ST. LOUIS – It is one of the more glaring signs of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on St. Louis: the Cardinals clinched a playoff spot over the weekend but there’s hardly a hint of celebration downtown.
There is a noticeable lack of that “Red October” feel in spite of another remarkable moment in team history – a COVID-19 diagnosis among some of the players. It nearly ended their season and made the playoffs seem impossible. Somehow, they still made it.
The Cardinals clinched their playoff spot Sunday amid pumped in crowd noise and just three people in the stands cheering them on, including team owner Bill Dewitt and his son, team president Bill Dewitt III.
There was no locker room champagne celebration and no cheering horde of fans across the street at Ballpark Village. There’s no red fountain at Kiener Plaza and very few signs and banners in the windows of downtown businesses hailing the team’s success.
The Cardinals overcame the coronavirus, a resulting three-week layoff, and then a schedule that forced them to play 53 games in 44 days.
Now, even with no crowds at the ballpark, no pre-game pep rallies in Downtown St. Louis, no playoff logos painted on the field, and no actual playoff games in St. Louis with Major League Baseball adopting a “bubble format” for the playoffs, Ballpark Village (https://www.stlballparkvillage.com/sports) will have game day watch parties with giveaways starting with Game 1 at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The new outdoor plaza will have the game on the big screen.
There’s a feeling maybe this team is a sign of hope for Ballpark Village and for the rest of us.
“We’re going to have a watch party like that … just like any playoff game, once it starts, it’ll be that chill in the air. We’ll have that October feeling where every pitch counts…to have the team actually rise to the occasion and actually get in is a really nice silver lining,” Dewitt III said. “We’ll be ready when we can finally welcome fans back. I hope it’ll be Opening Day next year. It feels like you’re kind of all dressed up with nowhere to go. It’s really nice down here.”
Like the team, Ballpark Village has suffered with the new phase two opening during a pandemic. Still, it has yet to lose a tenant though certain business openings have been pushed back until spring, Dewitt said.
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