By Sally Tippett Rains
This weekend men and women everywhere become emotional about their mothers and those who are like mothers. Everyone has a mother; some are living, some deceased, and some live far away. Some reading this are mothers, and then there are those women who are “like a mother” to us.
There are two women in the Cardinals organization that come to mind in this way. Aggie Ceriotti works for the Cardinals in St. Louis and Melissa Reynolds is the press box hostess for the Memphis Redbirds, the Cardinals’ Triple A affiliate.
“They are two of my favorite people,” said Marty Maier, former Cardinals scouting director and now a scout for the Reds.
Here are their stories:
Agnes “Aggie” Ceriotti is one of the most well-loved employees of the Cardinals. She has been a fixture in the executive lobby of the stadium since before they moved to the current location and every person contacted for this article used the word “wonderful” at least once when talking about her.
“Aggie is a wonderful friend to everyone who has the good fortune of coming through her lobby at Busch Stadium,” said Cardinals radio announcer John Rooney. “Over the years thousands of Cardinals fans developed a positive first impression as they were greeted by this extraordinary lady. We have all been greeted by her smile and a hello when arriving at the park. I think she knows everyone as she genuinely asks how you or a family member is doing. Aggie really CARES to hear your reply.”
She works behind the desk at the media entrance of Busch Stadium and while she has her own children, some would say she is the “mother” figure of the Cardinals.
“Aggie is the most wonderful person at Busch Stadium,” said sportscaster Frank Cusumano of KSDK- TV and The Press Box radio show on KFNS. “I have known her for 25 years and I have never seen her in a bad mood. She treats my family like it’s her family.”
Aggie has met movie stars and presidents – and even had her picture taken with President Barack Obama – in the more than 30 years she has worked as the executive office lobby administrator for the Cardinals.
Since 2012 Aggie has always kept a fish on her desk. She feeds it and takes care of it when the Cardinals are at home. At the end of each homestand she puts the fish in a safe container and takes it home.
“My current fish’s name is Linus,” she says showing off her little aquatic pal. “We always name them with an ‘L’. There are four others buried right outside the door here at Busch.”
As she talks with excitement about her fish it’s obvious that she takes its care seriously. Her first fish, Larry, was given to her as a gift.
“Matt, the runner for Mike Shannon and John Rooney at the time gave me the fish,” she said. “He said, ‘I don’t want you to forget me so here’s a fish.’”
She never did forget him and when Larry passed away, she buried him in the stadium garden and got Lincoln.
“The second fish was Lincoln, named because I always loved President Lincoln,” Aggie said. “Then we got Lancelot because that was just a beautiful romantic story and after that came Louie—for St. Louis of course.”
Just as she sees all the people who come through the lobby as individuals and cares about them, she feels the same way about her fish. Lincoln died in November, the off-season. Her husband Bob thought she would just flush him down the toilet or bury him in the yard but he wasn’t surprised when she wrapped him in foil and put him in the freezer until he could have a proper burial in the “family plot” at Busch.
Sitting at her desk – which she keeps very meticulous with only the things she wants on it (like Linus), and if someone moves something she puts it where it goes – she sees everyone in the media when they come through the door. Cardinals executives and celebrities enter through her lobby. She has seen the famous St. Louis rapper Nelly many times as he is a baseball fan, and she’s seen Shaquille O’Neal.
“I have a picture with Shaquille O’Neal,” she said. “Bob Costas found out about it and he asked me if he could take it and if he sees Shaq he will get it autographed. He liked the picture so much he asked if he could get another copy to save for himself.”
Costas said he carries that picture around in his brief case in case he has a chance to see O’Neal.
“It’s a funny picture,” Costas said, referring to the height difference between the very tall O’Neal and the petite Aggie. “Our paths (he and O’Neil) used to cross a lot more often but I’ve got the picture if I see him.”
Aggie was really excited for Costas when it was announced he would be inducted into the broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in July and she wrote him a letter of congratulations.
“He is such a genuinely nice human being that he took the time to write me a thank you note. He wrote a thank you note for a congratulations note,” she said.
Costas shines all the light on Aggie.
“When she wrote to me I thought ‘she has been such a sweet person that I’ve known for so long,’” he said. “A letter means a lot. It means you sat down and put pen to paper and I wanted to do that for her. It’s about how nice she is, not what I did. When someone is as genuinely nice as Aggie is, you’re motivated to do something for them.”
How does one get such a coveted job? Aggie said saw an ad in the newspaper for a job at Anheuser-Busch. She went to the brewery to apply for the job and when she got it they gave her the address for where she should report. She and her husband Bob drove to that address and it turned out to be Busch Stadium. (Busch Stadium II)
One of the favorite people she got to know from her job was Jack Buck. Buck would ask her about her family and even remembered her grandson Robby’s birthday one year
“I loved Jack Buck,” Aggie said.
In 2009 she met President Obama when he was in town for the All-Star Game. The Secret Service told everyone they would have to leave the front area so they could secure it, but made Aggie stay.
She heard Obama say, “I’d like to meet that young lady.” They took a photo together and the President even sent her an autographed copy.
“I’ve known Aggie since the early 1980’s and she is truly remarkable lady,” Maier said. “She treats presidents and scout alike. She always has a big smile and a hug.”
With all the celebrities, and scouts, she has met, her biggest joys are her family. Sadly her son Bobby, a police sergeant, died from a heart attack on Nov. 29, 2012 and then in June of 2015 Bob, her husband of almost 60 years, passed away. Bob and Bobby were everything to her as are her other two children Susan and Daniel and the grandchildren and great grandchildren, but she never let her grief slow her down.
“She loves life,” said Cusumano. “She loves people, and she never ages. Aggie has not changed one bit since I’ve known her.”
She has always enjoyed getting together with her family.
“Our motto is ‘Family First’—everyone has a framed sign with that,” she said.
The family gets together often to play games, especially offbeat ones, like “Chicken Feet” played with dominoes. They like playing “Washers” in the backyard and one time she even saw a “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” game for a dollar and decided to get it.
“I said ‘I haven’t seen that game in a long time, let’s get it,’” she said.
On Mother’s Day Aggie is looking forward to a big family party.
“Now that the grandkids are grown we include them,” she said. “All of the siblings bring a dish. It’s a great idea because everyone feels included and it teaches them responsibility.”
Though Aggie carries on as the Matriarch of the family, the memories of Bob and Bobby are kept alive.
“Everybody loved Bobby,” she said. “I have one grandson who wants to go into law enforcement. He says, ‘I want to be a policeman like Uncle Bob.’ They all loved their uncle.”
Aggie was proud of the way one of her granddaughters remembered them.
“She got two little picture frames, and put Bob and Bobby’s pictures in them and they were inserted her bouquet so she got to walk down the aisle with her dad and her grandfather,” Aggie said.
When Aggie’s family gets together she continues the family tradition of one person saying the blessing. They know who they are ahead of time and they can do it any way they want.
“Prayers at dinner are important,” she said. “We all hold hands and family members say prayers at the house.”
Various members have come up with creative ways to lead the family prayer but she particularly like her grandson Robby’s unique idea.
“We are so Italian,” she said. “When it was Robby’s turn he passed out papers with the ‘Our Father’ in Italian and everybody read it together.
“Aggie is my favorite Italian at Busch Stadium,” said Cusumano.
On Mother’s Day Aggie Ceriotti is a perfect person to spotlight because while she is the female leader of her family, she is someone a lot of people at Busch Stadium look up to as well.
Costas said that Aggie represents a portion of the history of the Cardinals.
“To me she is like the perfect representative of what the Cardinals strive to be in their interactions with the community and fans,” he said. “She’s so warm and friendly and wants everyone to have a good time. Her whole tone and good-naturedness embodies what it’s like to come to games. She’s got those Midwest values. She’s so decent and so nice.”
The Cardinals broadcasters talk about her on the radio and television so she is somewhat of a celebrity. The area where she works is now called “Aggie’s Lobby.”
“Aggie loves her Cardinals,” said Rooney. “The main reason she is held in such high regard by so many is her love for the people who pass through her lobby. She takes time to listen and help guide them on their way to a fun experience at the Stadium. I want to say Happy Mother’s Day Aggie. Love, Susan and John Rooney”
She always wears bright colors, lots of jewelry and has a big smile and a pleasant word for each person she comes in contact with. In a way, she’s a guardian angel to everyone who meets her.
“Aggie is a huge part of the Cardinal organization,” said Maier. “She always has time to ask ‘How’s your family’. She’s the first person I see every time I come to Busch Stadium and I always leave after seeing her with a smile on my face. She’s a true Cardinal treasure.”
Melissa Reynolds (shown in photo, left with John Mozeliak) may not have any children, but she is like a mother to all who enter her press box in Memphis, and it’s obvious to anyone who sees the interaction. It may seem funny to compare her to a mother when she is younger than some of the people who come to her press box, but everyone would agree she makes the press dining room at AutoZone Park feel like a home.
“She’s like a mother in many ways,” said Michael Schroeder, the media relations manager for the Redbirds. “She’s always looking out for everybody and making sure we have what we need. It’s her personality that makes her really good at what she does.”
Scouts who have been on the road for weeks feel like they have come to visit a friend when they arrive at AutoZone Park. She can keep up the baseball talk with any of them.
“Oh the scouts love her,” said Steve Selby, the Redbirds radio announcer. “Whenever I talk to a scout they always say ‘Is Melissa still there?’”
“I love my scouts and many I count as dear friends,” she said. “Think about it. The scouts are out on the road for a long time. Every night they are away from their families and staying at a hotel. I try to make them feel welcome and brighten their day a bit.”
Maier is one of the scouts that she enjoys welcoming to the dining room when he travels to Memphis.
“Melissa is one of the very best things about coming to Memphis,” said Maier. “It’s like coming home to see your Mom/ Big Sister waiting for you. She has always treated myself and the other scouts like we are part of her extended family. She works all day at school and then comes to the ballpark with a smile on her face and makes us feel like we are coming home.”
Said Melissa, “I feel like I am the face of the Redbirds and actually the Cardinals organization to them because I’m the one they see when visiting the ballpark. They have to sit outside no matter how hot or cold it is. They get up so early and start doing their report. Whatever I can do to help them I will.”
Whether it is scouts, the media or the team executives, everyone is always happy to see her. She comes into the press dining room, which is basically in the same room as the press box, and starts setting the food out and making the coffee a few hours before game time. She can see the field from where she sits and often engages in conversation about the team.
“Melissa is as devoted as any mother can be,” said Selby. “She goes above and beyond the job description. We’re spoiled rotten. We’re all ‘Mamma’s Children.’”
“I have made so many friends through this job,” she said. “One of the coolest things was getting to meet Joe Morgan and Jon Miller when they did the Civil Right game here and were still doing Sunday Night Baseball.”
She also thought it was fun to meet long-time manager and general manager Jack McKeon, called “Trader Jack” when he was with San Diego.
“Trader Jack has been to Memphis several times,” Melissa said. “He started coming here to see the Marlins Triple A team. His son Casey, formerly with the Rockies and now with Nationals, had told him to come to Memphis to see the team (they were in Albuquerque at the time).
“Casey had been here before and told him he’d like it. He’s just the sweetest man and tells the best stories. I had him autograph a picture I took with him because I didn’t have his baseball card. He got my address and then sent me one of his cards from each of his teams, all autographed. When his son-in-law started scouting for the Dodgers, he and Casey sent him to Memphis, too.
Another fun night was meeting Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.
“Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were very professional and nice,” she said. “It was the first Civil Rights Game in 2007 and we had a lot of dignitaries here. I just thought it was so cool to have the Sunday Night Baseball crew here. They were and are both so legendary.”
But her real love comes from talking baseball with the scouts.
Melissa has been working at the ballpark since it opened in 2000. She started in the press lobby the first few years and then moved up to the press box. It was an easy transition and one she had actually trained for many years earlier.
“I knew all the media from previous jobs,” she said.
She had run the press box at the Liberty Bowl football stadium and she also worked for Memphis University Athletic Department, which was Memphis State back then. She also worked for the Double A Memphis Chicks from 1987 to1992, starting as an intern while she was in college getting her undergrad degree in Sports Administration.
Due to a personal situation and the Memphis Chicks demise, Melissa began to re-think her career choice and thought getting a teacher’s degree would be a more stable job. The pay was better and she had the flexibility of moving because teaching jobs would be available in any city if she decided to move. Today she combines her love of sports with the stability of teaching. Melissa works during the day at an elementary school and is the Library and Media Specialist. She has a Masters in teaching.
“I always know it’s baseball season when I see Melissa come in carrying her supplies in a Scholastic Book box,” Schroeder said. “She has that Scholastic box since she’s a librarian.”
On a particular night in May she had come straight from school and when she arrived noticed the food was not up yet. She went into complete “mother” mode and made a phone call and the food magically showed up in no time.
“Today was a crazy day at school,” she told one of the reporters. “Wednesdays are always busy because of faculty meetings.”
If today was crazy, tomorrow will be up there. She would work until the end of the game and then she was taking 45 kids on a field trip the next day and would be back at the ballpark by 4 p.m. “A nine-game home stand can be nuts,” she said.
Soon she had the press meal set out and she was settling into her comfortable conversation with whoever came in. The conversation turned to movies.
“I love all my Marvel and Star Wars movies,” she said. “I love to see them at the theater, I’ll go and see them several times.”
“She’s a diehard super heroes adventure person,” said Selby. “She’s seen them all.”
“Everybody that knows me knows I’m a Star Wars and Marvel geek and I’m quite proud of it,” she said.
She says that even though she loves watching the movies she doesn’t go as far as dressing up.
“I also loved the Harry Potter movies,” she said. But then being a librarian, she added, “the books were much better than the movie.”
She also likes taking vacations that usually include at least one baseball game.
“I usually go on trips by myself because no one wants to go on a baseball trip,” she said. “I took a big vacation to Washington D.C., and spent my time in museums which I love and then I went to the National’s game of course.”
With this being Mother’s Day week, she is thankful that she still has her mom and that she is improving in health. It has been a rough year for her mom.
“She fell and broke her hip right before Christmas,” said Melissa, who does most of the care-giving help, along with some help from her brother. “Then she got a virus while in hospital.”
Melissa drove the hour and a half to Jackson where her mom lives to help her. Some weeks she drove up and back several days in a row.
“She’s doing better now,” said Melissa who plans to see her mom during the Mother’s Day weekend.
Melissa is the mother to several cats, two males and two females.
“The boys are named Cy Young and Charlie Lea,” she said.
During the baseball season when school is still in session, the cats don’t get as much of her attention since she is running here and there. They are happy to have more time with her once school is out.
But her favorite place to be in the summer is the ballpark.
“It’s always a pleasure seeing her,” said Maier. “Melissa is a true baseball treasure who loves the Cardinals and what she does.”
As far as Melissa’s value in the press box, Redbirds General Manager Craig Unger summed it up.
“She’s like the ‘room mother’ up here,” he said. “In this room I defer to her. She keeps everything and everybody in line.”