Al Greener brings vast repertoire to Louisville baseball

Al Greener is back at the organ at Jim Patterson Stadium. He began 11 years ago in 2006, the same year Dan McDonnell came on board (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….” the lyrics go, and there was a lot of hand clapping Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium as the University of Louisville baseball team crushed Eastern Kentucky 19-3.

With that tune and many others orchestrating the game, organist Al Greener pulled out all the stops (pun intended) as one after another batter tried to subdue the Cards’ 2017 home opener energy. Greener, a University of Iowa grad, has been doing UofL baseball games for 11 years, coming on board with Coach Dan McDonnell in 2006.

Fans were in for a musical blast when the stirring Sandstorm rumbled from the loudspeakers, revving up the crowd on a beautiful springlike winter day. And also when All-American Brendan McKay hit his first Grand Slam of the season, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the first inning.

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Scandal turns fan’s Louisville basketball world upside down

When I was a child, we played a silly game called fruit basket turnover.   These last few weeks, I have felt as if I have been in a fruit basket,  turning topsy turvy.  My emotions about “SkankGate” are all jumbled.

At first, I was stunned with the news reports.  Shocked.   Thrown back against the wall.

Mystified.  How could this have happened?

Barbara Springer wonders what hit the program.
Barbara Springer among many UofL fans reeling.

Angry.  How could this be truthful?

Disgusted.  Wall-to-wall media coverage, conclusions reached prematurely.   Guilty until proven innocent.

Betrayed.   By her.   By Andre McGee, maybe.  By players we cared about.

Aggravated.  By media attention spotlighting a brazen, money hungry  prostitute.

Outraged.  By a mother who puts her children in harm’s way.  And brags about it.

Sad.  That a whole student body, a fandom,  and a city itself are smeared by her outrageous  story.

Skeptical.  If the scenarios in the book are true,  is  UofL  the only school where this happens?

Curious.  How could this go on for several years with not one “leak” on any social media?

Embarrassed.  By some fans calling for Coach Pitino to resign or be fired; some  threatening to no longer wear their red and black.

Ashamed.   Of those “fans”  for rushing to judgment.

Frustrated.  The investigation process will drag on a long, long time.

Impatient.   For answers.  For rebuttals.  For explanations.

Encouraged.  That there is at least one local sportswriter (Eric Crawford) in the mainstream media who tries to be objective and thorough.

Charmed.  By two teammates who brave a media storm to answer questions about a scandal of which they had no part.  And their honesty and good humor.

Hopeful. The season still can be a success.  And fun.  And even laudatory.

But  mostly  tired.   Of the whole mess.

Choosing from all the UofL gear can be daunting

Let me see now…2009 Big East Champions?  No.  Cardinal Faithful?  No.  Destination New Orleans?   No.  Cut the Net?  No.  National Champions 2013?  Maybe.   It’s All About the Ville.  Yep, that’s the one!closet

Settling on which top to wear to a University of Louisville game has become way too hard.  And it cannot be just any shirt.  It has to be THE shirt.  Red, black, white, maybe pink.  One half of a closet of agonizing decision-making.

And buying a Cards shirt can be just as challenging.  Just go to a game and you will see such a variety of designs, you can feel at once thrilled and overwhelmed.  Where do all those fans find all those different designs anyway? The days of having only one choice at the old Bacon’s department store a distant memory.

UofL slogans just about anywhere you go.  Eye-catching.  Clever.  Memorable.   On celebrities like JLaw and Leo.  Even far out into the Commonwealth, one can spot a proud wearer of the L1C4 slogan.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 8.07.16 PMCheck out Pinterest boards related to UofL or the Cards and the representations are remarkable.  Tonight I saw a few pins  that go far  beyond the usual  tee shirt or décor stuff.  How about some nail polish splashes?  Want a Cards darts cabinet?  Or a Cardinal tutu?  Phone covers, well, of course.  Need a stethoscope cover?  Really?

For me, this proliferation of UofL art on shirts, hats, ties, purses, flags, ad infinitum, is awesome, and those who know me know I reserve the use of that word for something that is, well, truly awe-inspiring.

I personally favor “The Ville.”  I googled that recently and discovered that there is no other “Ville” but our “Ville.”  As a matter of fact,  a “Ville” tee shirt recently drew favorable comments in Las Vegas, and that was from a Gonzaga alum.

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Why a UK grad switched to UofL

I know a preacher’s wife who unabashedly proclaims, “I hate Louisville.”  What do you say to that?

Take into consideration that she is from “out there” in the state.  Why the hate?  Let me give my perspective:

I grew up not in this state, only moving here when I turned 13.  For a Southern teenageBarbara-with-Cardinal-Bird girl, there was no interest in football or basketball,  just rock and roll, Annette Funicello, American Bandstand.

Flash forward – college in Lexington (not the University of Kentucky, by the way).  If I paid any attention at all, it was to my dad rooting for UK’s Cotton Nash or Ronnie Lyons.

Flash forward – post-graduate degree from UK (hey, they offered the major I wanted).  I married the observer, a University of Louisville fanatic, scandalizing the family, risking shunning.   Well, maybe not that extreme.

This was early in Coach Crum’s years at UofL, and for a couple of years, we are a House Divided, until I realized that this UCLA guy just might have something going for him. I crossed over. And therein lies the rub, as they say.  As Crum’s teams began hanging banners in Freedom Hall, dominating, UK fans became increasingly resentful. Football team beats SEC team in Fiesta Bowl.

Ouch.  Upstarts, they whined.  No tradition, they harped.

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Anticipation … Keeping Me Waitin’

CardinalCabooseCardinal Express tailgaters Jerry Roby, Dirk Bowman and Doyle Mayton prepare their party venue for tailgating a day prior to the University of Louisville football team’s opening game against Ohio University. The caboose includes a stained glass Cardinal window crafted by Jane Cogburn, a member of the group.

By Barbara Springer

The anticipation, the hype, the expectations …

Just Friday I had asked the Observer, “Does it seem like Sunday will never get here?”

Late Saturday morning, we somehow wind up at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and environs. Ostensibly, to locate our new parking spot in the Green Lot, but the observer naturally wants to check anything and everything moving in or around the stadium.

Floyd Street has  been resurfaced and there’s a new road south of the stadium, hopefully making going to and from the games a little less hectic. Turning into the Green Lot, we see the place is buzzing, a veritable bee hive. Golf carts going about their business on a newly resurfaced parking lot, white lines and parking spot numbers clearly visible.

“Anytime Portable” trucks attending to dozens of bright yellow porta pots. Stadium crews setting up metal gates for ticket collection and crowd control at the entrances. A half dozen Budweiser trucks unloading their freight on the concourse beneath the stands, accompanied by Papa John’s delivery trucks, and Gators on various missions throughout the complex.

Over on the west side, the serious partiers who rent the Cardinal Express cabooses are taking care of last minute details, some washing windows, others working on their barbecue grills, people with brooms or vacuum cleaners, work to get done on the eve of the opening game.

Elsewhere, a father and daughter are making their way to the Cardinal Authentic store. Two young men leaving, with red jerseys in hand. Gotta be ready, new season, new stuff.

The electronic ribbons inside the stadium are lit up, welcoming fans to PJCS. The brilliant new turf is ready, ready for action, ready to dazzle. “Fans are going to be awestruck by that new playing surface,” I observe. An ESPN TV camera is already positioned beneath the north goal post, and a half dozen TV trucks are huddled outside the gate.

Exiting the stadium lot, we drive around campus, admiring the beautification efforts of James and Jane Ramsey, appreciating just how far the campus has come in the past decade. University markers above, to the sides, and beneath the wheels as we soak it all in. The transformation just keeps on transforming.

On Sunday we will return to PJCS, ready to take our place among thousands of UofL fans, the tailgating, the Card March, the pre-game fireworks, the blare of the train horn … and everything else that makes Louisville football so immensely gratifying.

“And stay right here ’cause these are the good old days.” (Carly Simon)