastic work you two do covering Cardinals baseball.
My first experience in which I learned about how special baseball is in St. Louis was on Opening Day when the Cardinals opened up their season in Pittsburgh. Noah, Issa, Sam, and I went down to Ballpark Village to watch the game. For those not familiar, Ballpark Village is a large venue, across the street from Busch Stadium, which has numerous restaurants and, more importantly, a large TV screen in the middle where hundreds of fans come daily to watch a game.
Well, on Opening Day, the place was absolutely packed. We arrived 30 minutes before first pitch and we had difficulty finding a table.
That absolutely struck me. The team was in a completely different time zone, yet a couple hundred people showed up Ballpark Village to watch a game together-- something they could have just done in the comforts of their own homes. There, in that moment, I learned something important: baseball is serious in St. Louis and people love their Cardinals.
As the season progressed, I became really active in running the Cardsblog Twitter account. I would regularly "live-tweet" games and, before long, there were numerous accounts that would consistently interact and favorite the things I would tweet out.
That was, perhaps, my favorite part of baseball season. If something good happened for the Cardinals in a game, I was able to share that moment with our followers by simply sending out a tweet. If something bad happened, I was able to laugh about it with a bunch of Cardinals fans.
Yesterday marked the unfortunate end of the the Cardinals' 2016 season. It's the earliest beginning to a St. Louis offseason since 2010, and it will surely leave the Cardinals' faithful with a sour taste in their mouth heading into the offseason. All is not lost, though.
Our Twitter account grew from 200 followers in February to 1,380 as of last night. It was as if, with each new follower, I gained a new set of ears to talk Cardinals baseball with. To the loyal followers of our account throughout this season, thank you.
After watching the majority of games this season, I've learned that baseball is anything but boring. In fact, I think that it is the ultimate strategic game mixed in with monsters who can smash 400+ foot home runs and pitchers who can pinpoint 100+ MPH fastballs. To the people who say baseball is too slow and boring, I would say to give baseball a chance.
Sure in the span of five minutes, baseball isn't that fun to watch. However, over the course of the season, when the drama and the intensity of a playoff race builds, it becomes just as entertaining as any other sport. Rather than thinking the season was too long, I thought that the season was too short, especially since the Cardinals didn't have enough games to make their sixth consecutive playoff appearance.
The last week of the season showed me how magical baseball is. When the world woke up to the tragic news that Jose Fernandez died in a accident, the response I saw from the sports community showed me why people played and watched sports in the first place.
There were two specific instances. First, in his first at-bat since the tragedy, Fernandez's teammate Dee Gordon hit his first home run of the year. Second, a day after leaving his team in the middle of a playoff race to console his lifelong friend's family, Aledmys Diaz hit his first career grand slam.
Unless a few things go their way, the St. Louis Cardinals will be eliminated today. For the first time in six years, they will not play at least 163 meaningful games. With that reality comes the reality that dusk is upon our Redbirds.
The odds of Gordon and Diaz both accomplishing a first in the last week of the season? Improbable. The odds of them accomplishing their respective feats after the death of a close friend? Oh come on, you can't make this stuff up even if you were directing a Hollywood movie.
Then, there was the Matt Holliday moment. After months on the disabled list, Holliday was activated essentially for one last curtain call. What did he do? He hit it out of the park.
Seriously, you can't script it any better.
Over the course of the 162-game season, I learned to love baseball. Following the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals became the most joyful, yet frustrating, most time-consuming and yet strangely rewarding experience of my life. For every heart breaking loss, the Cardinals gave back a thrilling victory. For every time the Cardinals got to nine games over .500, they lost their next game.
However, no matter what happened the night before, I was always ready to watch baseball the next day to see what this team had in store for me. This season was an absolute rollercoaster ride and I am happy to have been along for the ride.
For now, it's hockey, basketball, and football season again. Until next April...
Just days before the Giants eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs, general manager John Mozeliak spoke about his team's biggest drawback: their defense. The GM made it well known that improving the Cardinals' defense this off-season will be of top priority- "we'll certainly explore all the available options that can help us improve."