Freedom Praise Band

The Cardinal

It was the Fall of 1968 and I was a 9 year old, passionate about baseball.  We were briefly living in Laredo, TX while my Dad was in Germany, paving the way for us and searching for a place for us to live.  We were staying with my grandparents, Papa Alejandro and Mama Linda during this interim period of time. 

The 1968 World Series featured the St. Louis Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers.  Papa Alejandro, or Papa 'lejandro, as we affectionately called him was a die-hard Cardinals fan, having listened to the old radio broadcasts.  He quickly brought me up to speed on the likes of Cardinal Hall of Famers, Dizzy Dean and Stan Musial and current Cardinal stars, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Orlando Cepeda.  It wasn't long before I too, was a life-long fan.  I have fond memories of sitting next to Papa 'lejandro rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals in the '68 Series.  Even though the Cardinals lost the series in 7 games, my heart bled Cardinal red from then on!

We joined my Dad in Germany in late October 1968 and I couldn't wait to tell him all about the St. Louis Cardinals.   Dad was a big baseball fan too but he enjoyed playing the game much more than watching it on television.  However, I kept him up to date on all the Cardinal statistics, stories, batting averages, won/loss records, etc...I was a walking baseball almanac!  Knowing my love for the Cardinals, over the years, Dad would often take me to the various baseball parks where we were stationed to watch my beloved Cardinals play.  Even though they were the visiting team, I rooted and cheered them on!

Dad died on July 1, 2009 after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer's Disease.  We had a beautiful ceremony for him which was officiated by our long time priest friend, Fr. Jim Barlow.  I, along with my sons, Jacob and Josh and some close friends provided the music for the mass.  I had written a 'eulogy' for my Dad, just in case there was an opportunity to share it.  Little did I know that my brother, Alex, had done the same.  However, they both remained unread as the opportunity did not present itself.

The next day, however, I felt a strong pull to return to the cemetery and visit my Dad's gravesite.  I had my 'eulogy' in my pocket.  It was a beautiful summer day so I sat down next to his gravesite and decided to read it to him.  Of course it was filled with all my baseball memories, especially our Cardinals adventures.  As I finished, I made reference to the, 'Field of Dreams' movie (one of my all-time favorites) as I read... 

And...if/when I ever make it to heaven, I can only hope that he will be standing there with a glove/ball in one hand, and my glove in the other hand and that he asks me...”Son, wanna have a catch”?    

I left the cemetery, my heart heavy and my eyes watery.  I was deep in thought as I drove the long drive way out of the cemetery grounds.  To my right, I spotted a baseball field which connected to the High School that my sons, Jacob, Josh and daughter, Rebekah had attended and found myself staring at it.  All of a sudden, I spotted it...a bright red cardinal was flying from the baseball field right in front of my windshield!  My heart leapt for joy as it gracefully flew past me and out of sight.  I couldn't help but think that this beautiful cardinal was sending me a message...Dad is fine, he is free, he has spread his wings and is rejoicing with God and the angels in Heaven...no more pain...just unimaginable joy!  My tears of sorrow suddenly changed to tears of happiness as I felt a big smile come across my face.  It was in that moment I felt peace...peace beyond all understanding.  The beautiful cardinal had hit a homerun in my life!