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Look! Up in the stands – it’s the Cardinal Cowboy

The Cardinal Cowboy [left] poses with a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

You may have seen in him in the stands or on the field at Busch Stadium between April and October, decked out in his red cowboy hat and red-and-white clothes with “Cardinal Cowboy” emblazoned across his shirt front.

But who is the Cardinal Cowboy?

He’s a motivational speaker who encourages everyone, from children to adults, to believe they can do whatever they put their minds to – also known as Carter Rethwisch.
Rethwisch, 44, said former St. Louis Cardinals owner, August “Gussie” Busch Jr., inspired his attire through the red cowboy hat he always wore to games.

“My dad had a replica of that hat and I ‘stole’ it,” Rethwisch said,
He combined the hat with his love of America’s favorite pastime and used it as the cornerstone of his Cardinal Cowboy uniform.

Once a baseball player himself, Rethwisch said, “Baseball drove me to compete and to win. I played harder and smarter.”

In 1990,  as a high school senior, Rethwisch was the MVP of his St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association Baseball [SLABA] team, the same award that Lafayette High alumni Ryan Howard and David Freese would win a few years later. But Rethwisch’s dream of playing professional baseball ended 26 years ago.

A car accident put Rethwisch on a different path, perhaps a bigger, better path, that has helped many people in dramatic ways and armed Rethwisch with a compelling story he uses to inspire anyone with whom he comes in contact.

Coming home from Central Methodist University, Rethwisch, then 19, was riding with three of his college soccer teammates when his world turned upside-down. A drunk driver crossed the center line on Hwy. 109 near Eureka High and hit the students’ car head-on.

After the collision, things worsened. The head trauma that Rethwisch suffered caused him to go into convulsions and he started to have seizures at the accident scene.

While Rethwisch survived the initial trauma and seizures, he went into a coma. Doctors gave him less than 50/50 odds of survival, but six days later, he woke up.

It would be months of doctor appointments, testing and rehabilitation before a hopeful return to at least a functional life. To help him deal with his brain injuries, Rethwisch started seeing a therapist with his parents. This is where he says the fundamental recovery turn occurred.

Rethwisch defied his doctors’ prognoses and did not need special care or help doing basic things like eating and bathing as some had predicted. While it took about five years for him to get back to where he was before the accident, he never gave up his dreams.

For 19 years, his parents ingrained in him the notion that he could reach any goal he set his mind on. Accident or not, he went on to achieve every goal he set for himself ever since, he said.

As the Cardinal Cowboy, Rethwisch’s message is that the human mind is a very powerful thing and positive thinkers can overcome many obstacles.

He said the mind knows only what it is programmed with and no one should program it with negativity or thoughts of doubt, failure or mediocrity. Instead, minds should be fed positive data, success and to strive for excellence.

During his presentation, he said, “I show them an accident picture of the car I was in, tell them the doctors gave me a 50/50 chance to live and said I would probably need special care.” Then he adds that if he went through all that and recovered, anyone can achieve their goals.

“I’m not that fast, I’m not that smart, I just work hard and I don’t quit,” he said.

Rethwisch said he attends at last one game per home series as the Cardinal Cowboy, or between 40 and 50 home games a season. If the Cardinals advance to the postseason, he makes sure to go to every game, so that can mean another five to 20 games, depending on how deep into October the Redbirds advance.

In addition, he gives 25-30 motivational speeches annually, plus another 25 charity events where he simply makes appearances.

He said his favorite regular season moments through the years include when then-shortstop Ozzie Smith bounded on to the field with his hallmark back flips. Of the Cardinals’ postseason games, Rethwisch said his favorite is when third baseman David Freese hit the game-winning home run in extra innings during game six of the 2011 World Series.

When he’s not traveling, Rethwisch anchors The Cardinal Cowboy Show on ABC 30 television, where he strives to give a voice to local businesses, organizations and charities that call St. Louis home.

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