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Take me out to the... wait, was there a ballgame going on?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Last winter, my employer sponsored a Biggest Loser-type competition. As fate would have it, I was on the second-place team. As further fate would have it, my team shrunk from four to two members (no, not from weight loss, silly) so it was up to me and my coworker how to best spend our winnings. We discussed a few options, like sushi or mani-pedis, but nothing materialized. Finally someone on the winning team (I guess, I never asked) decided our two teams would pool our winnings and have an outing. So we went to see the St. Louis Cardinals play in not-so-historic Busch Stadium.

It would be fair to say I'm not exactly a baseball fan. That's not to say I don't like it. Hell, I played it as a kid. But I've never really followed it and I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what teams are in the National League and which are in the American League. I can watch it on TV, but rarely do unless it's on in a bar or something. But to have the opportunity to see a live game is something else.

To be honest, if I've ever attended a Major League Baseball game in my life, I don't recall it. I've been to several minor league and local professional league games, but never a MLB game.

We attended a Sunday game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. What struck me as we neared and entered the stadium was the festival-like atmosphere. Games, apparently, are a big deal. I mean, I've been to NFL games with less fanfare, and there's only around eight of those (home games, that is) a season. Walking through this crowd it felt — to me, anyway — like what I image the post-season would be like. But no, one of my compatriots who attends way more MLB games than I told me this is normal, and even so for weekday and weeknight games. Golly.

(Incidentally, it was T-shirt day, so hurray for the free souvenir I didn't have to buy!)

Bloody Mary bar? Bloody hell yes!
Bloody Mary bar? Bloody hell yes!

So not only did we get tickets to the game, we got tickets to the Champions Club, an indoor club with plasma-screen TVs, a buffet and a full bar. Did I mention the bar? There was a bar. But we didn't visit the bar because there were servers more than happy to go to the bar for us. (Jackie was a peach, is all I can say.) And, being Sunday, because why not, there was also a self-serve bloody Mary bar with umpteen vodkas, tomato juice concoctions, hot sauces, garnishes, and other things I probably didn't recognize or understand because I haven't had a bloody Mary in about twenty years. If you have the opportunity, however, I will recommend the bacon hot sauce.

About the only thing I can say about all the alcohol I drank was that it got sweeter and fruitier as time went on. After the initial bloody Mary I had a Beam and Coke. Then an amaretto sour. Then a rum runner. Then a pina colada. Looking to reign that trend in, I switched to a Beam and Sprite (two of them, in fact), then switched to Shandies (beer and Sprite which, if you've never had, I highly recommend). Two maybe three of those, it's a little fuzzy. Unfortunately, the bar shuts down at the first out in the ninth inning, or something.

The grand buffet.
The grand buffet.

There wasn't a grand selection on the buffet, but what was there was pretty good. There were a couple carving stations, but one of them was some kind of hummus thing so I avoided it. The ham was excellent. But the line for the hot dogs and brats (apparently most people were lining up for the brats) was, frankly (ba-dum tish!), ridiculous. I've always been under the impression that ballpark hot dogs are the shit, but these were nothing to write home about. Not bad, but not great. There was also a Jamaican jerk chicken, of which I snagged a couple filets and cut them up to add to the Cesar salad. Yummy. Also a thumbs up for the parmesan broccoli, but the nachos were meh.

The Club after the buffet closes. I stayed because air conditioning.
The Club after the buffet closes. I stayed because air conditioning.

One of the intra-inning celebrities was Sonya from, of all things, The Biggest Loser. I was in line behind her for the hot dogs. She had a dog with onions. It's not for me to determine whether it was appropriate for her to eat that or not, but she's an adult and can make her own decisions.

View of the Arch from the hotel's upper patio.
View of the Arch from the hotel's upper patio.

After leaving in the eleventh inning (the game went 14 total, who wants to sit through that with a closed bar?) we trekked back to the hotel, which was fortunately only a couple blocks. There's a major renovation going on around the base of the Arch to create some kind of new park, but as magnificent as the Arch itself is, all the dirt made it look anti-climatic. Even more anti-climatic was the hotel. For a place with "Plaza" in the name, I guess I was expecting better. The people were friendly, to be sure, but the amenities were, well, lacking.

For starters, my room was too warm upon entering, though the AC unit indicated it was turned to full blast. There was no blast. After talking with the front desk who agreed to send up a maintenance guy, the best he could do was a box fan. I kind of feel bad for him, he was so apologetic, and the AC unit was clearly a piece of crap, even to my HVAC-untrained eye. I was going to request another room, but the fan turned out to be a plus because the white noise drowned out the voices and slamming doors coming from the hallway. Also, my feet were black in the shower, so I'd say a carpet cleaning is in order. To top everything off, the wifi was non-existent.

We spent the evening on the lower patio. When we started, one of our folks ordered a beer while the rest of us ordered water. By the time the rest of the group was there and we wanted drinks, the waiter was nowhere to be found and was deliberately ignoring us. We proceeded to get our own drinks from the bar, and he missed out on a pretty hefty tip. We also ordered pizza from Imo's which, if you're in St. Louis, I heartily recommend.

That's pretty much the trip. Depsite the booze, there were no hangovers, the drive home was uneventful. That said, I'll wrap this up with the remaining photos I took, all four of them: