The opportunity to play in the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish golf tournament and talk to my second favorite Cardinals baseball player of my era was hard to turn down.
Yes, this would be my first time on the links in 2011, but it was for a good cause, helping to raise funds for the athletic programs at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.
And the chance to spend some time with Ken Reitz, "The Zamboni Machine" and former Cardinals third baseman, was a perfect setting at the Golf Club of Florissant.
I could not think of a better way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon. This coming from a guy who often wore a Ken Reitz Cardinals jersey to work during his youth.
A former parishioner at St. Rose brought Reitz to the tournament.
Reitz is no stranger to a golf course. He "lives" on a fairway at Bogey Hills Country Club in St. Charles and is a scratch golfer. Reitz has played on the celebrity tour.
His day consisted of hitting a drive on the 10th hole for each foursome, and then he posed for a picture with the group. He then autographed each picture for every golfer and had dinner with the participants.
Life is pretty good for Reitz these days. He was recently hired by former teammate Joe Torre, now the executive vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball.
He attends and monitors the progress of games. Reitz records such facts as how long a pitcher takes to deliver each pitch and how many times a batter steps out of the batter's box.
"Baseball is a multimillion-dollar business, and we are trying to keep the games moving and crisp and keep the fans interested," Reitz said. "A pitcher needs to make a pitch every 20 seconds, and we are trying to keep the games moving and not be any longer than two hours, 45 minutes."
Reitz watches games in Texas, Chicago and Cleveland and is aided on the West Coast by former Cardinal Vince Coleman and retired umpire Ed Montague.
"Joe called me, and I am enjoying it," he said. "I'm also doing some scouting and will be going to the College World Series. We're trying to get more American players to play baseball. And I'm involved in the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program."
He also is a member of the Cardinals Caravan during the winter months, traveling to parts of "Cardinals Nation" and promoting the team.
This part of his life is a dramatic change from life out of baseball.
Reitz spent 11 seasons in the major leagues, eight in St. Louis. He was signed by the Cardinals and led all third basemen in fielding percentage in 1973 and 1974. He won a Gold Glove in 1975 and committed only nine errors in 1977, a National League record. Two years later, he finished with eight errors and was named to the National League All-Star squad.
He was one of the more popular players with the Cardinals in his career. Reitz played in the famous 27-inning Cardinals win in New York. He later poured a beer over the head of St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Neal Russo after he referred to Reitz's bat as a wet pasta noodle during a batting slump.
"I hit two home runs the day after Neal wrote about my slump," Reitz said. "He walked into the dressing room after the game and came over to my locker to talk to me. I poured a cup of beer over his head. If I did that today, I would have gotten into a lot of trouble."
Reitz was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1981 and later to Pittsburgh, where he was released in 1982.
During his career, Reitz battled problems with alcohol and drugs, mainly amphetamines. He finished his playing career in San Jose as a member of the Bees, a minor-league team comprised of several former major league players who had substance abuse problems in the past and were trying to get back into baseball at the major-league level.
Now, Reitz has his life in order. There are hectic schedules of his new job, coaching clinics and his competitive golf game. He has a great sense of humor and is open and upbeat about his life and his past.
After what he has been through, I asked him what he thought he would be doing at this stage of his life.
"I thought I would be in jail," Reitz said. "I honestly did. I know I'm really enjoying what I am doing now, though."
Reitz will be helping out in Florissant, too, at the one-day City of Florissant baseball camp on June 4.
It looks like Reitz has found the good life, and I couldn't be any happier.