Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is this heaven?

Well, if you're from St. Louis like us and are therefore are a lifelong Cardinals fan, then the answer to that question is simple:
YES, this would be heaven.

Pardon us as we divert from Humboldt County for a moment to share with you the single coolest thing that has ever happened to us:

For 2 days in St. Louis, we were the luckiest SOBs on the face of the earth.

A while back, Danny and I blogged about our love for baseball, the Cardinals, and a book called 3 Nights in August. We threw out a plea toward the gods (who in this case take the human form of actor/comedian Kevin Pollak, whose company Red Bird Cinema had secured the rights to the book) to give us the opportunity to take a crack at adapting the book. We believed then (and do now) that we are the best candidates to bring this incredibly compelling yet narratively challenging source material to the screen. And now that we are actually involved with the project, we had the incredible good fortune of trying to sell ourselves to the manager of the Cardinals and the originator of the project in its book form: Tony La Russa.

Here are some highlights from our experience. Fellow Cards fans, please don't hate us. We have enough self-loathing to deal with already. It all started with ridiculous seats behind home plate:

--From there, we watched the Redbirds defeat the Braves 6-3 on Sunday, August 24. Not a bad way to begin the experience.

--It would get more ridiculous from there, however, when we got our first glimpse behind the curtain as producer John Loar escorted us to Tony's postgame press conference (they don't let strange looking Jews in there without escorts).

--We then suddenly found ourselves inside the clubhouse to tour Tony's office, the eating room, locker room, batting cage and dugout. We were shell-shocked into stunned silence as we met several players, coaches and media members (whose material we spend far too much time reading). We also were privy to an incredible moment when Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak popped his head into Tony's office to discuss some player movement -- Cardinals outfielder Brian Barton had suffered an injury that day, and they had to decide who to call up to replace him. We were allowed to listen in for a minute before Tony and John noticed that Danny was taking copious notes in a moleskin labeled "Cardinals Secrets to be revealed to other teams," and they oddly asked us to leave.

--Later that night, we joined Tony at Albert Pujols' restaurant for an event during which he spoke. The snacks and free drinks were nice, but the insider baseball stories were better. One highlight included Tony reenacting the pep talk given by former Cards shortstop (and World Series MVP) David Eckstein, for which the diminutive shortstop had stood on a chair to speak to his teammates.

--After the event, we had the first of two consecutive dinners (not on the same night, mind you) with Tony as well a few of his friends, including Ed Curtis, who we owe a special thanks for the kindness he showed in taking us under his wing and leading us around Busch Stadium.

We dined at a couple of Tony's favorite spots in St. Louis, including the delightful Brio at Frontenac Plaza and the classy Dominic's in Clayton. We also dined with, among others, Carol Buck, wife of the late (and great) Cards broadcaster Jack Buck and Cardinals trainer Barry Weinberg. Stories were shared, food was eaten, and a better time could not have been had by these two Jews.

(Note that never once did anyone present question why a couple of schmoes like Danny and I would be allowed to join such luminaries).
--Finally, we were granted access to the field:

We watched batting practice before the game and sat in the owners' section of seats right next to the Cardinals dugout for the game Tuesday (a hugely important game against wildcard leading Milwaukee, whom the Cardinals needed to beat. Sadly, they did not, and the 12-0 loss was one of the worst of the season. Needless to say, we didn't see Tony after that game). A few more pictures from the field:

We also enjoyed the buffet dinner and food/drink service throughout the game (also gratis, included in the tickets) that goes along with the "green" seats at fabulous new Busch Stadium. If this is how the other half lives, then it's easy to see how that half gets to stay rich (they don't have to pay for anything).

Returning to our lives in Los Angeles where splurging means paying the extra couple bucks for guacamole on our Chipotle burritos (but only every once in a while, that's a lot of money after all) was a reminder that baseball is a far more lucrative profession than independent filmmaking.

One last anecdote: there were many highlights, but my own personal favorite moment took place during batting practice before the Tuesday night game against Milwaukee. Danny and I were leaning against the batting cage (as we'd seen people do on TV before) and watching the group of Ryan Ludwick, Troy Glaus and Albert Pujols hit. Tony La Russa came to join us and for five minutes he dissected Albert's swing and explained how he follows the hitting philosophy of the late Charlie Lau, a man who changed hitting in baseball.

Listening to a geat baseball man like La Russa talk hitting while a great player like Albert took his cuts was, well, a life memory I will be taking with me for a long, long time.

Here's a shot of Tony La Russa giving 85 year old legendary Cardinals Hall of Famer Red Schoendiest a hard time for not shagging flyballs with him during batting practice.

In the end, it was not all just a lifelong dream come true, but also an incredibly valuable experience in terms of the research we're doing for the writing of this picture.

Oh, who am I kidding? We just wanted to hang with ballplayers. Mission accomplished.Thanks for listening, LCLs.
More on Humboldt coming soon.


LP said...

Holy cow! (not to take a line from Harry), but that is pretty sweet. I can't wait to hear more about this and see what you're able to do with it. I'm completely jealous, and now drooling. Thanks! See ya in STL someday maybe!

Josh Katz said...

This really is some of the coolest news ever.