Opening Day | Planet Ryan - Republic-Times | News

Opening Day | Planet Ryan

By on April 13, 2016 at 8:05 am

I’ve written about my family’s love for St. Louis Cardinals baseball in the past, but a few things have changed since then, namely, the passing of my sweet, hard-working grandmother last year. She was perhaps the most dedicated, loyal Cardinals fan I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

She lived in a very small, country town in southern Illinois and when I was younger, it was always the highlight of my year to get to spend a week or two with grandma. She lived just up the road from the family dairy farm where I was brought to life.

Grandma was a busy woman her entire life – always working on a quilt, baking pies, cleaning or ironing shirts for working men around town.

No matter what she was doing, she always had the radio on – tuned in to the baseball game. There was nothing more she loved than to listen to baseball while she worked. Sure, she’d watch a TV broadcast of the game when it was on at night, but watching it didn’t have the same effect as the radio waves.

I bet many of you have similar memories.

Opening day is a big deal for part of my family. My uncle has worked for Ford for what seems like an eternity, so on literally every opening day for the last umpteen years, he’s been assigned the task of driving a Cardinals player around the field in a new Ford vehicle they show off before the game. He’s hauled around some of the recent greats, including Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and so many more.

But, in 2006, my uncle took my grandma with him to opening day as he done in years past. This time was special, though.

You see, grandma was head-over-heels for David Eckstein and my uncle had been assigned to drive him around the field. Even though a day at Busch Stadium meant a lot of walking and moving around – a challenge for grandma at that point, there was no way she was missing an opportunity to meet her favorite player ever.

Not only was Eckstein unbelievably nice and autographed all kinds of gear — when he found out how much of a fan grandma truly was, he even gave her a hug and a kiss.

Needless to say, that made grandma’s day!

Our family still talks about that day, especially now that grandma is watching all the greats play ball in the baseball fields of Heaven.

We’re so lucky to live next to what is perhaps the greatest baseball city in the nation. And it’s easy to take it for granted.

Now that grandma is gone, it definitely makes me appreciate the game more. I’d give anything to be back at her house one more time to watch her listen to the game with a smile on her face.

Ryan Ledendecker

Ryan is a biweekly columnist for the Republic-Times newspaper. When he's not working, he enjoys a good movie, bass fishing, and CrossFit.