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Cardinals ‘Cardboard Nation’ Connects Generations Of Baseball Families

Cardboard cutouts Cardinals fan Dan McMasters late parents and his two children in the stands at Busch Stadium. McMasters thought it was a fun way to have generations of his family bond over baseball.
Dan McMasters
Cardboard cutouts of Cardinals fan Dan McMasters' late parents and his two children in the stands at Busch Stadium. McMasters thought it was a fun way to have generations of his family bond over baseball.

While Cardinals fans haven’t been able to physically attend games at Busch Stadium this summer, some have still managed to appear in the seats.

Like many Major League Baseball teams, the Cards offered fans a chance to send in a photo of themselves or a loved one. Those photos were then put on cardboard cutouts and placed throughout the ballpark.

The team uses the money raised by the $70 fee to support its foundation, Cardinals Care.

Dan McMasters saw it as a chance to honor his parents who died a couple of years ago. The Memphis native traveled to St. Louis for games throughout his childhood.

Now living in Washington, D.C., he was also looking for ways his two children could have some fun in the summer of COVID-19.

“That’s where I got the idea to send my parents and kids to a game together,” McMasters said.

The idea went over big-time with his kids, ages 2 and 5, especially when they caught a glimpse of their images on television.

The view of the McMasters family cutouts during a Cardinals game on TV.
Dan McMasters
A view of the McMasters family cutouts during a Cardinals game on TV.

“They just went crazy. They were so happy. They said how did that happen? How did we end up there?”

That shared love of baseball is also a reason why Kirkwood resident and longtime season ticket holder Susan Hughes decided to pay for a cardboard cutout at Busch Stadium.

But she wasn’t a fan of the idea at first.

“I thought it was kind of expensive, and so at which point I kind of thought it was dumb,” Hughes said.

Then she started thinking about her late husband, Bob, and how much the two enjoyed the sport. They would go to games in St. Louis and make yearly treks to the team’s spring training camp in Florida.

“I thought, you know, maybe that’s not such a dumb idea. I bet you he’d think it was a hoot,” she said.

So, she found a picture of Bob.

“It had the Bud Light bottle cropped out of it when I sent it to them,” she joked.

“He’s now in Section 144, which is behind the Cardinals dugout,” Hughes added. “He’d be thrilled to be in such good seats.”

For 33-year-old Tom Kelly of Rock Hill, it’s about his family’s love of baseball and giving back.

He’s a double-lung transplant recipient and was sold on the idea when he heard the money goes to Cardinals Care.

“They care about their fans, and they want to help out other people that need it,” he said.

His mother, Debbie Kelly, remembers how the Cardinals community and many others throughout the region helped her family in its time of need almost 30 years ago.

“In 1991, he needed a lung transplant, and they weren’t covered by insurance then,” she said. “People were incredibly generous. It means that Tom is here today, 29 years later.”

Tom is hoping his decision to get a cutout in support of Cardinals Care sends a message.

“I just want to give people hope that if they have any kind of transplant, not just double lung or whatever it may be, that they can make it to 28 years or however many.”

In addition to helping with health issues, Cardinals Care focuses on youth programs throughout the region. That includes providing access to baseball in poor neighborhoods, along with education and cultural arts.

Martin Coco, the Cardinals ticket sales and marketing director, said the response has been great. All the available cutout spots — roughly 6,000 — were sold.

But the team managed to find spots for a few celebrity fans such as TV personality Andy Cohen, actress Ellie Kemper and musician Nelly.

Those cutouts were strategically placed in a spot behind home plate, because it’s usually on TV during every pitch.

“We’ve tried to mix in a good number of our regular fans in there, but also tried to sneak in a celebrity or some of our former players that fans may recognize and be excited to see,” Coco said.

Once the home schedule wraps up this weekend, the cutouts will be removed and shipped to the buyers. Coco said they will become souvenirs from a unique year in sports and everyday lives.

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.