This is not a story particularly about the Cardinals, instead it is just a story about baseball. Actually, it is a story about a baseball man.
Coach Howard Bell is a good man, a family man, and a baseball man. He graduated from Parkview High School in Springfield, MO and went on to play short stop for the Southwest Missouri State Bears. His last year at what is now Missouri State University, which was 1986, he was the Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year, hit .396 (sorry I don't have more advanced stats on him), and SMS to a school-record 47 victories and its third straight AMCU Tournament title. He was drafted by the Mets, but after a car accident he never made it far in professional baseball.
Coach Bell was hired by Glendale High School in Springfield as a teacher and an assistant baseball coach. He worked diligently at Glendale and was finally rewarded for his hard work in 2005 when he was promoted to head coach. Under Bell Glendale has not been a powerhouse, but it's been formidable, often making it to the state playoff tournament and at the top of conference standings.
In December 2011, Coach Bell was diagnosed with ALS, "Lou Gehrig’s disease," and had to resign as coach and teacher. A baseman man facing a fate named after one of the greatest baseball men, although by no means appropriate, it is almost fitting.
Tonight, something amazing happened. Two college baseball teams in Springfield, D-I Missouri State and D-II Drury, met in exhibition for the first time in "The Battle for Bell." Missouri State is still under the same coach that Bell played for back in the 80s, and the current head coach at Drury is none other than the man who Coach Bell replaced as Glendale's head coach. Both teams banded together by competing to raise money to "Help Coach Bell Strike Out ALS," as the shirts say. Missouri State won 4-2, but that is hardly what was relevant. There were 3,753 people there tonight (at Hammons Field, the Springfield Cardinals and Missouri State Bears home stadium, which donated the facilities for the night), each paying $5 to see a historic battle and to help a great man.
As a Glendale High alum who had Coach Bell as a teacher, and as a current Missouri State student, I wouldn't have missed the chance to see this game. What I saw were four communities melded: Missouri State students, Drury students, Glendale students, and high school baseball players and coaches from around Southwest Missouri. A crowd of a little over 3,500 may not be overwhelming, but the common cause and unity that I saw there was astounding. There were some who had no clue who this baseball man was, while there were others that could have cared less about baseball but cared about the man, but in the end we came together to help the same person.
So, no, this is not a Cardinals story, but it is a story that I felt compelled to share tonight. If you are interested in hearing about the game itself, the link is here: Link
If you would like some sort of Cardinals connection, Tate Matheny, our glorious, sac-bunt-loving manager's son, is a freshman at Missouri State this year and started in center field in today's exhibition. Although he was playing D-II talent, he went 1-2 with a single and a walk.