Instead of being the Busch Stadium from the days of Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith or Mark McGwire, it’s that of Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.
But, it’s still Busch Stadium, and after speaking with members of Carlisle County’s baseball team, as well as its coach, Hunter Burge — well, it’s just as good.
Last weekend, the Comets, for the second time in four seasons, played Greenville High in an exhibition game at the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, beating those Comets from Illinois, 6-5.
But the score didn’t necessarily matter, though it was a plus for the boys from Bardwell to win a game under the big lights, they said.
To set foot on the same field as many of their role models do, in front of nearly 800 local fans who made the trip — that was the big deal.
“It was a really cool experience,” said Carlisle pitcher/infielder Daven McGee, who made the same trip with his teammates two summers ago. “It’s something we’ll be able to look back on forever and talk about with each other, one day.
"I’m a huge Cardinals fan. Walking out there and knowing you’re standing there, where other MLB players stand, it’s a really cool feeling. There’s nothing else like it. We cared to win, but we all just wanted to make a memory and have a good time with it,” McGee said.
Carlisle catcher Truman Davis is able to boast an accomplishment that even some major-leaguers can’t in that ballpark, with a double to the wall in left-center field that — perhaps with a stiff wind blowing out — might’ve left the yard.
“I just got a little bit under it,” said Davis, who this year as a sophomore started in the game at Busch, instead of playing a reserve role as a seventh-grader three seasons ago.
And, to make things perhaps a little more meaningful, earlier in the afternoon St. Louis hosted the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Pujols, the starting first baseman for the Cardinals from 2001-2011, made his first trip back to Busch after signing with the Angels before the 2012 season.
“Watching him hit that home run, I think it gave everybody in the stadium chills,” McGee said of Pujols’ solo shot to lead off the top of the seventh inning, making it 4-1. “It was awesome.”
The Cardinals would win, 4-2.
But, both games almost didn’t happen.
Hours before the big-league game was scheduled to start, severe weather blasted through the St. Louis area, dumping a deluge on the ballpark. That same storm front would later hit Paducah, causing a pair of F-1 tornadoes to touch down nearby.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking,” Burge said. “It was just pouring down rain. They took the tarp off at about 12:45. The Cards were supposed to play at about 1:15. It had rained just all morning. It was only a 15-minute delay on the Cardinal game, after we’d heard it might be an hour or two. The weather ended up being perfect all afternoon. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.”