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Commentary | Carpenter, Halladay and Game 5: 8 years ago, the healing power of baseball took shape in my life

If you ever need to understand the healing power of baseball, I'll tell you a story about Vinny, a heart problem and October baseball.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter (29) reacts with second baseman Nick Punto (8) and first baseman Albert Pujols (5) after baseball's Game 5 of the National League division series with the Philadelphia Phillies Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 in Philadelphia. Cardinals won 1-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

ST. LOUIS — Eight years ago, my son was fighting for his life at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

The afternoon of Oct. 7, 2011, Vinny was rushed via ambulance from a Ladue children's clinic to the hospital off Kingshighway. He had a heart rate over 250 and was dying. My wife was in the ambulance, I was driving like a maniac through traffic, and the next few hours were uncertain.

After getting checked in, Vinny was worked on by what could have been a hundred different people. They just kept coming into the room, staring down at our kid, who was less than 4 weeks old. Before we could think about calling my parents, Vinny was having his heart shocked back to life. I was drafting a speech to my parents, and every other relative and friend about a loss of our son and about to place my head through a wall.

And then he came back.

Vinny didn't exactly stabilize for long that night, or over the next few nights, but he made it back.

Thankfully, on that first night in the hospital, as our family clung to our chairs exhausted and drained of energy, Chris Carpenter put on a pitching clinic in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Facing off against his old friend, the late Roy Halladay, Carpenter shut down the Philadelphia Phillies, winning Game 5 and sending the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series.

They'd do okay the rest of the way, winning World Series trophy No. 11—and Vinny would pull through, leaving the hospital a matter of days later and avoiding open heart surgery.

If you ever need to understand the healing power of baseball, I'll tell you a story about Vinny, a heart problem and October baseball. It's as timeless as sliced bread, and everyone has a similar story. For any baseball fan, the game can act like a thick suture to a deep wound. It stops the bleeding until the medicine can take effect and more help arrives. It's the first thing you do to an open wound.

It's true. There are no heroes in sports, but they are the best distraction from a real life crisis. A "look over here" device that never gets old or wavers. You don't know these people on the field throwing and hitting baseballs while making millions of dollars, but you sure need them for a few hours.

We did that night. Vinny was in rough condition that night, and the game was on a small 19-inch hospital television that made everyone squint, like the one and only Kyle Reis of Prospects After Dark. It was all we had, and in a way, all we needed to get by.

For us, Oct. 8 seemed like a great gift. The next week was on layaway in our minds.

As the Cardinals battle for their playoff life Monday and everyone within 10 miles of Busch Stadium holds their breath, remember the beauty of this game and how powerful it can be in a life.

I can get mad about a lineup, loss or failure to execute the game, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Eight years ago, I needed it more than anything. With my son fighting for his life, Chris Carpenter and company gave me pure escape. It'll never leave my mind.

Play ball.

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