For these UK fans, seeing the Cardinals live is worth the wait

June 22nd, 2023

LONDON -- Having seen his chances of watching his favorite baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, go by the wayside in 2020 when the COVID pandemic postponed MLB’s London Series, Grant Sales, a native of Kent, England, delivered a strongly worded proclamation to his friends and family upon the announcement that the Redbirds would be making the trip to the U.K.

“I went to the [MLB London Series] in 2019. … Red Sox and Yankees, yeah, whatever,” said Sales, a corrections officer based 90 minutes southeast of London. “I’ve seen a couple of MLB games, but I’ve never seen my Cardinals. … When it was announced the Cardinals were coming [this year], I told my partner, ‘I don’t want a birthday present, I don’t want a Christmas present; I just want tickets and there’s no argument about it,’” Sales added. “This is everything to me.”

Sales is hardly alone in possessing a robust love for MLB and the Cardinals while living in the U.K. Thousands of U.K.-based fans -- some with ties to St. Louis and some who stumbled upon the Cardinals by happenstance -- share an affection for the 11-time World Series champions.

Sales, for example, proudly wore his Cardinals jersey and red "STL" hat to that New York-Boston series in London three years ago.

Matt Benson, who lives approximately 20 minutes from London Stadium, has blogged for Cardinals fan sites for years and played a role in helping set up a “BBQ, Beer and Baseball” meet-up event for Cardinals fans at Prairie Fire BBQ restaurant in London on Thursday.

Jamie Guest, a third-grade teacher in Guildford, about 90 minutes southwest of London, fell in love with the Cardinals 10 years ago while camping in Dittmer, Mo. He will return to St. Louis in August to see the Cards host the Rockies. Guest set up the @uk_Cardinals Twitter account in 2017, and he chats almost nightly with Cardinals fans in the U.K. about the plight of the team.

Scott Buchanan, who jokes that he gets in trouble with his wife for wearing Cardinals gear almost daily, will be making the seven-hour trek from Glasgow, Scotland, to see the Cardinals face the Cubs on Saturday and Sunday at London Stadium. A 39-year-old bedmaker, Chris Esslemont, will travel nearly eight hours from Glenrothes, Scotland, to be there.

“I’m absolutely buzzing that the Cardinals are coming, and I can’t wait,” said Buchanan, who fell in love with Cardinals baseball when his family spent seven weeks in St. Louis while his son was undergoing a medical procedure at Children’s Hospital in 2012. "In 2020, when the Cardinals were supposed to be coming, I was buzzing, and it got cancelled. It’s taken three years for this moment to get here, and I just can’t wait for the games to begin.”

Rotherham’s Andrew McGowan, who will travel three hours for the series, does his best to spread the word of how thrilling baseball is to all his friends in Northern England. To this day, he tells anyone who will listen about the Cardinals’ comeback in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

“I mean, [Joe Buck’s call of], ‘We’ll see you tomorrow night!’ was amazing,” McGowan said. “If anybody watches that game and doesn’t like baseball, nothing will ever work for them. That was one of the best moments in the history of sport … and it involved the Cardinals.”

McGowan said his only regret about the Cardinals coming to the U.K. now as opposed to 2020 is that he won’t get to see retired catcher Yadier Molina in action. Still, he couldn’t be more excited about watching the Cardinals in person for the first time.

“People here don’t believe you when you tell them how great baseball is,” added McGowan, who became a Cardinals fan after learning that the club is widely considered to have some of the most loyal fans in the sport. “They see baseball takes three hours, so it must be boring. The tactics, analysis and strategy -- that’s the art of it. I do my best to spread the word, because I love baseball.”