Ray Stroot goes to the Tri-County Senior Center in Pacific nearly every day, but when he walked in Thursday, June 20, there was a big surprise awaiting him.

The center was a sea of Cardinal red, as dozens of family members, neighbors and friends donned their baseball jerseys and hats and surprised Stroot with a baseball-themed bash to celebrate his 99th birthday.

“I was very surprised,” said Stroot, whose teared-up eyes revealed how touched he was that so many people came to honor his special day.

There was a huge sheet cake decorated with the Cardinals’ emblem, red and white balloons to mark the seat for the guest of honor, and plenty of popcorn, peanuts, Cracker Jacks, hot dogs and other baseball stadium favorites to eat, and a Cardinals’ game was on the big flat-screen television.

And just as Stroot was settled in his seat patiently posing for pictures, Fredbird flew into town.

The Cardinal mascot burst on the scene hugging and silently joking with Stroot and then placing his big-bird sized ballcap on Stroop’s head for a photo.

Stroot’s friends said he has been a Cardinals fan for many decades, and once played softball for the St. Louis Browns as the team’s catcher in 1938.

Nearing centenarian status hasn’t slowed Stroot down much, he said. Neighbors said he can still be found out mowing his grass and he still drives, albeit just around town.

Stroot said he has seen a lot over the years, but doesn’t care too much for keeping up with the times.

“I’m afraid of technology,” he quipped, “but I do have a cell phone.”

When The Missourian asked Stroot what he attributes to his longevity, his answer was brief.

“I drink two beers a day,” he said.