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Blaine, Albert and a duck were all winners

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 31, 2009 -  The beauty of baseball can be captured on one pitch in a split second.

The beauty of being a father is an ongoing epic, but is remembered by small things on single days and nights.

On Friday evening, the Reid household was discussing Saturday’s plan of going to Soulard Market and then to the Festival of Nations at Tower Grove Park.

But it was a beautiful fall-like night and it seemed a waste to sit at home. My wife noted that there was a “duck race” at the Kirkwood Aquatic Center to support the Kirkwood Historical Society. If you are not familiar with this type of fundraiser, it involves people purchasing a tiny plastic duck for a donation (this time $10) and then watching it either float with the current down a stream, river – or in this case – the Lazy River of the aquatic park.

The first duck to cross the finish line wins a prize for its owner.

I thought it would be fun and so did my younger daughter Blaine.

Blaine is 8 and Bryson the older daughter is 10. For those of you with at least two children, you know that the youngest child doesn’t spend as much “alone” time with you as the first of your kids did. It’s a reality of parenting that you have to understand and be wary of.

So, this was a perfect night for Blaine and daddy to hang out.

Blaine picked out duck No. 59. It had a black hat and a blue scarf. The race promised the winning duck’s owner $500 and while dozens of ducks took part, it came down to a battle between three of the tiny plastic fowl. Blaine’s duck put up a good swim but fell short in the stretch. She watched her duck all the way and didn’t seem too disappointed that it didn’t win the race.

But, that duck got a second chance. The good people of the Kirkwood Historical Society decided that there would be a second race. A 50/50 affair in which “the house” kept half and the winner got half.

Blaine Reid and her duck were back in action.

This time the duck forged to the front of the pack and headed into the stretch in second place. Seemingly, it sensed it was time to make a move and it did. Shoving the first-place duck aside, No. 59 sailed down the stretch and won easily.

Minutes later, Blaine had $100 in her small hand and a huge smile on her face. Well, this called for celebration. I asked her what she would like to eat and she said “toasted ravioli.”

We went to a place that has a dandy kids’ toasted ravs special, walked in and got a table under a widescreen HD television.

In all the merriment of the evening, I had not seen or heard one pitch of the St. Louis Cardinals game against the Washington Nationals. It is rare that an entire game goes by without my knowing at some point what the score and inning is. But it had happened on this night.

So a few seconds after sitting down, a commercial ended and Albert Pujols was at bat. It was the bottom of the ninth inning with the score locked at 2-2.

Blaine and I watched a couple of pitches and then, KAPOW!

Home run Albert Pujols. Game over. The crowd in the restaurant erupted as did we. That’s all we saw of the game, but it was the perfect ending to a perfect night.

And Blaine still remained the star as she shared how her duck triumphed in the big race with some of my friends and several folks who recognized daddy from Donnybrook.

She didn’t miss a twist or turn of her duck’s winning run, just as Pujols didn’t miss that pitch.

Folks, this season is special for many reasons. But a small rubber duck and a mighty superstar made Blaine’s night special on Friday.

Everyone involved on this evening was a winner.

Alvin A. Reid is editor of the St. Louis Argus and a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.